Guidelines on Moving to the UK

Highly Skilled Migrant Programme

The Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, or HSMP allows a successful candidate to seek and undertake employment in the UK as they choose. The scheme is based on a points system, which assesses clients on their age, qualifications, work experience, and previous earnings. The key factors to consider are that the minimum educational qualification for this immigration visa is a University degree and that a higher level of income will be needed in order to qualify. The minimum pass mark for HSMP is 75 points, between 5 and 45 points are awarded for the candidates' proven earning power.

This route may only be an option for those with degree level education; however, it's worth remembering that the degree does not have to be directly relevant to the work being undertaken. HSMP is designed as a route to permanent settlement in the UK and after five years, applicants can apply for UK permanent residency and ultimately, naturalization as a British citizen. HSMP applications can usually be processed within 4 to 8 weeks depending on the case, although it is not uncommon to complete a case within three weeks.

Work Permits

For applicants who do not have a degree level qualification, applying for a UK work permit can be a useful alternative. Unlike making an HSMP application, UK work permits are obtained by having a British based employer apply on your behalf. Candidates must have a guaranteed full time offer of a job with a British company in place, and may be granted a work permit for anything from one day to a period of five years. Work Permits can generally be processed quite quickly and currently take between 10 and 15 days to complete.

The main difference between applying for an HSMP visa and obtaining a work permit is that a degree or HND is not required. Although a qualification at this level is one way of satisfying the work permit criteria, candidates can also qualify with a minimum of three years work experience, relevant to the job, at NVQ level 3 or above. This is in line with most spa and salons in the UK who also require a minimum qualification of NVQ Level 3 or equivalent.

Although a work permit requires a candidate to work for a specific employer in a specific role, they can lead to the opportunity to apply for permanent residency in the UK. Indefinite leave to remain in the UK (ILR), in other words, the right to live in the country permanently, may be pursued after five years of consistent residency in the UK under a single work permit.

Other UK Immigration Routes

Besides the HSMP and work permit visa services, some other non-work based UK visas, and immigration services to consider are:

Marriage Visas and Fiance Visas

A UK marriage visa is available to the spouse of a British Citizen or a person with legal permanent resident status in the UK and although processing can take up to two months, it can be a quick route to obtaining indefinite leave to remain. These visas are granted for a period of two years after which it becomes possible to apply to stay in the UK permanently. In order to qualify, couples must already be married and must intend to cohabit in Britain. It must also be shown that the married couple can financially support themselves in Britain without recourse to public funding.

The major benefit of this type of British visa is that the candidate immigrating to the UK can find a job and begin working as soon as they arrive. For unmarried couples or 'common-law' partners the De Facto visa, often known as an unmarried partner visa, is an alternative, offering many of the same privileges as marriage visas. Once again, the partner relocating to the UK may begin working immediately upon arrival. The key difference in the case of unmarried people is that proof will be required that the couple have been cohabiting for a minimum of two years prior to making the application.

For unmarried couples who do not meet the two-year cohabitation requirement, but do intend to marry within the next six months, the UK fiance visa may also be an option. These visas for immigration to the UK are granted to allow couples to marry and set up home in the UK. After the Initial six months duration, fiance visas can be converted to marriage visas. Once a marriage visa is obtained, applicants can follow the same route described above.

Ancestry Visa

UK Ancestry visas allow citizens of Commonwealth countries to migrate to the UK on the basis of British ancestry. Once again, these are long-term visas for immigration and are issued for a period of five years leading to the opportunity to apply for permanent residence. Ancestry visas do not place any restrictions on the type of employment a candidate may seek and applicants may begin work immediately upon arrival in the UK. In order to qualify applicants must be able to support themselves without public funding until employment is secured and must have a grandparent, alive or deceased, who was born in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man. Applications from candidates whose grandparent was born in the Republic of Ireland before March 1922 are also valid.

Student Visas

Finally, another option for moving to the UK may lie in a student visa. For those wishing to study in the UK, student visas are available where a candidate will be studying on a full time degree course, or a weekday course at a single institution that involves at least 15 hours of organized daytime study per week. Whilst holders of UK study visas are not permitted to work full time, they can work for a maximum of 20 hours per week. They may also be able to remain in the UK if they successfully switch to the work permit scheme outlined above. However, it's important to remember that a study visa will only be awarded to a candidate studying at a bona-fide recognised educational establishment in the UK and that they will need to be able to support themselves financially for the duration of the course. Like a marriage visa, UK study visas can take up to two months to be processed.

For more information on UK visas and immigration and a free online assessment, visit

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