UK visas and immigration

If you’re an IFA member looking to live or work in the UK on a temporary or permanent basis, there are several potential routes which may be open to you.

The same is true if you’re an IFA member advising a client who is looking to live or work in the UK.

The GOV.UK guidance is a useful resource, but it can be time-consuming to sort through and identify your best course of action among many options. Here is the IFA’s simple guide to UK visas and immigration for international members.

Check if you need a UK visa

This short questionnaire asking your nationality, reason for coming to the UK and planned duration of stay will provide a recommendation on whether you need a visa, and what types of visa might be appropriate for you. Different types of visa include: 

1. Standard Visitor visa (up to 6 months), for a holiday, to visit family and friends, for a business trip or meeting, or to do a short course of study.
2. Short-term study visa (6-11 months), to study an English language course.
3. Student visa (over 11 months), for studying on a longer course. 

  • A student visa requires that you are sponsored, and have a confirmed place, from a licensed college or university.
  • A Graduate visa will give permission to stay in the UK for at least 2 years after successfully completing a course in the UK (you must be in the UK when you apply). A graduate visa cannot be extended, but your qualifications and any work experience in the UK may provide access to other visas, including the Skilled Worker visa and the Health and Care Worker visa (see below).
  • Another option for students nearing completion of their studies and looking to remain and work in the UK is to start a UK-based business and qualify for a Start-up visa or Innovator visa (see below).

4. If you have graduate or postgraduate qualifications from certain international institutions, you may be able to apply for a High Potential Individual visa.

5. Work visa, to work in the UK on a short- or long-term basis.

  • Work visas will depend on your skills and qualifications, whether you have a job offer or sponsorship, if you want to bring family with you, and what you’ll be doing.
  • Skilled Worker visas require that you are employed and sponsored by a UK employer approved by the Home Office, doing a job on the list of eligible occupations, and receiving a specified minimum salary. Skilled Worker visas can last for up to 5 years before needing to be extended, which is long enough to apply for indefinite leave to remain (see below).
  • Health and Care Worker visas require that you are a qualified health or adult social care professional, work in an eligible job, are employed and sponsored by a UK employer approved by the Home Office and receive a specified minimum salary. Health and Care Worker visas can last for up to 5 years before needing to be extended, which is long enough to apply for indefinite leave to remain (see below).
  • Other work visas, including various Global Business Mobility visas, are detailed on the GOV.UK work visas page.

6. Start-up visa or innovator visa, if you want to set up an innovative business in the UK.

  • Successful start-up or innovator visa applications require a business proposal endorsed (by a HMRC-approved third party) as innovative, viable and scalable. Applicants will also need a minimum of £50,000 to invest in their proposal.

7. Family visa to join family who has British citizenship or settlement in the UK.
8. UK Ancestry visa if you have a British grandparent (and meet other eligibility criteria).

9. If you’re aged 18 to 30 and from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Iceland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea or Taiwan you may be able to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa.

Apply for your visa

Details on this are available via each of the individual visa help pages. Note that each visa has an application fee, and requires payment of the healthcare surcharge to cover NHS provision for you during your time in the UK. You will also need to prove your identity and provide any documents to show your eligibility.

10. You will receive a decision on your application. If unsuccessful, you may have the right to either an administrative review or an immigration decision appeal:

  • You can apply for an administrative review (there is an £80 fee) if you feel your application should have succeeded on certain specified grounds.
  • You can appeal to the tribunal if you have the legal right to appeal: the decision letter should clarify whether you have this right. You can appeal and request a hearing online, but it may be worthwhile talking to an immigration advisor or talking to a solicitor before proceeding.

11. If you have lived and worked in the UK for 5 years (less if you’re in the UK on certain isas); if you have close family settled in the UK; or if you’ve lived in the UK for 10 years or more (5 years if you’ve been living in the UK on a UK Ancestry visa) you can apply for indefinite leave to remain, or “settlement”, in the UK.

  • If you want to report self-employed income or income from your business or businesses as part of your indefinite leave to remain application, you will need to provide an accountant’s certificate of confirmation concerning your accounts. IFA members practising in the UK are approved by the Home Office to provide these certificates: find an IFA accountant here.
  • If you’ve lived in the UK for 12 months after getting indefinite leave to remain, you can apply for British citizenship.