Various different rules and criteria apply depending on whether you want to visit, work/ study in or permanently settle in the UK.
Most foreign visitors to the UK, apart from some EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and commonwealth nationals, will need a visa (use the questionnaire at www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en to see if you need one). If you are a general visitor you are allowed to stay in the UK for up to six months (or 12 months if you will be accompanying an academic visitor) as long as you:
Business visitors can also stay for up to six months (academic visitors up to 12 months) if they abide by above conditions. In addition, you must also
If you’re a foreign national who wants to come and work in the UK you have to apply using the UK’s points-based system. This places different types of workers into categories and has different eligibility requirements for each.
If you are an investor, an entrepreneur or are adjudged to be “exceptionally talented” (ie, recognised, or have the potential to be recognised, a leader in the fields of science and/ or the arts), you do not need a specific job offer to come and work in the UK, but you need to pass the points-based assessment to be eligible to apply. You’re awarded points based on your qualifications, previous earnings, UK experience, age, English language skills, and available maintenance (funds).
If you have a job offer from a UK-based employer who is prepared to sponsor you, you can apply for permission to enter or stay in the UK for up to three years and one month (although this can be extended on application). You will need:
When you apply you are awarded points based on your qualifications; future expected earnings; sponsorship; English language skills; and available maintenance (funds).
There are four categories of skilled worker under the points-based system:
From 6 April 2012 to 5 April 2013, a maximum of 20,700 skilled workers can come to the UK under Tier 2 (General) to do jobs with an annual salary below £150,000. There is no limit on the number of workers coming to the UK to do jobs with an annual salary of £150,000 or above.
Foreign nationals can come and do temporary work in the UK as long as it is of a type allowed by the UK Border Agency. Qualifying temporary workers includes those in the fields of entertainment/ sport; charity and religion and those here on government authorised exchange or by international agreement. You can stay in the UK for either one or two years (depending on the category) and must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor, a valid certificate of sponsorship and pass the points-based assessment to be eligible to apply.
Tier 5 also includes the youth mobility scheme which is for young people from participating countries (currently Australia; Canada; Japan; and New Zealand) who would like to experience life in the UK. Under the youth mobility scheme, your national government is your sponsor.
Other work-based categories available to people wanting to come to the UK to work include clinical attachments and dental observer posts, domestic workers, entertainers, film crew on location, overseas qualified doctors taking the PLAB test, postgraduate doctors and dentists and sole representatives of overseas firms. Different criteria and maximum lengths of stay apply for each (see www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/othercategories for more details).
All those from outside Europe who want to study in the UK must apply either as an adult or child student. There are various different categories for foreign students; the one you pick will depend on your age, and on the length and level of the course you want to study. Current categories are:
If you are a citizen of a Commonwealth country, have UK ancestry or have previously lived here, you may already have the right to settle permanently in the UK. Since 9 July 2012 if you wish to remain in the UK on the basis of your family or private life you must apply under one of the family or partner routes (see www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/newsfragments/73-family-private for more details).
If you wish to apply for permission to settle in the UK permanently (ie, be given “indefinite leave to remain”), you will need to show you have enough knowledge of language and life here. Depending on the category of visa you have, you can apply to live in the UK permanently after you have lived here legally for a certain length of time (usually between two and five years).
If you are over 18 and have been living in the UK for the last five years (or three years if you are married to or a civil partner of a British citizen) you may be able to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen. There are seven requirements you need to meet before you apply:
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