UK Immigration Routes

UK Immigration Routes – Key Concepts

UK immigration routes is a selection of suitable UK immigration categories, which allow you to come live and work in the UK.

UK immigration category is a type of visa, which has specific conditions attached to your rights to live and work in the UK.

Some UK immigration categories may lead to settlement, while others do not. Settlement is the right to remain indefinitely in the UK. It is also known as Indefinite leave to remain (ILR).

A number of notable changes took place throughout 2022 and 2023. One of the most significant ones is that the UK Investor visa is now abolished. 

Also Sole Representative of Overseas Business is now replaced with a Global Business Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa, which no longer leads to settlement. Further, Tier 1 Start-up visa category is also closed.


You can no longer apply for Investor visa


Visit Investor Visa Archive to find out more about the UK Investor visa route, which is no longer available.

As the video below explains, making a substantial investment in the UK does not secure your UK visa status.


Your Investments in the UK and Your UK Residence Rights
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Major UK visa Categories


1. UK Sponsor Licence


With major categories closed for UK immigration, sponsor licence appears to be a necessity. Sponsor licence is issued to UK based businesses provided requirements are met.

Recent amendments in UK Immigration Rules means that fewer UK immigration categories are available that are able to stand alone.

All immigration categories introduced under Global Business Mobility heading require a sponsor licence in the UK.

It is no longer possible to come to the UK and secure your visa based on available investments alone. The idea is to contribute to the UK economy and employ the British workforce.

An interesting development was made with the introduction of the scale-up worker visa. Only highly successful businesses qualify for the scale-up visa category.

It appears to have been designed with an entrepreneur in mind. You only need to stay in a job with your sponsor employer for the initial 6 months. If you satisfy the criteria and this condition, then you are eligible to apply for your visa extension without the need for any employer to sponsor you.

If your UK business does not qualify for a scale-up visa sponsor licence, you are still eligible to apply for the regular sponsor licence.


2. Innovator Founder visa for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland


This UK immigration route is based on an idea for business and making a business investment. Your business idea will need to be approved by one of the very few dedicated business organisations who have the right to endorse  your business idea to the Home Office.

This means that the first step is to get your business idea approved by one of the dedicated business organisations who have the right of endorsement with the Home Office. Your business idea will be assessed for novelty and scalability.

Only once you have secured the approval by one of these business organisations, will you be able to proceed with your UK Innovator Founder visa application.

A number of wealthy individuals overseas are being approached by the individuals or firms who try to raise capital and investments for a particular business idea or investment. 

You need to be well aware that an investment alone, even if it is several million in pounds sterling, will not secure your Innovator Founder visa if necessary visa conditions are not met.

3. British Global Talent visa


This visa option is secured to very few highly talented individuals worldwide. The individual is required to demonstrate their exceptional talent worldwide. Some prestigious prizes awarded are identified as sufficient.

It is a two-tier application process. The individual is expected to receive the endorsement by the respective endorsing bodies within very specific talent categories: arts and culture, architecture, fashion design, film and television, digital technology, science, engineering, humanities and medicine.

It is possible to fast-track the application. However, the approval of the specific endorsing body is a must for the application to be successful.

The duration of the initial visa if successful is 5 years. The applicant is eligible to settle (apply for the indefinite leave to remain) in the UK after 5 years of continuous residence if all requirements are met. 


4. Graduate route open to graduates of British universities


Graduate route opened on the 1st July 2021. It is the answer to the government’s criticism where international students are expected to leave after completing their university studies in the UK.

This route is open to all students who completed their university studies in the UK and are eligible to receive their university diploma from 2021.

It should be noted that under the UK immigration rules, students who come to study in the UK under Tier 4 Student visa route, have no right to settle in the UK under the student visa.

It was argued that the UK was losing the brightest minds who were educated in the UK in some of the very best universities globally and by imposing the requirement to leave the UK after completing their studies the UK was responsible for its own brain drain.

Graduate route permits university graduates to remain in the UK for an additional 2 years. It allows these graduates to work in the UK without requiring the potential employer to obtain the sponsor licence.

Sponsor licence is the requirement applied to all UK based employers who wish to employ overseas people in the UK. Applicants under the graduate route are exempted from this requirement.

It should be noted that the 2 years spent in the UK under the Graduate route do not count towards the settlement in the UK.


5. Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker Visa


Historically, the Sole Representative of Overseas  Business visa was a very attractive UK immigration category, which allowed you to settle. This category closed on 11 April 2022 and new applicants are unable to apply and benefit from this visa category.

It is now replaced with Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker visa. It is aimed at overseas business workers responsible for establishing UK business operations of an overseas company in the UK. 

Although some of the requirements remain similar, the most disappointing feature is that this UK immigration route does not allow you to settle. You also need to be sponsored to be eligible for this UK immigration route.

This means you are no longer eligible to acquire UK residence rights and remain in the UK for an extended period of time. You are expected to leave as soon as your job in the UK is done.


6. You hold an EU (EEA/Swiss) passport


If you have not started your residence and have not met your residence requirements before 31 December 2020, then you are no longer able to benefit from EU free movement rights while in the UK

You need to apply for the right UK immigration category just like everyone else. No more preferential EU Treaty protected rights for EU (EEA/Swiss) nationals apply.

If you are currently looking at the option to acquire a Malta or Cypriot passport, you need to know that after Brexit EU Treaty rights no longer apply in the UK. 

You need to choose the right visa for you in order to come and live in the UK. 


7. You hold a Caribbean or any other Commonwealth passport, which allows visa free travel to the UK


Citizenships that allow visa free travel to the UK, only allow you to visit the UK and not to live in the UK. If you are a passport holder of a country where the UK allows visits of less than 6 months in duration to the UK without having to apply for a visitor visa, you need to know that you are only allowed to visit and not to live in the UK. You are also expected to leave after each of your visits to the UK.

Therefore, if you are looking to relocate and live in the UK you need to apply for the suitable UK immigration route. 

It is not advisable to overstay your visa or otherwise breach your UK visitor visa requirements if you want to continue to visit the UK or will be looking to apply for a residence permit in the UK in the future.


8. Special Rules for Hong Kong Nationals


British National (Overseas) visa also known as a BNO visa was introduced on the 31st January 2021. 

This UK immigration route is open to Hong Kong nationals or residents who are Overseas British nationals.

Historically, Overseas British Nationals were not allowed to automatically enter and live in the UK. This changed with the introduction of the British National (Overseas) visa for UK visa applicants based in Hong Kong.

You can only apply for the BNO visa from Hong Kong before you are allowed to enter the UK. Initially, the visa lasts for 2 years and 6 months. 

You will need to renew your visa before the expiry date. The visa, once renewed after the initial period of residence, allows you to settle permanently in the UK. You may become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years of continuous residence in the UK.


9. Humanitarian Assistance to Ukrainian Nationals


The UK has adopted two UK visa schemes. One scheme is specifically intended to reunite UK families with their family members in Ukraine. 

The second scheme allows organisations to sponsor Ukrainian nationals who do not have family members in the UK.


Ukrainian Family Scheme

The Ukrainian Family Scheme was extended not only to accommodate the immediate family members, but the extended family members as well. Perhaps, the greatest drawback is that individuals wanting to apply for this scheme need to apply from overseas and wait for their application to be processed before they are allowed to enter the UK. 

Under the Ukrainian Family Scheme, the UK visa is issued for 3 years and it is issued free of charge.

EU Settlement Family Permit may also be considered as a suitable alternative where Ukrainian family members are related to EU nationals. However, the processing time is 6 months.


Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine

The government announced a new sponsorship scheme for Ukrainians who have no family ties to the UK.

The scheme allows sponsors, such as communities, private sponsors or local authorities, to bring those forced to flee Ukraine to the UK.

There will be no limit on this scheme and we will welcome as many Ukrainians as they wish to come and have matched sponsors.

Those who come under this scheme will also be granted leave for an initial period of 12 months and able to work and access public services.

What happens when Your UK Visa is rejected?


UK visa application is a detailed and demanding process and I encourage you not to leave this complex process to chance.

Working with a qualified professional may reduce the chances of your UK visa application and endorsement being rejected. It is important that you work with a duly qualified, authorised and experienced professional.

If you missed the step of working with a duly authorised professional or your UK visa application was rejected anyway, depending on the reasons why your application was rejected, you may still be eligible to apply again

This time you will need to make sure that your application is well prepared and you address Home Office’s concerns.

The worst you can do is do nothing. Non-action will endorse Home Office’s decision and will leave a poor UK immigration record, which can cause hardship and impediments later.


Get It Right from the Start!


Book a call with me to discuss your Global Wealth Strategy as you invest, operate or relocate to the UK or Switzerland. You may submit your enquiry here.

I am an OISC regulated UK immigration adviser and I can help you to secure your British citizenship or an indefinite leave to remain (or settled status for EU/EEA and Swiss citizens) and help you with any UK immigration application, book a call with me.

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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.

Contact a family office specialist to discuss your needs.

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