Immigration to the UK is controlled by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI), which is part of the Home Office. UKVI decision-makers work both in the UK and in British diplomatic posts abroad.
Some types of visa application can only be made from abroad (eg Fiancé/ée or Proposed Civil Partner visas; Representative of Overseas Business visas; Visitor visas) but many other types of visa application can be made either in the UK or from outside the UK.
For example, many family visa applications (Spouse/Civil Partner visa, Unmarried Partner visa, Child visa) can be made either from outside the UK or – if the applicant already holds leave in another immigration category – from within the UK. (This is known as a “switching” application.)
European family visa applications can also be made outside the UK (EEA Family Permit) or within the UK (EEA Residence Card).
Similarly, many work and investment visa applications (Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Tier 1 Investor, Tier 2 General) can be made either from outside the UK or by switching within the UK – although the rules about this are complex. In some situations, for example, it is possible for a Tier 4 Student to switch to a work visa.
Settlement applications (applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence) must in the great majority of cases be made within the UK. To acquire settlement the migrant must have spent a specified number of years on a particular kind of visa or combination of visas. In many cases this period is five years but in other cases it is just three years or even two years.
The UKVI also processes applications for British citizenship (ie British naturalisation (for adults) and registration (for children and adults in a few cases)). Settlement is one of the basic requirements for a British naturalisation application, but naturalisation also has various additional requirements.
Visa applications and British citizenship applications all have their own set of criteria which must be met. In some cases for example there is an English language requirement but in others not. In many cases there is a need to prove a specified level of funds, for investment or for financial maintenance, or for both. And with many types of visa application there is a need to show that the application is genuine and credible.
Some types of visa holder (eg many family and EEA visa holders) have the right to work in the UK but others do not. The UK immigration regime also includes the Tier 2 work permit sponsor licence scheme, and this is the main immigration route by which skilled non-EEA workers come to work in the UK. The scheme incorporates not only a visa scheme but also a sponsorship scheme for employers, to which they must conform to be able to employ Tier 2 migrants. Unless the employer can obtain a sponsor licence from UKVI they will not be able to do so.
If a migrant’s immigration application is unsuccessful there are likely to be legal remedies available, but which remedy is available depends on the type of visa and on some other factors. There may be a right of appeal to the First-Tier Immigration Tribunal but in other cases there is only a right to Administrative Review by the Home Office. There may be in some cases a right to apply for Judicial Review to the Upper Immigration Tribunal or the High Court.
Whatever your situation or aspirations in the immigration field we at RSL-Law will be able to advise you on the best way forward.