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United Kingdom (UK) - Registration and Residency

The United Kingdom has different registration and residency rules based on an expat’s country of origin. EU and Swiss nationals are able to obtain a registration certificate due to European laws which state that they have the right to reside in the UK given the European Union ties. Anyone from the EU or Switzerland can obtain this certificate, however, it is unnecessary should they desire to work and live in the UK. Newer EU member states, including many in Eastern Europe, will have to wait twelve months before it is possible for their citizens to apply for the certificate of residency. Expats must be able to show that they have been in the country for a full, continuous twelve-month period, and that they intend on remaining in the UK in the future. Before applying for the residency certificate, an expat from the above countries would need to have a valid passport and identification. Additional evidence for qualification is also required, including a current mailing address.

For all non-EU expats, it is essential to work and live in the United Kingdom for five years before a certificate of residency will be supplied. The application process requires evidence to prove the residency is permanent, and that work or education has been continuous for those five years. Allowances for absences are given, in which expats can be out of the UK for less than six months of each year. Anything under 179 days is considered allowable for a year-long period. The only exceptions to this rule are military service or serious personal reasons. Expats from the USA, Australia and other countries receive different documentation from EU and Swiss nationals. Once the certificate is given it is valid for ten years. After a decade, a new application needs to be submitted for the certificate to be extended. This certificate is simply an endorsement in the passport.

Another difference for some expats is UK ancestry, which allows for UK residency under the Commonwealth law. A grandparent would need to be have been born in the UK for the application to be filed and accepted. It is important to file for the residency option that will always be used as it is not possible to change the reason for residency on an application later on. The person can apply at 17 years of age for Ancestry Residency.

If the reason for residency is due to marriage, the resident spouse/partner needs to prove the legitimacy of the marriage before the expatriate spouse/partner is able to attain the same status. Expats do not have an automatic entitlement to obtain a certificate of residency, therefore background checks are required. Temporary status is always granted before permanent status, especially in marriage situations where one person is a UK native and the other person is not. There is also a requirement of four years of proof for the marriage before permission is granted. Any foreign national who has children under 18 will be granted residency, but only if entry approval is gained before they travel.

Other Stipulations for Residency

Foreign nationals who have been working and living in the UK for several years are able to gain permanent residency status. The process will be based on the visa which allowed them to enter the UK in the first place. In order to gain permanent residency, the person applying needs to prove that they are proficient in speaking the English language. As with any process for citizenship there are different forms based on the type of residency and country of origin of the expat.

Supporting documentation is required such as a valid passport, birth/marriage certificates, proof of employment, driving licence, and proof of income.

Additional Residency Permits

A UK residence permit is required for anyone who is going to reside in the UK for more than six months. There are two different types: the biometric residence permit, and the derivative permit.

Biometric Residence Permission

Expats who stay for more than six months will need to obtain a biometric residence permit. This works only for temporary expats who are staying beyond their six month time limit. They may also wish to apply for indefinite leave in order to remain in the UK permanently. The visa would then need to be transferred to the NTL or TOC document.

Derivative Permit

Non-EEA members usually cannot obtain this permit; however, some exceptions have been made in the past. It depends on whether the expat fits the criteria of “free movement directive”, i.e. if a person is the caretaker of a British child or dependent adult, primary caretaker of an EEA child, primary caretaker of EEA national worker or child gaining UK education, or their parents were EEA workers and an expat is in the UK for education.

Other Registration Details

The waiting time for permits is six months; however there are cases of urgent consideration that may move the process along. Typically this is provided to businesses that supply proof of an urgent need for their employee to be moved quickly. The UK Border Agency tries to maintain their six month policy; however, there are also quotas each year for the number of expat permits provided. It is based on the tier an expat is applying under; for example, Tier 2 cap provides 20,700 permits.

Along with the supporting documentation proving that an expat is capable of supporting him/herself, a medical exam and a statement regarding why the permit is required are necessary. Refusal to take the medical exam can mean rejection of the application.


UK Border Agency

This is a website and physical location for all permit, visa, and residency questions. Additionally it is the best source for any up to date information regarding residency and registration and includes all relevant forms, mailing addresses, and procedures.


Embassy of the United States

The contact details for the US Embassy in London. Calling or submitting an email is the quickest way to get information.

+44(0) 207 499 9000

British Embassy

There is an online form to fill out in order to contact the embassy.

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