UK: Routes To UK Residence And Citizenship

Last Updated: 30 January 2019
Article by Vincent Chung

Who Can Move to the UK?

EEA nationals and their family members have the right to reside in the UK; the situation may change following Brexit. Non-EEA nationals need to obtain a residence visa. There are two types of UK visa which are particularly popular with high net worth individuals and/or entrepreneurs:

1. The UK Investment Visa

This is formally known as the Tier 1 (Investor) visa. Under this visa category, an individual from outside the EEA can apply for Entry Clearance (EC) for an initial UK residence visa which will be valid for up to 3 years and 4 months by bringing £2 million to the UK and investing these funds in permissible investments such as UK Government Bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. There is no English language requirement.

The funds normally need to have been held for 90 days prior to the EC application and investments cannot be made in UK companies mainly engaged in property investment, property management or property development but can for instance, be invested in companies that are mainly involved in construction or in hotels.

As long as the provisions continue to be satisfied, after an initial 3 year period the individual can apply for Leave to Remain (LTR) (an extension) for a further 2 year visa.

After living in the UK for 5 years, it is usually possible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. The rules allow for accelerated ILR after 3 years if an individual has invested £5 million and after 2 years if £10 million has been invested.

2. The UK Entrepreneur Visa

This is formally known as the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. Under this visa category, an individual from outside the EEA can qualify for a UK Entrepreneur Visa if they invest a minimum of £200,000 in a new, existing, or join a business in the UK and create new employment. In certain circumstances the initial investment can be reduced to a minimum of £50,000. The visa allows an individual to enter and reside in the UK for up to 3 years and 4 months. There is an English language requirement.

The funds normally need to have been held for 90 days prior to the EC application and investments cannot be made in UK companies mainly engaged in property investment, property management or property development but can for instance, be invested in companies that are mainly involved in construction or in hotels.

After 3 years an individual can apply for LTR in the UK for an additional 2 years, as long as the money has been invested into the business, the individual remains engaged in the specific business activity detailed by the visa, and the business has created at least two full time jobs for settled workers in the UK.

After 5 years the individual can apply for ILR in the UK. Similar to the UK Investor visa, the UK Entrepreneur visa allows for accelerated ILR after 3 years if the business has created 10 full time jobs for settled workers in the UK, or has an income from business activity of £5 million.

Dependants

A partner and children under the age of 18 can accompany the holder of either type of UK visa as dependants. The accelerated routes to ILR do not apply to dependants and they must live in the UK for 5 years before they are eligible to apply for ILR.

Additional Criteria for Indefinite Leave to Remain and Citizenship

An individual applying for LTR or ILR should submit their (and their family's) application(s) to UK Visas & Immigration prior to their current visa expiring.

In terms of an ILR application, each individual including dependants must not be absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 month period, and must usually meet the Life in the UK and English language test. An individual can lose their ILR if they have been absent from the UK for 2 years.

Citizenship

An individual will usually be eligible for citizenship once they have been resident in the UK for 5 years, and have had ILR for at least one year. In a standard situation, it will usually take 6 years before an individual is eligible to become a British citizen. To meet the citizenship requirements an applicant must not be absent from the UK for more than 450 days in the 5 year qualifying period, and for not more than 90 days in the final 12 months of that 5 year period.

If an individual is married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, then they will usually be eligible to apply for citizenship once they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, and have ILR. In a standard situation, it will usually take 5 years before an individual is eligible to become a British citizen. To meet the citizenship requirements an applicant must not be absent from the UK for more than 270 days in the 3 year qualifying period, and for not more than 90 days in the final 12 months of that 3 year period.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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