You are scrolling through the internet looking for the right UK visa for you. There are so many different UK visa categories with different sets of requirements. You are not quite sure what is the next best step for you.
Here, I give you the overview of some of the important features of UK immigration rules and categories that may make it easier for you to identify the correct UK immigration category for you.
I rank the best UK visa categories at the end of this post.
Main features of UK immigration law
UK immigration law changes at least twice a year and you need to check how the rules for your UK immigration category have changed just before you submit your UK visa application.
Preparing for your UK visa application is a rigorous process and requires a lot of information. The records that support your application need to be submitted in a prescribed manner.
Perhaps, the major shock is that the Home Office decided to abolish the Tier 1 Investor visa route effective immediately on 17 February 2022. Further changes are being made and more importantly, the Representative of Overseas Business category will close on 11 April 2022. This UK immigration category will be replaced with a UK Expansion Worker visa and many benefits derived from the Representative of Overseas Business category are now obsolete.
What does the process of choosing the right UK visa look like for you?
It is always important to know your purpose for visiting the UK. The length of your stay is also important.
- How long do you intend to stay?
- Is your purpose a temporary one or do you wish to remain for longer?
- Do you have your eyes on the ultimate prize, which is British citizenship?
Coming to the UK for a visit or Your intention is to stay longer?
The UK has a list of countries whose nationals are required to apply for a visa before they arrive in the UK. It is also important to note that even for nationals of countries where a visa is not required, the UK is introducing a US-type entry clearance system.
Also, there may be circumstances where nationals who enjoy a visa free travel to the UK, are advised to have a UK visa in order to avoid rejection on the UK border.
Under normal circumstances, you should be applying for a standard visitor visa.
UK standard visitor visa is sufficient to:
The maximum duration of the standard visitor visa is 6 months. However, this visa can be extended for a further 6 months while in the UK if necessary.
The purpose of your visit needs to be specified upon initial application.
In no circumstances you should purport to live under this visa while in the UK. Your purpose should always be to visit short-term.
However, if the purpose of your visit is not only to visit, but to get married, to study longer or be paid for a temporary engagement in the UK, you must apply for the correct type of visitor visa, such as:
Marriage visitor visa is valid for 6 months, while permitted paid engagement visa is only valid for 1 month. Short-term study visa lasts for 11 months.
If you enter the UK and violate UK immigration law, you risk being barred from the UK for at least 10 years. Therefore, you will need to take sufficient care to preserve your UK immigration record.
Your intention is to stay longer, then you ought to apply for the appropriate visa for you.
Does your chosen UK visa category allow you to settle and put you on the route to British citizenship?
There is a clear intention to eliminate UK immigration categories that could potentially allow you to settle (to remain permanently in the UK) and potentially acquire your British citizenship.
The following visa categories allow you to come to the UK for longer, but do not allow you to settle and stay permanently in the UK:
- UK Expansion Worker visa – is a new UK immigration category, which substitutes Representative of Overseas Business visa.
Please note that there are further specialist visa categories that allow you to come to the UK on a temporary basis and do not allow you to settle. These categories are not discussed here as they are more specific and may apply to only very limited categories of people.
What are the UK visa categories that potentially allow you to settle in the UK and put you on route to British citizenship?
Currently, the pool of such visa categories that allow you to settle in the UK and may put you on route to acquire British citizenship are very limited.
These UK visa categories are:
These are the main features of these UK visa categories:
The UK Innovator visa allows you to start a new business in the UK, the main requirement is to ensure that your business is novel and scalable in the UK. It requires you to secure an endorsement from the approved body in the UK for your UK visa application to be successful. The visa is issued for 3 years. You will need to successfully extend this visa in order to secure your indefinite leave to remain and to become eligible to apply for British citizenship.
Global talent visa is reserved only for a very limited number of individuals who could be potentially eligible to apply. You also need to secure an approval by the appropriate body for you before you apply. The visa can be issued between 1 to 5 years at a time. It is possible to secure indefinite leave to remain after 3 or 5 years in the UK depending on the specific talent segment you apply. After 5 years of legal residence in the UK you can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Subsequently, you may become eligible to apply for British citizenship.
Skilled worker visa category is open to most individuals who want to work for a UK based employer who has a sponsor licence. Sponsor licence means that the business is authorised to employ overseas people in the UK. The sponsor is also entrusted with UK immigration control in relation to such workers in the UK. The duration of this visa is 5 years. After 5 years of legal residence in the UK you can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Subsequently, you may become eligible to apply for British citizenship.
UK Family visas only applied to British nationals or third country nationals who live legally in the UK. After Brexit, this UK immigration category applies to EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and their family members who did not acquire pre-settled or settled status before the cut off date (31 December 2020 or 30 June 2021) or their family relationship is formed after 31 December 2020. You can apply for this visa on the basis of your child, your spouse or dependent relative. The visa is issued for 2.9 years. Typically, you will need to extend it twice in order to secure indefinite leave to remain. After you secure your indefinite leave to remain, you may become eligible to apply for British citizenship.
Ancestry visa is the friendliest visa category of all UK visa categories as the purpose of this visa is to accommodate the grandchildren of British citizens. It only applies to grandchildren born in the Commonwealth. The visa is issued for 5 years. After 5 years of legal residence in the UK you can apply for indefinite leave to remain. Subsequently, you may become eligible to apply for British citizenship.
Ranking UK visas – which UK visa is the best one for you?
Your UK visa eligibility requirements will be personal to you depending on your specific circumstances. However, for a moment, let’s imagine if you were eligible for any of the visas in the UK, which would be the best one for you to apply?
Here is the ranking, which only ranks visas that allow you to settle permanently in the UK and puts you on the route to British citizenship:
1. Ancestry visa;
2. Global Talent visa;
3. Innovator visa;
4. Skilled worker visa;
5. Family visa.
The rationale for this ranking:
1. Ancestry visa is the friendliest visa category in the UK only open to applicants who were born in the Commonwealth. If you are eligible, you will receive the right to live and work in the UK for 5 years. After 5 years you may be eligible to apply for the indefinite leave to remain and subsequently for British citizenship.
2. Global Talent visa is only open to a very select few. Once secured it is possible to be issued with a 5 year visa, which may lead to securing indefinite leave to remain and subsequently British citizenship.
3. Innovator visa allows you to start a new business in the UK if the required endorsement is secured. The visa is issued for 3 years and requires to be extended.
4. Skilled worker visa allows you to work for a specific employer who has a sponsor licence. The visa is issued for 5 years. The reason why it is ranked lower than the Innovator visa is because the visa holder is dependent on this specific employer for 5 years. The visa holder is not protected in the circumstances when the employer goes bankrupt or the job role is made redundant.
5. UK Family visa is ranked last as it is normally issued for 2.9 years and requires at least 2 extensions before indefinite leave to remain can be secured. The reason for this is to monitor the family relationship and confront possible sham marriages.
Your circumstances are unique to you, therefore, this guidance is for general information purposes only. Therefore, you should always seek professional advice so that your unique circumstances that may dictate unique opportunities open to you alone could be taken in due consideration and you could benefit from a professional advice specific to you.
You are considering the best UK immigration for you and your family and you would like to know about the best options available to you based on your specific circumstances, schedule a consultation with me to discuss your needs and requirements.
Saule Voluckyte, M.A.E.S, LL.B, FAIA
I have been working exclusively with UHNWI in Mayfair, London since January 2008. I built specialist knowledge and expertise required to serve ultra high net worth individuals investing, operating and relocating to the UK or Switzerland.
Within the industry, I am the single adviser who is able to traverse the different areas of expertise and bring a comprehensive approach across: global structuring, UK immigration, international taxation and FOREX to develop their global wealth strategy, while they build, grow and expand their wealth worldwide.
Previous experience as one of the senior advisors for the government, made me a go-to person when delicate and uncomfortable scenarios involving heads of state need to be handled with care and preserve privacy.