Top 10 questions for relocating to the UK

February 2, 2022

Immigration partner Kelvin Tanner, from law firm Charles Russell Speechlys (a member of Expatland’s London E-Team of global mobility specialists) answers key questions about moving to the UK.
To get international assistance in relocating from London, contact Kreston partner Ian Miles.

Charles Russell Speechlys is a leading law firm headquartered in London with UK regional offices and international offices in Hong Kong, Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar, Geneva, Zurich, Luxembourg and Paris. We combine specialist business law and private wealth advice internationally and our award-winning Immigration team assists clients with every aspect of their UK immigration journey, from initial discussions about the best visa type for them through to extension, permanent residence and citizenship applications.

As immigration lawyers, we’re often asked about more than just the technical requirements of a particular UK visa. Relocating abroad is a major decision and one which requires careful consideration and planning. UK Immigration is complex and the rules and processes created by the UK government change constantly.

In this article, we run through the 10 of the most common questions our clients ask when they are looking to move to the UK.

1. What type of visas are available and which one is right for me?

The UK has a broad range of visa categories, all with specific eligibility requirements. The best type of visa will depend on what you are trying to achieve. Key factors to consider include: whether or not you wish to work or establish a company in the UK, what level of funds you have available, whether a partner and/or dependant children will be relocating with you, how much time you plan to spend in the UK and whether your ultimate goal is permanent residence or British citizenship.

Many individuals who are relocating to the UK for work, for example, will do so via the Skilled Worker visa route. This allows the individual to work in a specific skilled role and to change employers, but it does require a job offer and sponsorship from a licensed UK business. It can also provide a path to permanent residence in the UK after a period of 5 years.

High net worth individuals often make use of the UK’s Tier 1 Investor visa route, which is available to those that have at least £2 million available to invest into corporate bonds and equities of qualifying UK registered companies. The advantage of this route is that it offers the visa holder complete flexibility as to whether they work, engage in business, study or simply spend time living in the UK. It also provides a path to permanent residence.

We would always recommend that you take legal advice tailored to your specific needs and goals, so you can trust that you’re on the right immigration path from the outset.

2. I’m being transferred to the UK office by my employer. Can my family come with me?

A very common scenario we see is a senior executive based overseas being transferred to their employer’s UK office, either permanently or for a specific time-limited secondment. Usually, their employer’s UK entity will provide sponsorship under either the Skilled Worker or Intra-Company Transfer visa route.

Both these visa types, and indeed almost all UK visa routes, allow for a main applicant to bring a partner and/or children under 18 with them as dependants. Partners must be a spouse, civil partner or an unmarried partner who has lived with the main applicant for at least 2 years prior to the visa application. Evidence of relationship is required for both a partner and children’s applications and the family must intend to live together throughout their time in the UK. Dependant visas are generally granted for the same period as the main applicant.

It is not usually possible to bring your parents, siblings or adult children to the UK unless you hold permanent residence or British citizenship and subject to meeting a very high threshold under the Adult Dependant Relative route.

3. Can my partner work in the UK?

The answer to this is usually ‘Yes’ but it will depend on the type of visa they have. Most dependant partner visas allow the holder to work in the UK with very little restriction. If your partner is looking to work in the UK then this is something to factor in at the outset, along with consideration of what sort of work they plan to do, to make sure their proposed visa will facilitate it.

4. What about my children and their schooling?

Children who have dependant visas can attend any sort of school in the UK, including free state schools and independent fee-paying schools, without needing prior sponsorship from the school.

Licensed independent schools can sponsor children for a Child Student visa, which is not reliant on any visa their parents may have. It may be possible in those circumstances for one parent to apply for a Parent of a Child Student visa to join their child in the UK, subject to specific eligibility criteria and provided the child is under 12 years of age.

Licensed UK colleges and universities can sponsor students aged 16 and over to study specific courses in the UK on a standalone Student visa. Sponsored students may be able to bring their own partner and/or dependant children with them, depending on the level of the course.

5. What if I want to change jobs or employers while I’m in the UK?

Again, this will depend on what type of visa you have. The Skilled Worker visa does allow an individual to change employers but they will require sponsorship from the new employer. It is also possible to change to a different role with the same employer, provided the new role falls within the same occupation classification or new sponsorship can be issued. Other visa types, such as the Tier 1 Investor visa, Global Talent visa or UK Ancestry visa, do not have any restriction on the type of work you can do or who you can work for. On the flip side, others such as the Innovator visa, have much more stringent rules.

6. Can I work remotely in the UK?

During the pandemic many people found themselves stuck or choosing to locate themselves outside of their home country. This led to an increase in enquiries from employers and individuals as to the permissibility of remote working. The general position in most countries is that whilst some remote work such as checking and sending emails may be permitted whilst someone is visiting, this should be incidental to the main purpose of their visit. If someone intends to work remotely from a country in which they have no existing right to work, this will usually constitute productive work and require a work visa. This is certainly true of the UK.

It is important that employers have a policy on remote working as in addition to raising potential immigration issues, there can be tax and employment law implications. If you have any concerns about this then you may wish to seek specialist legal advice.

7.Can I stay in the UK permanently?

Most of the most commonly used visa types, including Skilled Worker, can lead to permanent residence in the UK if certain eligibility criteria are met. Most require the completion of a continuous 5 year residence period in the UK, during which absences should not exceed 180 days in any 12 month period. There is also an English language requirement to be met and you must pass the Life in the UK test. Dependant partners and children can also apply if they meet the requirements. Note that the Intra-Company Transfer route doesn’t currently lead to settlement in the UK but applicants can switch into the Skilled Worker route if they are looking to stay long-term.

8. How can I get a British passport?

You can apply for British citizenship, known as ‘naturalisation’, once you have held permanent residence in the UK for at least 12 months. There are character and residence requirements which must be met. If your application is approved you will be presented with a Certificate of Naturalisation at a citizenship ceremony and can then use the certificate to apply for a British passport. Note that if you are the partner of a British citizen you may be able to naturalise sooner.

9. I’m a European national. What impact does Brexit have on my ability to move to the UK?

As free movement to the UK has now ended, European nationals who are not currently living in the UK will usually need to apply for a UK visa and the same eligibility criteria will apply as for any other nationality. Although if you have a European family member who was living in the UK before 31 December 2020 it may be possible for you to apply to join them under the EU Settlement Scheme, whether you yourself are also a European national or not. This is a complicated area and we would recommend you take specialist legal advice if you think you may be eligible for the settlement scheme.

10. Is there anything else I need to think about?

The answer to this is probably always going to be ‘Yes’!. Depending on your circumstances it may well be sensible to seek pre-arrival UK tax advice, especially if you may be transferring significant assets here or receiving a substantial income. If you are looking to purchase property in the UK then we would recommend consulting a UK property lawyer. Senior executives or those with complex employment contracts may also benefit from UK employment law advice before relocating. Likewise, entrepreneurs or those looking to establish or build businesses in the UK would be wise to seek advice from specialist corporate and commercial lawyers.

We hope the above has been useful in answering some questions you may have. If you would like to discuss any of the above further or need advice not covered by this article we would be pleased to hear from you by emailing me here.

Kelvin Tanner