The United Kingdom (UK) is one of the most objectively great countries in the world. There is a much higher quality of life than in many other parts of the world due to having a strong economy, diverse cities, ample job opportunities, and much more.
Many people migrate to the UK seeking a better life for themself and their families. If you’ve been considering relocating to the UK but are wary because you don’t know what to expect, you’re not alone. If you don’t know where to start, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about migrating to the UK.
Why People Move to the UK
The UK has a very strong economy that has plenty of well-established industries for people to seek employment. Along with established enterprises, there’s a massive demand for specific skills that can help advance the economy and keep it strong.
Plenty of people migrate to the UK seeking better job opportunities than their home country can provide or better pay since the demand for their profession is higher in the UK.
The UK is home to some of the world’s top universities for those seeking a higher education. People from all over the world migrate to the UK to study at their prestigious universities.
Even if they only stay for a semester, the opportunity to study here is a sought-after experience. There are dozens of fantastic places to study in the UK, but here are a few of the top universities in the UK:
- The University of Cambridge
- The University of Oxford
- The University of Edinburgh
- The University of Manchester
When you migrate to the UK, there are dozens of cultures. There are many multicultural cities where you can find like-minded people, to help you acclimate to your new home.
One of the main reasons people want to migrate to the UK is because of their healthcare system. Healthcare is free and top-notch here for everyone. In addition to everything mentioned above, when you migrate to the UK and apply for a UK passport, you’ll have a powerful passport that allows you to travel almost anywhere.
Depending on where you’re migrating from, you’ll be much closer to the rest of Europe. You’ll be able to travel to several countries within hours that maybe would’ve taken you much longer before.
Steps You Need to Take to Migrate to the UK
There’s a lot to know when it comes to migrating to the United Kingdom. To put it in simplest terms, here are the steps you need to take to make your big move to one of the countries in the UK:
- You’ll need to find out if you need a visa or not
- Since you’ll most likely need a visa, you’ll need to divide which kind
- You’ll need to complete the online visa application and pay the fee
- You’ll need to gather all required documents required to migrate to the UK
- You’ll then schedule an appointment
- You’ll attend an interview for your UK visa
Requirements for Migrating to the UK
Before you can hop on a plane to the UK, there are certain required documents you’ll need to have with you. Please keep in mind that some of these documents may not apply to you, depending on your chosen migration route.
You’ll need to take an English Language Proficiency Test (SELT Test).
Skills For English is a UKVI approved SELT. Once you’ve taken your Skills For English SELT test, you’ll need to provide proof of your passing test score.
Whether you’re migrating to the UK for a job or to enroll in university, you’ll need to bring all documentation required to do so. Documentation includes:
- Your job experience
- Any certifications as are necessary for your profession
- All the required documents to enroll you in classes
You can check your university’s specific requirements to ensure you have everything you need, but these are the most general requirements.
One requirement that many don’t think about is proof of adequate funds. You’ll need to show that you have a sufficient amount of funds in your bank account or that you’ll be making enough money once you’re there to support yourself during your initial days while on a work or student visa.
Lastly, you must submit your health certificates and character references. These documents will help qualify you for the specific visa you’re applying for. Certain occupations will require more health information than others, such as proof of a negative TB test for healthcare workers.
What to Expect with the UK Immigration Process
There’s more than one way to make a move to the UK. There’s a migration route for almost every situation. Here are some of the most common reasons people migrate to the UK:
- You have a job offer to work in the UK
- You’re moving to the UK to live with your partner who is a citizen or permanent resident of the UK (you must be engaged or married to this person)
- You’re enrolling in one of the many universities
- You’re moving to the UK to be an investor
- You’re opening a business in the UK
Most people don’t show up to the UK ready to apply for long-term visas. Typically, people move to the UK for a short time before applying for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
For example, you moved to the UK and have been there for a few weeks before receiving a job offer. After you’ve received your job offer and have been living in the UK for the appropriate amount of time, you can begin to apply for an ILR.
The Visa Point System in the UK
Eligibility for any visa within the five tiers requires that you earn enough points. The points you’ll need are determined by the visa you’re applying for. If you don’t obtain enough points for one visa, you may qualify for a different one.
The conditions and requirements for those looking to live and work in the UK are different for each tier level.
Each tier requires you to have a specific number of points to be eligible to apply for that visa. Each tier level has a different point requirement. How you earn points is determined by various traits. These traits include your age, earnings, language, qualifications, and funds.
Whether you’re able to fund your stay in the UK and your English proficiency will significantly affect earning points towards visa application.
Points for Age
Depending on how old you are, you’ll earn anywhere from five to 20 points. The visa point system tends to favor younger applicants, meaning they get more points than older people. You’ll want to keep in mind that not every tier takes your age into consideration.
Points for English Proficiency
Regardless of where you’re from, you must earn ten points for your ability to speak, write, and read the English language. Some visa tiers will only require you to take English reading and speaking tests, whereas some require all three.
If you’re from a country where English is the official language, you’re automatically given ten points, which is the maximum for all visa tiers. If you’re from a country where English isn’t the official language, you’ll need to take a test. People from the following countries automatically earn ten points:
- Antigua & Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St. Kitts & Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent & the Grenadines
- Trinidad & Tobago
- United States of America
Points for Earnings and Maintenance
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll need to provide proof that you have the financial ability to fund your stay in the UK for the initial days. Depending on which tier you’re applying for, you’ll earn five to 20 points or 15 to 45.
Points for Qualifications
Depending on the tier level, they’ll assess your education qualifications. Some tiers assess your capabilities on a point scale from five to 15 points, and others give points from 30 to 50.
Points for Sponsorship Certification
When you’re migrating to the UK for employment, you will need a work visa. Having a certificate of sponsorship will help you in getting your visa. You can obtain anywhere from 30 to 50 points for a certificate of sponsorship.
Points UK Experience
Certain tiers may take your experience in the UK into consideration when awarding points towards your visa. If you’ve had any experience in the UK, you may earn five points.
Visa Tiers in the UK
There are many levels to understand regarding the UK visa levels and which tier you should be applying for. Why you’re seeking a visa will determine which tier you fall under and what requirements you’ll have to fulfill when submitting your application.
Tier 1 UK Visa
Tier 1 visas in the UK are for high-value migrants. Those who are considered high-value migrants can be divided into five sub-categories:
- Exceptional Talent – Persons internationally recognized in the arts or sciences
- Investor – Those who are going to make a large financial investment in the UK
- Entrepreneur – Someone who is going to start, take over, or involve themselves in a business in the UK
- Graduate Entrepreneur – Non-European graduates of high education in the UK who are recognized as having entrepreneurial skills
- General – This category is for highly skilled workers
Applicants for a Tier 1 visa must earn a total of 95 points. Of those 95, 75 of them must come from primary attributes. If you’re applying for a Tier 1 visa and you’re under 28 years old, you’ll earn the most points for this factor, 20. If you’re 32 years old or older, you won’t receive any points for this category.
If you have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll receive 30 points. Master’s degrees earn 35 points, and Ph.D.’s earn you 50 points.
Earnings play a significant role when applying for a Tier 1 visa. If you’ve made less than £20,000, you will earn zero points. Those who’ve earned £40,000 or more will earn the most points, which is 45.
Lastly, if you’re from a country where English is the official language, you’ll earn ten points automatically. If you’re not, you must score a 6.5 on all four components of the English language test.
Tier 2 UK Visa
Tier 2 Visas are for skilled workers in occupations with shortages. The following are the various categories that fall under tier 2:
- Minister of Religion – Ministers, missionaries, or priests who have accepted a faith-based position in the UK
- General – Those who have taken a skilled job offer that someone in the UK can’t fill
- Intra-Company Transfer – Someone who is getting transferred to the UK branch of their current company
- Sportsperson – Coaches and athletes who are recognized internationally
Applicants for Tier 2 visas will need a total of 70 points. Ten of those points must be from the English requirement and 10 for maintenance.
Points allocated to education are as follows. Those with a Ph.D. earn 15 points, bachelor’s and master’s degrees earn ten points, NVQ3 earns five points, and you earn zero points if you have none of these.
They then consider your prospective earnings and give you points based on that. If you expect to earn between £17,000 and £19,999, you’ll get five points. When you make from £20,000 to £21,999, you’ll earn ten points. If you’re going to earn £22,000 to £23,999, you’ll get 15 points, and anything over £24,000 will earn you 20 points.
Lastly, they evaluate if you have a certificate of sponsorship. If you’re an intra company transfer or have a job offer that passes the Resident Labor Market Test, you’ll earn 30 points. If you’ve received a job offer for an occupation that they have a shortage of, you get 50 points.
Tier 3 UK Visa
Tier 3 visas are currently suspended. But, they were previously used for low-skilled workers when there were labor shortages.
Tier 4 UK Visa
Tier 4 visas are for adult students. You must be over the age of 16 and planning to study at or above the National Qualification Framework. Any University programs are included in Tier 4.
A student seeking a student visa under Tier 4 needs to score 40 points. They must score 30 of their points for enrolling full-time in coursework. Full-time means a minimum of 15 hours in the classroom per week. The final ten points come from maintenance.
Tier 5 UK Visa
Temporary workers will apply for a Tier 5 visa. The sub-categories for Tier 5 visas include:
- Charity Workers – People who are going to the UK to do charity work
- Religious Workers – People going to work in the UK in a ministerial capacity
- Creative and Sporting – Athletes, artists, and entertainers going to work temporarily in the UK
- Government Authorized Exchange – Those going to the UK to promote knowledge and experience via a government program
- International Agreement – People who are going to do contract work under international law
- Youth Mobility Scheme – Young people who want to see what life is like in the UK (they must be from participating countries)
For those applying for a temporary work visa, they’ll need to score 40 points. The bulk of their score, 30 points, must come from a Certificate of Sponsorship, and then ten is for maintenance.
Someone on the youth mobility scheme needs 50 points. They’ll receive ten points for being able to support themselves financially, ten points if they’re between 18 and 30 years old, and 30 points for their nationality.
Occupational Shortages in the UK
When you’re migrating to the UK for a job, you can apply for a specific Tier 2 visa if you’re accepting a job on their Shortage Occupation List. There are dozens of occupations that are seeking employees across the four countries in the UK.
Healthcare workers are in need across the UK. The occupations range from medical practitioners, psychologists, social workers, paramedics, and physical therapists. There are several other healthcare occupations on the shortage list, but these are the most general careers.
Every country in the UK is in need of engineers. Mechanical, civil, and chemical engineers are all on the shortage list. If you’re going to the UK after working in a specific field, you’ll want to check their National Shortage Occupation List to see if your profession is on there.
If it is, you can apply for a skilled workers visa. There are plenty of career paths mentioned on the list, so it’s essential to see if you would qualify for that type of visa.
The Top Occupations and Their Salaries in the UK
The most popular occupations in the UK are those in healthcare and various engineering occupations. Take a look at the ten top fields in the UK:
- Healthcare Occupations – £36,497
- Engineering Technicians – £23,026
- Design Development Engineers – £25,691
- Production and Process Engineers – £27,534
- Planning and Quality Control Engineers – £28,627
- Civil Engineers – £30,450
- Electrical Engineers – £31,787
- Engineering Professionals – £40,000
- Chemical Engineers – £41,256
- Mechanical Engineers – £50,000
Frequently Asked Questions
There’s a lot to know about migrating to the UK. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the process and what it’s like.
What Countries Make Up The UK?
When we’re talking about the UK, we’re talking about more than just England. England is by far the largest country within the UK, but there are three other countries you could consider migrating too. These countries include Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Visa for the UK?
How much applying for a visa will cost you is dependent on the visa you applied for. Each tier level has different pricing for each visa within that tier. Prices have increased about 2% as of 2019, but the pricing varies significantly between visas.
Pricing for your visa application ranges from under £100 to well over £1,000. Once you know which type of visa you qualify for, you can get a better idea of how much it will cost you. If you’ve been in the United Kingdom for either five or ten years, depending on your ILR requirement, you can apply for an ILR if you choose. The application fee for an ILR is currently £2,389.
There may be other fees associated with your visa application based on a number of factors, including where you’re applying from. If you’re looking to expedite your visa application, that will cost you extra as well.
Keep in mind that when you’re renewing or applying for a switch in visa, you need to do this while your current visa is still active.
How Long Does it Take For My Visa Application to Process?
How long your visa application will take depends on the type of visa you’ve applied for. You can check current visa application wait times via government websites. But, most UK visa applications are processed in ten business days.
The maximum time you should have to wait to hear about your visa application is 15 business days. For those who paid for a priority UK visa application, it can take three to five business days. There’s even an option for emergencies which is known as super-priority, that takes 24 hours.
What Documents Do I Need to Apply For a UK Visa?
There are several documents that you’ll need when applying for your visa. Before you apply, be sure that you have these documents ready:
- A completed visa application (you can find the appropriate visa application online)
- The fee for your visa application
- A valid passport with a page that is blank on both sides
- The confirmation of your flights and any accommodations
- A passport-sized photo of yourself
- Proof of your finances such as bank statements from no longer than three months ago
- Your more recent utility bills
- A letter from a family member or friend if they’re sponsoring you
- Birth certificates if you’re bringing any of your children with you
- The original marriage license if your spouse is going with you
What are the Requirements for Migrating to the UK?
As you’ve read, there is an array of requirements to apply for a visa in the UK. The bare minimum requirements are that you be 18 years of age or older, have enough finances to support yourself during your initial days in the United Kingdom, and meet the English language requirements.
When Can I Apply For an ILR?
Since most people move to the UK on some sort of visa and then apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain, you’ll have to wait sometime before applying for an ILR once you’re there.
You can be granted an ILR based on the visa you have and the time you’ve been legally living in the UK. It’s important to note that not everyone will qualify for an ILR or be issued one.
Those who have a marriage visa, have an ancestry visa, or work permit can apply for an ILR after five years of being in the UK. Those who hold any type of UK visa can apply for an ILR after ten years.
Artists, writers, investors, independent and retired persons can apply after five continuous years in the United Kingdom.
What is a Continuous Period of Stay?
This period is the amount of time you’ve spent in the UK without traveling to another country within one year. The period starts from the date you arrive in the United Kingdom or when you’ve obtained your visa.
They use this period to determine your eligibility to apply for an ILR. You are allowed to have an absence from the UK for about 180 days a year.
What Can Cause My Visa Application to Be Denied?
The most common reason someone’s visa application is denied is due to silly mistakes. It’s crucial that you pay attention to every detail in the application process. These tiny mistakes can cause the UK Home Office to deny your visa application.
Here are some examples of reasons the UK Home Office has denied visa applications in the past:
- You’ve overstayed in the UK on a previous trip
- You’ve applied for the wrong type of visa
- You’re missing required documents
- You cannot prove you have the finances to live in the UK
- Your documents are fraudulent
- You have a criminal history
Can I Appeal My Visa Decision if it Was Declined?
If you’ve applied for a UK visa and have received notice that your application has been denied, you may be able to appeal the decision. The good thing that comes with your application being rejected is that you’ll know exactly why when you receive your decision. If you don’t think the UK justified the reasoning, you can start an appeal.
You’ll need to fill out the IAFT-2 appeal form and submit it to the UK Immigration and Asylum Chambers. This body will forward your appeal form to the correct authorities, and then a decision will be made regarding your appeal application.
If you receive a letter that your appeal was denied, you can start the visa application process by submitting a new application with the corrected mistakes.
If I’m Already in the UK, Can I Switch to a Skilled Worker Visa?
If you’re already in the United Kingdom under another visa, say a general work visa, you may be able to switch to a Skilled Worker visa. To change from one visa to a Skilled Workers visa, you’ll need to apply for the conversion.
You’ll need to ensure that your occupation meets the eligibility requirements for the Skilled Workers visa. You’ll also need to be able to read, write, and speak English well enough to pass the written and spoken test.
Many people switch from one visa to a Skilled Worker visa when they have had a student visa in the UK first. Thousands of people graduate from university and then obtain an occupation that qualifies them for the Skilled Worker visa.
Now, if you’re in the UK on a visitor visa, you will not be able to switch your visitor visa to a Skilled Workers visa. You will need to change from a visitor visa to something more long-term and then eventually a Skilled Worker visa if that applies to your situation.
Can I Work Part-Time While on a Skilled Worker Visa?
You cannot work part-time while on a Skilled Worker visa. You must be working a full-time job. A full-time job means that your job is sponsoring you to work a minimum of 30 hours per week.
If you’ve applied for a position and they are only sponsoring you for less than 30 hours a week, there’s a good chance that your Skilled Worker visa application may get rejected by the Home Office.
How Diverse is the United Kingdom?
While the majority of the United Kingdom is caucasian, there are a large number of cultural groups that reside in the UK. The largest ethnic group in the UK is made up of people from Asian countries. There are over four million people from Asia living in the UK. There are close to one and a half million people belonging to mixed ethnic groups there.
What Are the UK Visa Photo Requirements?
When you’re submitting your visa application, you’ll need a passport-sized photo. In addition to it being the size of a passport photo, you need to abide by their other requirements.
Your picture needs to be taken within one month of submitting your visa application and show your head to your upper shoulders. The background needs to be cream or light grey.
You’ll need to print the photo on high-quality photography paper in color without any watermarks. You need to be looking directly into the camera with both eyes open and visible.
Unless you’re covering your head for religious or medical reasons, you need to leave your head uncovered. Your application can be denied if you’re smiling in your photo or not facing entirely forward.
When taking your picture for your visa application, you’ll need to avoid wearing non-natural makeup, sunglasses, your teeth, or a uniform. Exceptions to these rules are if they’re for medical or religious purposes. Depending on where you live, you can get these photos printed for an affordable price at local shops.
Can I Rent or Buy Property While on a Visa in the UK?
When you migrate to the UK, you’ll need a place to live. While some people are fortunate enough to have a family member or friend sponsor them and allow them to stay with them, not everyone is so lucky.
When you’re on a visa in the UK, you can buy or rent a property. Plenty of people who own and rent property in the UK do not have citizenship.
One thing to keep in mind when purchasing or renting in the UK while on a visa is that mortgage lenders and landlords will require evidence of your immigration status before approving your rental or mortgage application.
Do I Have to Take a SELT?
Depending on your situation, a SELT is not mandatory.
However, many UK visas require that you show your English language knowledge by passing a SELT (Secure English Language Test).