Emigration to the UK: which route should you take?

Emigration to the UKRoutes of emigration to the UK

There are many different routes of emigration to the UK, ranging from temporary to long-term visas. In order to establish which visa is applicable to you, you need to consider your reason for entering the UK.

The UK Government website has information on all available visas, such as for:

  • Working in the UK
  • Studying in the UK
  • Family members in the UK
  • Living permanently in the UK


When a visa is granted for 6 or more months a Biometric Residence Permit is issued alongside a National Insurance Number. The Biometric Residence Permit contains conditions of your visa. However, not all people wishing to migrate to the UK need a visa; citizens of the EU, EEA member states and citizens of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland are exempt.

Different visas impose different conditions on migrants. To ensure a visa is granted they all must be met and followed once a visa has been issued. In order to have access to the National Health Service (NHS) the immigration health surcharge (IHS) needs to be paid as a part of the immigration application. The current fee differs for different visa applications:

  • A student or Tier 5 visa requires £300 per year per student
  • All other visa and immigration applications require £400 per year per student

Please note that the IHS surcharge is due to rise as part of the 2020 Budget.

When a visa is granted for several years, the full amount of IHS will need to be paid, for example; for 5-year normal visa, the payment will be £2,000. If any dependants migrate with you, their payment will be equal to yours, however, if your application includes a part of the year that is less than 6 months you will only be required to pay half of the IHS for that year.

Work in the UK

In order to be able to work in the UK, you need to apply for the correct visa, there are currently 5 categories of work visas:

  1. Tier 2 – Long-term work visas
  • General work visa
  • Intra-company Transfer visa
  • Minister of Religion visa
  • Sportsperson visa
  1. Tier 5 – Short-term work visas
  • Charity Worker visa
  • Creative and Sporting visa
  • Government Authorised Exchange visa
  • International Agreement visa
  • Religious Worker visa
  • Seasonal Worker visa
  • Youth Mobility Scheme visa
  1. Tier 1 – Investor, business development and talent visa
  • Innovator visa
  • Start-up visa
  • Entrepreneur visa
  • Global Talent visa
  • Exceptional Talent visa
  • Graduate Entrepreneur visa
  • Investor visa
  1. Other work visas and exemptions
  • UK Ancestry visa
  • Exempt vignette
  • Domestic Workers in a Private Household visa
  • Representative of an Overseas Business visa
  • Turkish Businessperson visa
  • Turkish Worker visa
  1. Sponsors and sponsorship

To qualify for a work visa, you must hold an offer of employment or have a certificate of sponsorship from the work of your sponsor organisation in the UK and you will need to apply 3 months before you’re due to start work. Each visa has different fees which are required to be paid as part of the application.

For example, when applying for a Tier 2 General visa you must hold an offer for a skilled job in the UK and you must be from outside of EEA and Switzerland. You need to be employed by a licensed sponsor to apply to live in the UK; a list of licensed sponsors is available on the UK Government website.

You sponsor will be required to ensure you can do the job you’re being hired for and whether it will qualify you for a visa, to confirm these conditions are met you will be assigned a certificate of sponsorship, other information such as your salary must also be provided with the certificate.

You will need to apply 3 months before you are due to start work in the UK, the date of commencement of your work can be found on the certificate of sponsorship. Decisions are usually made within 3 weeks when applying from outside of the UK.

There are different fees, these fees depend on the type of visa and where you are located. For example, if you are applying from outside of the UK, the fee will be £610 for a visa up to 3 years, whereas if you’re applying from outside the UK for a visa up to 3 years for a shortage occupation, the fees are £464. Other fees can be found on the UK Government website.

As a part of your application you will be required to pay the healthcare surcharge. Once your visa is granted you will be able to:

  • Work for your sponsor in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship
  • Do a second job in certain circumstances
  • Do voluntary work
  • Study as long as it does not interfere with your job
  • Travel abroad and return to the UK
  • Being family members with you

You cannot:

  • Own more than 10% of your sponsor’s shares
  • Have recourse to public funds
  • Apply for a second job until you’ve started working for your sponsor

Study in the UK

There are 3 different visas student can apply for:

  1. Short-term study visa
  2. Tier 4 – General student visa
  3. Tier 4 – Child student visa

To be able to apply you must have been offered a place on a course in the UK at an accepted place of study and you must also have enough money to cover your course fees and living costs without recourse to public funds. Students under the age of 18 need the permission of their parent or guardian to study in the UK. You need to apply for a visa up to 3 months before your date of travel to the UK.

Exact requirements of each visa need to be met in order to be granted one, requirements and fees are available on the UK Government website.

For example, you can apply for a short-term study visa if you’re doing a short course in the UK, are from outside EEA and Switzerland and meet other eligibility requirements:

  • Prove you have been offered a place on a course in the UK at an accepted place of study
  • Have enough money to support yourself without working or recourse to public funds, or that relatives can support and house you
  • Can pay for your return or onward journey

The UK Government website provides a list of Tier 4 sponsor education providers.

Once your visa is granted you will be allowed to do a short course of study in the UK and do a short period of research as a part of a degree course you’re studying abroad. However, you will not be allowed to study at a state-funded school, work or carry out any business, extend this visa, bring family members with your or have recourse to public funds.

Your visa will allow you to stay the length of your course or research, you may be allowed to stay an extra 30 days if your total stay in the UK would not be more than 6 months or not more than 11 months, if you’re 16 or over and studying and English language course. If your course is for longer than 6 months you must apply for a short-term study visa.

For a 6 month visa the fees are £97, and for an 11-month long visa the fee is £186. You can apply up to 3 months before your date of travel to the UK and your decision should be made within 3 weeks.

Family in the UK

There are different types of visas available for family members:

  • A fiancé visa or a family permit (if you’re marrying someone who is a citizen of an EU country not the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland)
  • Family visa to live with your: spouse or partner, fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, child, parent or relative who will provide long-term care for you.

If you’re already in the UK on a different visa you may be able to switch to a family visa. Different visas have different fees and requirements that can be found on the UK Government website.

When applying for a family visa you may need to prove your knowledge of the English language either through an academic qualification or by taking an approved English language test. Children and adults coming to be cared for by a relative are exempt from this requirement.

If you’re applying as a partner or wish to settle in the UK, you must meet the minimum income requirement, this requires you to prove your combined income of at least £18,600 a year. Where children who are not a British citizen, EEA nationals or are not permanently settled are involved, extra money is needed, £3,800 is required for the first child and £2,400 for each child after the first.

The UK Government website contains details of what is considered as income and what evidence is required to meet the minimum income requirement as well the visa requirements.

For example, if you are applying as an adult coming to be cared for by a relative, the visa requires you to be outside of the UK whilst applying and be needing long-term care from a parent, grandchild, brother, sister, son or daughter who is living permanently in the UK.

The person who will be caring for you must meet one of the requirements:

  • Be a British citizen
  • Be settled in the UK
  • Have refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK

You will be required to prove all of the following:

  • That you need long-term care for everyday tasks due to your illness, age or disability
  • The care you need is not affordable or available in the country you live in
  • The person you will be joining will be able to accommodate, support and care for you without recourse to public funds for at least 5 years
  • You are over 18 years of age

Once your visa is granted you will be able to stay for:

  • Unlimited time if you’re joining a British citizen or a settled member
  • As long as your family member stay if they have refugee status or humanitarian protection, however, you will be required to extend or settle when they do

Living permanently in the UK

If you have lived in the UK for a number of years you may qualify for settlement, there are different settlement options:

  • Indefinite leave to remain
  • EU Settlement Scheme
  • Right of abode
  • Settle if your partner dies
  • Refugee or humanitarian protection
  • Stay in the UK as a stateless person
  • Turkish Worker or Businessperson
  • UK residence card
  • Returning Resident visa
  • Derivative residence card
  • Become a British Citizen

For example, you can apply as a partner of a British citizen or person settled in the UK, your UK visa must be based on being their partner:

  • Husband or wife
  • Civil partner
  • In a relationship that is like marriage or civil partnership

You must have been living together since your last visa renewal and must intend to continue your relationship after you apply. If you have a family visa as a partner or spouse on:

  • the 5-year route, you must have been living in the UK for 5 years,
  • the 2-year route, you must have been living in the UK on that visa for 2 years
  • the 10-year route, you must have been living in the UK on that visa for 10 years

If you’re 18 to 64 years old when you apply, you will also be required to have knowledge of the English language and life by passing the Life in the UK Test and meeting the English language requirement.

Your application may be refused if you have a criminal record, provided false or incomplete information to the Home Office or have broken UK immigration laws.

Proof of finance will vary depending on which route you’re currently on.

The 5-year route requires you and your partner to prove you have at least:

  • £18,600 a year if you have no children
  • £22,400 a year if you have 1 child
  • Plus £2,400 a year for each additional child you have

All dependent children under 18 must be counted, except those who are British citizens, EEA citizens or settled in the UK.

If you’re on the 2-year route, you are only required to prove you have enough money to house and support you and your children without recourse to public funds. The 10-year route has no minimum income requirement, but you will be required to give information regarding your finances when you apply.

If you wish to know more about any of the visa routes or have questions about your specific situation, get in touch and we will be happy to assist you.

Need help? Chat to us