Immigration in the UK can be complicated and the rules and processes created by the Home Office change constantly. Sometimes it is difficult to know what type of application to make. Set out below are the five main immigration routes to the UK.

Tier 1 Investor

This category is for high net worth individuals who will make a substantial financial investment in the UK.

  • Initial visa for 3 years 4 months and extension for 2 years
  • No English language or maintenance requirements
  • Must have £2 million to invest in the UK in order to qualify
  • Must maintain investment for entire period
  • Settlement possible after 5 years
  • Accelerated route to settlement after 2 years if investment is £10 million or 3 years if investment is £5 million.

Once in the UK, investors are free to undertake business activities and employment.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur

This category is for people who want to invest in a UK based business either by setting up a new business or by joining an existing business.

  • Must have £200,000 to invest in the business
  • English language and maintenance requirements
  • Initial visa for 3 years and 4 months and extension for 2 years
  • Settlement after 5 years if the investment has been made and the business has created two new full time positions for UK settled workers for at least 12 months
  • Accelerated route to settlement if 10 new full time positions have been created for UK settled workers, or the entrepreneur's business has an income of £5 million during a three year period.

Tier 2 Sponsored Worker

UK employers can obtain a special licence from the Home Office which enables them to sponsor overseas nationals to work for them. There are two main categories of sponsorship, Tier 2 Intra company transfer and Tier 2 General (used for new hires and transfers who want to obtain settlement).

  • Maximum amount of time in the UK as a long term Tier 2 transfer is up to 5 years in most cases and no settlement
  • Tier 2 General maximum amount of time in the UK is 6 years in most cases but settlement is possible after 5 years.

Tier 4 Student

This category is for people who want to study in the UK.

  • Does not lead to settlement in itself but can count towards settlement on basis of 10 years long residence in the UK
  • Must study at a certain level (usually at least just below a bachelor degree)
  • Fixed periods of stay dependent on the level of the course

The Home Office has a concession for students which means that it is easier for employers to sponsor them in Tier 2 General if the student has studied and completed a degree level course or 12 months of a PhD in the UK.

Spouse/partner of a British or EEA national

The spouse/partner of British or EEA national can relocate to the UK if the couple are both relocating. This category leads to settlement after 5 years. If the couple are not married they have to show two years prior cohabitation. In most cases applicants will need to show an income of £18,600 or savings of £62,500.

Settlement and Citizenship

There is a Life in the UK test with English language requirements for settlement and citizenship.

It is possible to acquire British citizenship on the basis of 5 years lawful residence in the UK and the applicant must have been settled for at least 12 months. It is also possible to apply for citizenship on the basis of marriage to a British citizen which requires 3 years lawful residency and settlement at the time the application is made.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.