How to move to the UK: The best visa routes in 2020

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Is 2020 the year you’ve decided to make the big move to the UK? Here we cover some of the most popular UK visa options so you can choose the right route for your circumstances. Find out what you need to apply and how to get it right the first time.

The UK’s immigration system is complex – and costly. Applying for the wrong visa or submitting an incorrect application can set you back hundreds of Pounds. Taking time to perform some in-depth research on the types of visas available and their requirements can ensure you start your journey to the UK on the right foot.

Ancestry visas

The UK ancestral visa is always a good place to start. Ancestry visas allow you to live and work in the UK for five years, after which you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the country and eventually British citizenship.

How to qualify for a UK Ancestry visa

The most common requirement for an Ancestry visa is that one of your grandparents was born in the UK. You’ll also need to be a citizen of a commonwealth country.

Other requirements include planning to live and work in the UK, being over 17 years old and having enough money to support yourself and any dependants.

If you have children or a spouse, they can be added as dependants on your visa to join you in the UK.

Ancestry visas vs British citizenship

People with a UK born grandparent should always take our UK citizenship assessment. There may be route to citizenship that you are unaware of. The assessment is quick and free and will give you our opinion of the likelihood of qualifying for citizenship.

If there is no apparent route to citizenship and you want to relocate to the UK, the Ancestry visa is still a very good option.

There are some considerations for your family members depending on whether you apply for citizenship or an Ancestry visa. Citizenship has work and financial requirements that need to be met in order to bring your dependants to the UK, while the Ancestry visa does not. Check the requirements for both first, or speak to an advisor about your circumstances.

Work visas

Another popular route for immigration is through a UK work visa. This visa lets you work in the UK and qualify for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after five years. The Tier 2 (General) visa is the most common work visa, and it requires sponsorship from a UK-based company. A Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa does not lead to settlement.

The sponsorship process isn’t as simple as you may think. Your occupation will either need to be on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List or your employer will need to prove that they cannot fill the role with someone who is either a UK citizen or has legal rights to live and work in the UK.

After you receive a certificate of sponsorship, you’ll also need to prove your English language knowledge, detail your travel history and have enough savings to support yourself.

It’s notoriously difficult to apply for a job from your home country and get a Tier 2 visa unless your occupation is in high demand. Many people that go this route get transferred to the UK on a Tier 2 (Intra–company Transfer) visa from their current employer or have occupations that enable them to easily get a position.

The UK is transitioning to a points-based immigration system that will impact the current Tier 2 visa application process. This is designed to attract highly skilled migrants by requiring a certain amount of points to apply. The change is scheduled to come into effect on 31 January 2021.

Partner visas/ spouse visas

If you’re in a relationship with a British citizen or someone settled in the UK (meaning they have ILR or settled status), you can apply for a family visa to join them in the country.

You must both be over 18 and either be in a civil partnership or marriage that’s recognised in the UK, in a relationship and living together for at least two years or plan to get married or become civil partners within six months of arriving in the UK.

Partner visas are granted for two and a half years, after which you can extend your visa. After living with your partner in the UK for five years, you’ll be eligible to apply for ILR.

If you are married to an EU national, you are still able to move to the UK on an EEA family permit and switch to a pre-settled status once you get to the UK. This route is only available until 31 December 2020.

How do I get British citizenship?

Whether you’re in the UK on an Ancestry, work or family visa, the path to British citizenship is similar.

  1. Get indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

ILR (also known as “settlement”) means you can stay in the UK indefinitely. You’ll be eligible for ILR once you’ve stayed in the UK on your work, Ancestry or family visa for five years.

To apply for ILR, you’ll need to pass the “Life in the UK Test”, meet English language requirements as well as meet income requirements between you and your partner.

  1. Apply for British citizenship

Once you’ve held ILR status for 12 months, you’re eligible to apply for British citizenship and get your British passport. You must have lived in the UK for five years without spending more than 450 days outside the country before you apply (90 days per year).

You’ll also need to be “of good character”, which means not behaving in ways that are criminal, deceiving or dishonest, and not breaching any immigration laws.

If you’re married/in a partnership with a British citizen, you do not need to wait 12 months after ILR to apply for citizenship. You can apply immediately. 

Let us help you immigrate to the UK. We can assist with your visa application to give you the greatest chance of success and offer a no visa, no fee service. Email [email protected] or call +27 (0) 21 657 2180 to speak to a consultant.