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21 Immigration and Nationality

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1. Introduction

2. Do I need permission to come to the UK?

3. How is entry to the UK controlled?

4. What sort of permission do I need to come to the UK?

5. What if I want to work in the UK?

6. What restrictions are there after I´ve arrived in the UK?

7. What if I want to settle in the UK?

With some kinds of entry permit, you may be allowed to settle in the UK, as long as you meet certain conditions. If you want family members to join you here, they may have to live here for a certain length of time before they will have the right to live here permanently (see 'What if I want members of my family to settle here with me?').

There are time limits for people in other situations, too. You must live here for five years before you can settle permanently if you:

  • have a work permit;
  • are self-employed or a business person;
  • are a retired person 'of independent means' (which means you can support yourself);
  • are here for 'permit-free' work (which means you do a type of work that doesn't need a permit, for example working as a foreign correspondent, sole representative of an overseas company, domestic servant or religious minister);
  • have been allowed to stay under the 'Highly Skilled Migrants Programme'; or
  • are an 'investor' or 'innovator' (someone who wants to set up business in the UK).

This five-year limit also applies if you are the husband, wife, registered civil partner or child of someone in one of the above situations.

If you are in the UK and you want to apply to settle here, you must apply to the Home Office shortly before you reach the end of the time you have been allowed. If you show that you still meet the rules for living here and have not broken the law during that time, your time limit should be lifted, and any other conditions that are part of your permission to be here (such as not being allowed to work) will also end. When this happens, you are given what is called 'indefinite leave to remain'.

Once you are settled in the UK in this way, you can travel abroad and stay away for up to two years without needing permission to return. But if you are away for longer than this, you will have to apply for clearance, and your right to return to the UK is not certain.

What if I want members of my family to settle here with me?
British citizens and anyone who is settled in the UK can 'sponsor' close family members to come over to live here. These family members can include your:

  • husband, wife or registered civil partner;
  • unmarried partner;
  • fiancé or fiancée;
  • children (up to 18 years old); and
  • parents or grandparents over 65.

Many family members will have a time limit on their stay to begin with. The only people who are allowed to settle straight away are:

  • husbands or wives who have been living as a married couple abroad for four years;
  • parents;
  • grandparents; and
  • children who arrive on their own.

Other people will be given a time limit of two yearsto stay, but they can apply to stay permanently at the end of that time. This applies to:

  • husbands, wives and registered civil partners who have been living as a couple abroad for less than for years;
  • children who arrive with a husband, wife or registered civil partner; and
  • unmarried partners, and any children who come with them.

This time limit can sometimes cause problems for husbands, wives or partners if the relationship comes to an end before the period ends. However, in this situation you should be allowed to stay if your UK partner has died, or if you can prove to the Home Office that you were forced to leave them because they were violent to you.

If you are entering the country as a fiancé or fiancée, you will be allowed into the UK for six months. During that time you are expected to marry and apply again to the Home Office to stay. You won't be allowed to work in the UK until you are married and the Home Office has given you permission to stay.

Children under 18 who want to join a single parent in the UK must meet extra conditions. These are meant to make sure that no other relative abroad could care for them. However, if the children are given permission to come here, they will be allowed to settle straight away without waiting two years.

Parents or grandparents who are over 65 have to show that they depend on the support of the child or grandchild in the UK who is sponsoring them, and that they do not have any close relative to help turn to in their own country.

Relatives not on the above list who want to join someone in the UK (including parents under 65), must show that they are living alone in 'the most exceptional compassionate circumstances'. This is difficult to prove, and few people succeed with this sort of application.

Most of the relatives on the list can also apply in the UK after entering for some other reason. However, if this applies to you, here are some of the things you would not normally be able to do:

  • You cannot 'switch' to staying as a fiancé or fiancée. You should be engaged before you enter the country, and if you plan to stay here after your marriage you must get entry clearance for settling here before you arrive.
  • You will not usually be allowed to stay in the UK because you are the husband, wife or registered civil partner of a UK resident if you married or registered your partnership before you came, but you first entered the country as only a visitor.
  • If you want to get married or register your civil partnership in the UK, you will first need to apply for written permission from the Home Office, and pay a fee. You will not automatically get permission.
  • You may be allowed to stay here if you marry or register your civil partnership while you are here as a student (for example), but not if you came for a course of six months or shorter, nor if you came as a visitor.
  • If you got married overseas and you did not arrive with entry clearance as a husband, wife or civil partner, you will probably have to go back and apply from abroad. This may be quicker than applying to the Home Office in the UK.

If you do not have permission to stay in the UK, marrying or registering a civil partnership with someone who lives here will not usually give you any right to stay. However, you should be able to go abroad and apply for entry clearance to come back to join them. You need to get specialist advice if you are in this position.

8. What if my application is refused?

9. What if I stay longer than I am allowed to?

10. Who has a right to British nationality?

11. How can I become a British citizen?

12. Where can I get help with my immigration application?

13. Terms used in immigration and nationality matters

14. Further help

15. About this leaflet




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This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and Mick Chatwin, a barrister and solicitor specialising in immigration law.

Leaflet Version: June 2006




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