The United Kingdom offers a variety of visa categories, each tailored to different situations and circumstances at the different life stages including just being a tourist for a short period of time visiting the UK on a Standard visitor visa to becoming a resident living and working in the UK permanently up until becoming a British citizen. This article aims to provide you with a clear and concise overview of the main UK visa categories to help you determine which one best suits your individual needs. Rest assured, our expert legal team is always on hand to guide you through the application process, ensuring a smooth journey to your dream destination.
Standard Visitor Visa
You can visit the UK as a Standard Visitor for tourism, business, study (courses up to 6 months) and other permitted activities.
One of the main advantages of a UK Visitor Visa is that it is granted for a period of 6 months, and you can travel to the UK as many times as you wish as it is a multiple-entry visa. A Standard Visitor Visa is perfect for those who wish to visit the UK for leisure, tourism, or visiting friends and family. This visa category allows stays of up to six months and may also be used for short business trips, academic conferences, or short-term study courses. However, it does not permit employment or long-term study. A visa holder must not make the UK their home if they are on a visitor visa. Although sometimes the standard visitor visa is granted for a period of 2,5 or 10 years, depending on the applicant’s circumstances and eligibility it is important to note that the length of stay on each visit is limited to a maximum of 6 months per entry.
UK Visitor visa is a perfect option if you plan to stay for a short period of time, however, it may not be suitable for you if you wish to spend most of the time in the UK for extended periods of time or engage in activities that are not permitted under the visitor visa category.
There are several options for you if you are planning to relocate to the UK for the purpose of employment/self-employment or even opening a new company.
Skilled worker is a great option for those coming from abroad to either continue their employment with an international company that they have been working for a long time and that has its offices in the UK and obtained a Sponsor Licence to employ migrant workers or for those who wish to switch from inside the country from other eligible visa categories. You must find an employer yourself, pass the English test or provide a UK degree certificate and must be offered a minimum salary which is £26,200 from 12 April 2023. It is also a great option for those who wish to settle after 5 years of continuously living in the UK. You can bring your partner and children under the age of 18 as your dependents.
Seasonal worker visas (replaced the Temporary worker Tier 5 visa ) are for temporary workers who wish to come to the UK and work in horticulture for up to 6 months- for example, picking fruit and vegetables or flowers of poultry from 18 October to 31 December in the same year. You will need to have a sponsor and can only stay in the UK for up to 6 months.
There are other types of temporary work visas designed for creative and sporting industries, charity work, or religious work. These visas require sponsorship from a UK employer.
Another work visa is a newly introduced Graduate visa previously called post-study work visa which allows you to work, or look for a job, be employed on a full-time basis as well as part time or even be self-employed. It does not have any limitations in terms of employment and working hours but does require a qualifying UK Degree. You can stay in the UK for 2 years on this immigration route.
If you wish to start a business Innovator Founder Route that has merged both Start-up and Innovator visa into one single category from 13 April 2023 may be a perfect match for you. The new scheme is aimed at overseas candidates who wish to establish their innovative business in the UK. Previously, applicants were required to show at least £50,000 GBP available to invest in the new business, but this requirement has been scrapped under the Innovator Founder route, which should offer greater flexibility for entrepreneurs. In the past, Innovator visa holders were only allowed to work for the business they established in the UK. However, this requirement has changed and now Innovator Founders have the option to take on additional employment as long as the job requires skills that are at least equivalent to the A-levels or high school diploma level in the UK, which is equivalent to RQF level 3.
High Potential Individual visa is another option that gives you permission to stay in the UK for at least 2 years. To apply, you must have been awarded a qualification by an eligible university in the last 5 years. List of eligible Universities can be found here by choosing the year you were awarded your qualification: https://www.gov.uk/high-potential-individual-visa/eligibility
UK Expansion worker visa also known as Global Business Mobility allows you to come to the UK to set up a branch of an overseas business that has not started trading in the UK yet. If your business is already trading in the UK, you can still apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa under the same Global Mobility route that has replaced the Intra-company Transfer visa.
Ideal for: Students pursuing higher education in the UK
Student visa is designed for those who wish to study at a UK university, college, or independent school. Applicants must have an unconditional offer from an educational institution that is on the UK government's register of licensed sponsors and sufficient funds to cover tuition fees and living expenses. You must also meet certain other eligibility criteria, such as proving that you can financially support yourself and any dependents while in the UK and demonstrating your proficiency in English. This visa allows part-time work during term time (up to 20 hours/week) and full-time work during holidays.
Ideal for: Spouses, partners, and dependent children of UK residents
Family visas allow non-UK residents to join their family members who are settled in the UK. This category includes visas for spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, and dependent children. Eligibility depends on factors such as relationship status, financial requirements, and English language proficiency.
UK Ancestry Visa
Ideal for: Commonwealth citizens with UK-born grandparents
UK Ancestry visa allows Commonwealth citizens with a UK-born grandparent to live and work in the UK for up to five years. Applicants must demonstrate an intention to work and prove their ability to support themselves without public funds. You can stay in the UK for 5 years on this visa.
If you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years on this visa, you may be able to either:
- apply to extend your visa for a further 5 years
- apply to settle permanently in the UK (apply for ‘indefinite leave to remain’)
- With a UK Ancestry visa, you can work study and bring your partner or child
Your work can be:
- paid or voluntary
- full-time or part time
- in self-employment or in a job where you’re employed by someone else
Global Talent Visa
Ideal for: Exceptional talent and promise in specific fields
The Global Talent visa is a unique category designed for individuals who demonstrate exceptional talent or promise in fields such as science, engineering, humanities, digital technology, arts, and culture. This visa allows eligible applicants to live and work in the UK without the need for a job offer or sponsorship. To qualify, candidates must be endorsed by a recognized UK Endorsing body, proving their exceptional skills and potential to contribute significantly to the UK's knowledge economy and cultural life. With the potential for settlement after three or five years, depending on the applicant's circumstances, the Global Talent visa is an excellent option for those seeking to establish a long-term career in the UK while enjoying the flexibility to work for any employer or even as self-employed.
Selecting the right UK visa category is crucial to a successful application and a seamless transition to life in the United Kingdom. By understanding the different visa options available, you can make an informed decision on which one best aligns with your personal and professional goals. Our experienced immigration lawyers are ready to guide you through the process, providing tailored advice and support every step of the way.
Please do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation to ensure that you embark on the most suitable path towards your exciting adventure in the UK.