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Immigration to the UK: know your visa and remember things to do before relocation

A decision to relocate to another country permanently is not taken overnight; people take time pondering about changing their life so drastically. And you would need that time to get ready for the move. Say you have chosen Great Britain as your new home – if you come unprepared, you will struggle with understanding and getting used to a new way of life, laws, mentality, etc.

Do you want to save yourself this stress, time and money? Read this article where we explain how to move to the United Kingdom, what problems and hardships you might encounter and how to prepare yourself for them to minimise losses.

Long-term UK visas

You can only come to live in Great Britain for a long time if you obtain a long-term visa. It is valid for a few years (depends on a visa type) and in most cases can be extended.

What UK visa to apply for depends on what you are going to do in the country. If you plan to start a business or manage a representative office of an existing overseas company, check what entrepreneur visas are available. If you plan to work for a UK employer, apply for a work visa. Other categories include study visas, fiancée/fiancé and spouse visas. Find more details on types of visas to the UK that lead to settlement and British citizenship and how to get them in this article.

UK visas: what you can and cannot do

With a few lucky exceptions, a visa to the UK will limit you in what you can do in the country. But as an old saying goes, in for a penny, in for a pound. For example, if you come to the UK to run a start-up, you will have to do exactly that and develop your business in order to be able to switch to an Innovator visa later. If you come to study, there is no way you can quit and start working full-time.

Those on a spouse visa, including same-sex partners, are one of the lucky exceptions. They can study or work in the UK, though for the British government they will remain partners of UK residents. The most flexible visa is an Investor visa; it offers almost limitless opportunities for investors who can do anything in the UK because they have invested a lot of money in the economy. They do not even have to speak English.

A type of visa will determine which documents you must prepare and how much money you must have.

How to get a UK Investor visa

A foreign investor must have access to legally sourced £2,000,000. This is the minimum required amount. If you struggle to explain to the British authorities where the funds come from, that sum must be held on your bank account for at least 2 years before you submit your visa application.

Bringing a family to the UK

Almost all long-term visas allow to bring family members with you. However, only on one condition – you must have enough money to support yourself and dependants without applying for social benefits.

Applying for a UK long-term visa is a tedious and lengthy process with many requirements, documents, pitfalls and peculiarities. One mistake can cause your application to be refused. To prevent this, talk to a qualified immigration lawyer at the very beginning when you start preparing documents for a UK visa.

How to apply for UK permanent residence and British passport

You can only apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR), otherwise called settlement, if you have spent in the UK a significant part of the duration of your visa. It means that in any 12-month period, you must not spend more than 180 days outside the UK. Unfortunately, not all visa categories are a route to settlement. Study visas and a Start-up visa are good examples of such visas.

A settled status in the UK gives almost the same rights and freedoms as a British passport. The only difference is inability to vote at general elections. If you have ILR, you can do what you want, leave the UK and come back like you have been doing, but you still cannot travel to EU states without a visa or live there – you can only do it after becoming a British citizen. It is up to you, stay settled without making the next step or apply for naturalisation a year after gaining settlement. All you need to do it to pass a Life in the UK test and confirm your knowledge of English before you can apply for UK citizenship.

How to prepare finances before moving to the UK

In the United Kingdom, any income received in the country is taxed. But please remember that the fact of moving to the British Isles does not automatically make you tax resident. To become one, you must spend here some time and/or have ties with the UK. You can check your tax status in the UK very quickly with our user-friendly UK Tax Residence Test that will take only 5 minutes of you time.

What is clean capital?

UK laws say that any money earned by you before you become UK tax resident, is considered clean capital and is not taxed. However, it only includes monetary funds on your bank account(s). What does it mean for?

  • First, before you become UK tax resident, convert all your foreign tangible assets into money. In other words, sell them or you will have to pay capital gains tax.
  • Second, open a separate bank account for new income and do not mix it with the clean capital.

We recommend doing it in advance, preferably before you move to Great Britain, because UK tax residents must declare all their income and pay taxes on each penny received. To avoid mistakes, talk to a tax adviser from a reputable firm with experience in dealing with such matters.

Notifying about your second citizenship

If laws of your country of origin allow dual nationality, it does not mean that you do not have to do anything after you receive your second or third passport. It is advisable to check the rules and regulations regarding notifying authorities of that country about change of circumstances. Some governments would penalise you for not telling them about your second citizenship.

Another thing to remember is that, dual nationals are usually not allowed to take or be elected for government posts.

Relocation to the UK

Once your visa is stamped, your finances are in order, it is time to sort out logistics and admin issues.

Where will you live with a family?

Depends on your budget and needs, but there would be two options,

  • Buy a house or a flat.
  • Rent an accommodation.

Real estate in the UK is not cheap, but it does not mean it is not affordable. Banks offer low mortgage rates that would work for people with average income.

Taxes and charges when buying property in UK

There is no property tax, but upon purchase you will pay a stamp duty, valuation and legal fees. On top of that, there come maintenance fees including utilities, council tax and leasehold charges (if the ground does not belong to you). There are certain allowances applicable to a stamp duty for properties whose value does not exceed a fixed threshold.

Renting a property in the UK

It is normally a prerogative of younger generation that does not want to settle in one place or people that want to test the ground before buying in a chosen area.

Purchase and long-let deals cannot and should not be signed without a qualified legal support. It will protect you from any issues in the future.

Where will my children study?

The United Kingdom is world renowned for its educational institutions for any budget and needs. There are a lot of state and public schools. Graduates of UK higher educational establishments are in high demand anywhere in the world.

High level of education in Great Britain in general does not mean that it is same in every institution. If you want the bet for your kids, and you can afford it, enrol them in a more expensive public school.

British are proud of their higher education and accept no compromise. Even though you will be paying tuition fees, your children will have to study hard or else they will be expelled.

How to bring pets to the UK

If you do not want to leave your pet behind with relatives, take care of all paperwork and vaccination well in advance, at least six months before relocating to the UK. For a long time, there was a strict quarantine for dogs and cats brought from the continent. Rules have been softened since then, but it still takes a lot preparation and planning. Here is a checklist of things you must do to bring your beloved pet with you to Great Britain.

  1. Make sure your dog is not a banned breed.
  2. Get a pet passport.
  3. Have it microchipped.
  4. Have it vaccinated against rabies not later than three weeks before travelling. Three months prior to travel date, a pet must be tested for rabies antibodies.
  5. Take it for a tapeworm treatment.
  6. Obtain a health certificate right before travel date.

Cats are easier to bring. If you have a parrot, have it vaccinated against bird flu. If you do not follow the rules, your pet may be quarantined for up to 4 months or put down.

How to settle in a new place?

It is more of an issue related to behaviourism psychology rather than jurisprudence. We have top tips for you from those who have been living in the UK for a while.

  • Do your research and reconnaissance. If you can, visit the place you plan to move to as a tourist, but avoid touristic places. See how local live.
  • Surround yourself with people of different nationalities; do not limit your circle of friends to your compatriots only.
  • Learn the language even though you didn’t have to take a test when applying for an investor visa.
  • Remember your customs, traditions and habits. Have something that would remind you of your home country and create a home.

Qualified specialists from Imperial & Legal offer full-scale support for your relocation needs. We work with each client individually offering customised solutions, starting from visa application to property search and education options for your children, setting up a company and tax optimisation.

FAQ about relocation to the UK

Does a prospective British subject need to extend their long-term visa until obtaining ILR?

The answer depends on the visa type you have chosen for relocation to the United Kingdom. Still, there are some common rules relevant for all the categories:

  1. You need to apply for visa extension beforehand without waiting for your current visa expiry. The extension process will take at least 8 weeks. If you are not sure that you can handle it on your own or you have started this process too late, it will be a good idea to turn to experienced immigration advisers.
  2. You should satisfy all the requirements of your visa type when you apply for visa extension.
  3. If you cannot extend your visa for some reasons and do not plan to go back to you home country, you need to apply for another type of British visa.

Validity of long-term visas to Great Britain

Visa TypeValidity PeriodValidity after Extension
Investor3 years 4 months2 years
Sole representative3 years2 years
Start-up2 yearsCannot be extended
Innovator3 years3 years
Work visaFrom 1 to 5 years depending on the categoryDepends on the category
Family visa2.5 years – if you apply in the UK

2 years 9 months– if you apply outside the UK

2.5 years
Student visaDepends on duration of your studiesCannot be extended

Some entrepreneurs and investors can be granted ILR immediately if they comply with a number of strict requirements. If you are interested in further information considering a permanent residency card, you can read relevant articles on our website or book a consultation with Imperial & Legal specialists.

How much money is an applicant expected to have to bring his/her family to the UK?

British immigration authorities demand that an applicant for a long-term visa should have enough savings to support themselves without recourse to public funds. Still, there are some exceptions: relocation to your British spouse or civil partner that can legally be your sponsor or relocation with a work visa when the inviting party bears all the expenses to maintain a foreign specialist financially.

A standard requirement for a person applying for a visa is to have at least £1,270. If this person brings dependents to the UK, the following sum is to be added:

  • £285 – for a spouse or a partner;
  • £315 – for the first child;
  • £200 – for other children indicated in the application.

You will need to prepare the proofs of your ability to maintain yourself financially before you apply.

How much is the IHS fee for prospective holders of British long-term visas?

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) is a fee that allows you to enjoy public medical services in the United Kingdom. If you are going to get a long-term visa, you will be charged an additional fee for medical services:

  • £470 per year – for applicants for a student visa;
  • £624 per year – for applicants for other visa types and their adult dependents;
  • £470 per year – for minors.

Note that you are expected to pay the whole sum for the validity period of your visa. For instance, a prospective holder of an Innovator visa is expected to pay £1,872 for 3 years.

This fee will allow you to get qualified medical help all over Great Britain but you’ll still need to pay for prescriptions, dental treatment, eye tests, pregnancy and assisted conception.

What should I pay attention to if I relocate to Great Britain with an entrepreneur visa?

Holders of Innovator and Start-up visas need consideration and written approval of their business project by an organisation authorised by the British government.

A start-up owner, an Innovator and a sole representative of an overseas business need to register their company in the United Kingdom. That means they need to find the most appropriate company type for their business and satisfy a whole range of requirements.

Though interaction between the government and entrepreneurs is minimised to facilitate business activities, representatives of all the three above mentioned groups will have to send reports about their activities in the previous fiscal period to the HM Revenue and Customs and the Companies House.

All the above mentioned tasks are successfully resolved by our specialists at Imperial & Legal in the form of comprehensive proposals for entrepreneurs or individual services for our clients. Our experienced specialists will help you to develop a promising business idea, work out a good business-plan and advise you what company to choose where you can turn to for a recommendation. Our experts will find the optimal company type for your business and will quickly register it; they will open a corporate account with a British bank, prepare and submit required accounts and resolve a wide range of other issues a beginning entrepreneur may face in the UK.

Tired of getting general advice?

We will work with you to find a customised solution for your immigration, second citizenship, business, tax and other needs.