Immigration law deals with the legal entry of people from other countries into the UK. The governing body that decides who can enter the country is UK Visas and Immigration.
The requirements that someone needs to meet to enter the country differ depending on several factors, including their reason for entering, how long they intend to stay, and sometimes their job, personal wealth, and family status.
How do people qualify to enter the UK?
Obtaining a visa involves several steps, including an online application, a meeting at a visa application centre in your home country, and sending your completed application to UK Visas and Immigration. Everyone must go through the visa process, but there are a number of different ways to qualify for entry.
Marriage or civil partnership
If you’re married to or in a civil partnership with a UK citizen you can enter the country as long as immigration authorities believe the relationship is genuine, and you and your partner can support yourselves without needing public funds.
For people from EEA countries
People from European Economic Area countries can stay in the UK as long as they are working, studying, looking for work, self-employed, or self-sufficient. They can apply for citizenship after 5 years in residence.
Immigration for non-EEC residents
If you live outside the EEA, your immigration and leave to remain is subject to a tier system in which your application can be fast-tracked depending on your work or skill set.
- Tier 1 includes entrepreneurs and investors who have funds to invest in a UK business, or people who have “exceptional talents” in fields such as science, medicine, the arts, and engineering.
- Tier 2 includes skilled workers who have a job offer in the UK.
- Tier 4 is for students who want to study in the UK. To qualify, they must have a place at an educational institution that is licensed to sponsor immigrants.
- Tier 5 is for temporary workers such as au pairs, charity and religious workers, and people on work exchange schemes. These visas are usually for a maximum of 12 months.
Becoming a Citizen
Just as there are multiple ways to enter the UK, there are multiple ways to become a citizen.
Naturalism is open to people over 18 who meet residency requirements.
British citizenship is for British nationals, protected persons, and for some people born to a British parent. If you’re the civil partner or spouse of a citizen, you can apply for citizenship if you meet certain requirements.
Indefinite leave to remain is an alternative to citizenship, granted after a certain amount of time in the country.
How can a solicitor help?
Immigration law is complicated, and the application process is a lengthy one. It can help very much to work with a solicitor during this process, as even minor errors in an application can result in rejection. A solicitor can:
- Determine which immigration and citizenship laws apply to you, and how you can qualify to enter the country.
- Give advice and assistance on all matters relating to immigration.
- Help you complete and file an application.
- Represent you at an immigration tribunal, which you can request if you want to appeal an application denial.