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Relocating to Scotland

22 June 2020 Iain Halliday Immigration


How can you make Scotland your new home? The UK Government sets Scotland’s immigration policy. The Scottish Government has no power to make immigration law. So, if you want to relocate to Scotland, you need a UK visa from the UK Home Office (a.k.a UK Visas and Immigration).


What are the requirements for a UK visa?

Well, it depends. There is no generic, catch-all visa, which will allow you to relocate to the UK.

The retired person of independent means is the closest UK immigration law has ever come to such a visa. However, this was abolished in 2008. To relocate to Scotland you need to have some sort of connection to the UK. The type of visa you can apply for depends on what this connection is.

If your connection to the UK is a British partner, then a UK spouse visa is the appropriate application. Your partner must earn £18,600, you need to be able to speak English, and you need to convince the Home Office that your relationship is genuine and subsisting. You will get a 2.5 year renewable visa and will be able to apply to stay in the UK permanently after 5 years.

If you want to start your own business, then the appropriate application would be a Start-up or Innovator visa (which replaced the entrepreneur route in March 2019). The Start-up visa is valid for 2 years and cannot be renewed. It is essentially a gateway to the Innovator visa. The Innovator visa is valid for 3 years. If your business is successful, you can remain in the UK permanently after 3 years. Your business plan must be endorsed by an endorsing body approved by the Home Office and you need access to £50,000 to invest in the business.

If you want to work in the UK, you need a Tier 2 visa. Only some jobs, generally degree level jobs, are eligible. There are salary thresholds, which vary depending on the job. The ‘global’ salary threshold is £30,000, however can be lower in certain circumstances. Your employer needs to have a Tier 2 licence and you need to have the job offer before you come to the UK. There will be major changes to Tier 2 from 2021. The skill level and salary threshold will both be reduced to ensure that, after the end of the Brexit transition period, there are not skills shortages in the UK job market. You can stay in the UK for a maximum of 6 years with a Tier 2 visa and can apply to stay permanently after 5.  

If you want to study in the UK, you need a Tier 4 visa. You can study at an independent school (if you are a child) or a College or University. The educational institution must have a Tier 4 licence. You need to meet their academic entry requirements and then, once they have issued a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies, you can apply for your visa. You need to show that you have enough money to pay the course fees and to maintain and accommodate yourself in the UK. The visa will be granted for the duration of your course. 

The Tier 5 visa is for those who wish to come to the UK for temporary work. There are various sub-categories: Religious Worker, Creative & Sporting; Charity Worker; and International Agreement. These are all for specific short-term work, to be carried out for a sponsor with a Tier 5 licence. It is not possible to stay in the UK long term with this type of visa. They are issued for 1 or 2 years, depending on the sub-category.

The Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Visa) (previously the working holiday visa) is also available to nationals of the following countries who are between 18 and 30 years old: Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, or Taiwan. This visa is valid for 2 years and is not tied to any particular type of wok or employer.

The sole representative visa enables a representative of an overseas business to relocate to the UK in order to establish a branch or subsidiary. You are required to work for that branch/subsidiary and cannot work for any other organisation in the UK. The company’s principal place of business must remain outside the UK. The visa is granted for an initial period of 3 years. The visa can be extended for a further 2 years and you can stay in the UK permanently after 5 years.

For the small number of people who are fortunate enough to have access to £2 million pounds, there is another option. The Tier 1 (Investor) visa. This can be obtained by anyone with £2 million available to invest in the UK. You can stay in the UK permanently after 5 years (or potentially earlier if you invest a sum higher than £2 million).


The visa process

Visa application are submitted to the UK Home Office online. This is generally via the gov.uk website. The Visa 4 UK website is no longer used for most applications.

After submission of the online form, an appointment needs to be booked with one of the Home Office’s commercial partners so that your fingerprints (biometrics) can be taken. For overseas applicants this will be either VFS Global or Teleperformance. For applications made within the UK this will be Sopra Steria. Before the appointment, all documents should be uploaded to the commercial partners website. They can also be scanned at the appointment, for an additional fee.


Staying in the UK long term

Most visa routes lead to indefinite leave to remain (also known as settlement or permanent residence). The Tier 4 (Student) visa is an exception to this. Students are expected to switch from the Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 visa (or Start-up or Innovator visa) and work in the UK. If they are not able to find skilled work, or start their own business, they are required to leave the UK. A Post-Study Work visa used to exist, but was abolished in 2011. It has been announced that it will be re-introduced in 2021. This will give students more time to find work and get a Tier 2 or Start-up/Innovator visa after their studies. The Tier 5 visas, being temporary in nature, also does not lead to settlement.

However all other visas mentioned above lead to indefinite leave to remain. Once this has been granted you are no longer subject to the restrictions of the visa (e.g. you can change employer, cease your studies, or sell your company). You will be allowed to stay in the UK permanently. Although be aware that, despite the name, indefinite leave to remain is not always indefinite. It can be lost if you spend 2 years outside of the UK. You can also be deported from the UK if you commit a serious criminal offence.

The only way to ensure you will always be able to stay in the UK is to apply for British citizenship. Once you have been granted indefinite leave to remain you can make an application for naturalisation as a British citizen; immediately if married to a British citizen, or after 1 year if you are not.



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