It’s worth mentioning at the beginning of this article that, as you are most likely aware, the UK is in the throes of leaving the European Union (EU). This means that the reciprocal agreements with the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) are subject to change. Whilst the UK have left without a deal as of January 31st 2020, there will be a transition period of at least one year, during which time no changes will be implemented. If you are in any doubt, you should check your government advice website, or contact your local embassy or consulate to seek clarification.Entry requirements for the United Kingdom depend on your nationality. If you’re from an EEA country, or Switzerland, then you can enter the UK using either a valid passport or an EEA-issued National Identity Card.
If you are not from an EEA country, you may need a visa to enter the UK, as well as a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay in the UK. You can check on the UK government website here whether or not you need a visa prior to travel. In some instances, you may also need a visa if you’re transiting through a UK airport.
There are restrictions on what you can bring into the UK, which vary depending on the country you are travelling from. Certain items must be declared when you arrive at the airport, including:
• Items over your duty-free allowance
• Banned or restricted goods in the UK
• Any goods that you plan on selling
• More than £10,000 in cash (if you’re coming from outside the EU)
Your baggage may be checked at random for items that you should declare.
If you are travelling with children, you may be asked to prove your relationship to them. This often happens if it is not immediately clear that you are the parent of the child, such as if you have a different surname. For this reason, it is best to prepare and bring some documents with you in your hand luggage, such as:
• Birth (or adoption) certificate
• Divorce or marriage certificates, if you’re the parent but have a different surname
• A letter from the child’s parent giving permission for the child to travel with you and providing contact details (if you are not the parent)
At first glance, the UK visa system may seem quite complex. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, it could also be subject to change once the post-Brexit transition period is over. These changes could affect both EU and non-EU citizens, in terms of eligibility to work, etc.The (current) most common types of visas for foreigners coming to the UK are detailed below.
If you are intending to stay with family in the UK for a period of longer than six months, you will need to apply for a family visa. Family in this context is specified as a spouse or domestic partner (including fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner), a child, a parent, or a relative for whom you will be providing long-term care.
If you are visiting family members in the UK for less than six months, you may only need a standard visitor visa or marriage visitor visa. You can find out whether you need one or not on the government website.
There are several types of study visa for those wishing to visit the UK for educational purposes:
Short-term study visa
The short-term study visa is for students who come from outside the EEA, meet eligibility requirements, and intend on completing a short course of study. This typically encompasses a language course, a training course, or a period of research for your degree. You are not permitted to work on this visa (including work experience and work placements) and it is not extendable.
General student visa
The general student visa is applicable to you if you are aged 16 or over, speak English to a good level, are from outside the EEA, can prove you possess sufficient funds to support yourself during your studies (or have a guarantor), and have been offered a place on a course of study. A healthcare surcharge applies, as well as a visa fee. The validity of this visa depends on the length of your course. On this visa, you can work most jobs. It can also be extended. In some circumstances, it even allows you to bring dependants with you.
Child student visa
This visa is designed for students from outside the EEA, who are between four and 17 years old, and who will be studying at an independent school in the UK. Applicants must have consent from their parent/s or guardian, proof of sufficient funds, and have a place on a course. A healthcare surcharge applies in addition to the visa fee. The length of stay depends on factors such as the age of the student and the length of the study course.
In most cases, student visas can be applied for from within the UK, or from outside of it.
For those outside of the EEA that need a work visa for the UK, there are several different types available. These are categorised into short-term and long-term work visas, which are further broken down, with several tiers in each category. There are also some other visas, which fall outside of these two categories, which allow you to work.
Short-term work visa
Short-term work visas for the UK typically encompass charity and voluntary work, government authorised exchanges, religious workers, and seasonal workers. They also include the Youth Mobility Scheme. The exact types are listed below:
Temporary charity worker visa
This is for unpaid charity work only. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and a healthcare surcharge applies. It is valid for up to 12 months, or the specified time on your certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days, whichever is shorter.
Temporary creative and sporting visa
This is for people offered jobs in the UK as sportspeople or creative workers. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and a healthcare surcharge applies. It is valid for up to 12 months, or the specified time on your certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days, whichever is shorter. This visa is extendable.
Temporary government authorised exchange visa
This is for short-term work experience or training, an overseas government language programme, research, or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme listed here.
Temporary international agreement visa
This is for citizens outside the EEA who have been contracted to do work covered by international law while in the UK. For example, those working for a foreign government or as a private servant in a diplomatic household.
Temporary religious worker visa
This temporary visa is designed for people who want to visit the UK to do religious work, such as preaching or working in a religious order. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and must pay a healthcare surcharge. This visa is valid for up to 14 months.
Temporary seasonal worker visa
Seasonal workers outside the EEA will need to meet various eligibility requirements. For example, you must be over 19 years old and have sufficient funds in your bank account. You also must have a sponsor. The visa is valid for up to six months and the healthcare surcharge does not apply. You are only permitted to work in the job specified on your sponsorship certificate, and you are not permitted to take any other job or accept a permanent role.
Youth mobility scheme visa
The youth mobility visa is for eligible candidates, between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, from certain countries, who wish to travel and work in the UK. For a list of the applicable countries, you can check the government website. You must have a minimum amount in your savings. The visa is valid for up to 24 months.
Long-term work visa
The types of long-term work visa in the UK include:
General work visa
This is for those who have been offered a skilled job in the UK. You will need a certificate of sponsorship from your employer. This type of visa is valid for the time specified on our sponsorship certificate plus one month, or a maximum of five years. A healthcare fee applies.
Intra-company transfer visa
This type of visa is designed for employees of a company who have been offered a new role in a UK branch of the same company. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and a healthcare charge applies. These visas are usually valid for 12 months for a graduate trainee, and between five and nine years for long-term staff, depending on annual earnings.
Minister of religion visa
This is for ministers from outside the EEA, who have been offered a job within a faith community. You will need a certificate of sponsorship. The healthcare surcharge does not apply. These visas are usually valid for up to three years, and in some circumstances, they may entitle you to work a second job or partake in voluntary work. You can also bring dependants with you.
This visa is for elite sportspersons and/or qualified sports coaches. This status will need to be recognised by your sport’s governing body, who will typically be the authority endorsing your visa. Some other eligibility requirements may apply, along with the healthcare surcharge. This visa is usually valid for up to three years.
Other work visas
Other separate sub-categories of work visa and exemptions include the UK ancestry visa (candidates who can prove at least one grandparent was born in the UK), holders of exempt vignettes (usually diplomats, government officials, etc), domestics workers in private households, and representatives of overseas businesses. There is also a separate visa for Turkish workers and Turkih business people.
Investment, business development, and talent visas
Many countries have one singular investment visa for those investing a minimum amount into an aspect of the country, such as property. The UK visa system categorises investment, business development, and specified talents into the same tier (currently Tier 1). These include:
This is for individuals from outside the EEA, who want to start up a business in the UK. Your business idea will need to be endorsed by an approved body, and you will need at least £50,000 in investment funds. You can find a list of the approved bodies on the government website.
This is similar to the innovator visa, but you must be able to prove that the business idea is new and unique and viable, with a potential for growth. The business idea must be endorsed by either a UK higher education institution or a business organisation.
Exceptional talent visa
You will need to qualify, and be endorsed, as a recognised leader with exceptional talent or an emerging leader with exceptional promise.
In order to qualify for the investment visa, you will need to prove you have access to at least £2,000,000 in investment funds. You will also need to prove that these funds are either yours, your spouse’s, or your unmarried or same-sex partner’s.
Note: The UK previously had entrepreneur and graduate entrepreneur visas, but these are no longer available.
The United Kingdom does not offer a work permit anymore. This was replaced in 2008 by a points-based immigration system. The only types of permit that the official government website mentions are:
• Biometric residence permit
• EU settlement scheme family permit
• EEA family permit
Any other mentions pertain to environmental permits, and the specific permits required by various establishments.
The permanent residence card has been discontinued following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Those wishing to continue living in the UK may be eligible for the EU settlement scheme instead. You can read more about the EU settlement scheme here.
The government website overview on the EU settlement scheme states:
“If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the EU settlement scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If your application is successful, you’ll get either settled or pre-settled status.”
Find out whether you are eligible for settlement here.
There is also a way to apply for indefinite leave to remain if you are a refugee or a person under humanitarian protection. Find out more here.
You are not automatically given British citizenship if you were born in the UK. Whether you get citizenship or not largely depends on when you were born, where your parents are from, and individual circumstances. You may be eligible to apply for citizenship later on if you were born in the UK. You can find out the details here.
You may also be able to apply for UK citizenship through naturalisation, or through a marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen, providing you have lived with them in the UK for at least three years. Other prerequisites are detailed here.