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Emigration/Visas in United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Emigration/Visas in United Kingdom

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UK Emigration and Visas

Entry to the UK for business and employment

The UK Government has implemented significant changes to the UK immigration system. Individuals and organisations are, therefore, strongly encouraged to obtain the latest information from the UK Border Agency 

The UK has a positive approach to administering and processing the applications of people who wish to enter the country to set up a business, work or study. 

In general, British citizens, people with right of abode, those settled in the UK with Leave to Remain or a UK Spouse Visa, and nationals of European Economic Area countries (EEA) are permitted to live and work freely in the UK all others must apply to enter the UK to work or to set up in business by using a points-based system for immigration (see Section 4 of this information sheet).

Entry clearance

Entry clearance is the formal term to describe the application process for foreign nationals who do not have right of abode in the UK and who wish to enter the country. The two key categories for entry clearance are known as: 

Visa nationals: These are nationals of countries who require a visa to enter the UK for any reason. Entry clearance must be applied for at a British overseas mission (such as a British embassy, high commission, other British diplomatic post or Visa Application Centre) which issues visas in the country where the applicant is normally and legally resident. An applicant for entry clearance must be outside of the UK at the time of the application.

Non-visa nationals: These are nationals from countries who do not require a visa to enter the UK (such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia and Japan) and who intend to stay for less than six months. Non-visa nationals seeking to stay in the UK for more than six months must apply for entry clearance.

Further information and advice about entry clearances and all other aspects of immigration can be obtained from the UK Border Agency (for further information, please see: The UK Border Agency also has a visa enquiry form on its website which can be used to determine whether entry clearance is required.

Business visitors

The UK Government has recently introduced new immigration rules for business visitors. These include the need for visa nationals to obtain a business visa to enter the UK as a business visitor, whilst non-visa nationals can seek entry as a business visitor from an immigration officer at a UK port of arrival.

A business visitor can:

  • attend meetings or conferences
  • arrange deals, negotiate or sign trade agreements or contracts
  • undertake fact-finding missions and check details or goods
  • deliver goods from abroad
  • be a representative of a foreign company coming to service, repair or
  • install its products
  • be an adviser, consultant, trainer or other kind of specialist who is employed abroad either directly or under contract by the same company or group of companies
  • be a board-level Director attending a board meeting in the UK
  • be a secondee where a UK company is providing goods and services to an overseas company on a direct contractual basis (and not vice versa) and where there is no corporate relationship between the two companies. The individual will be seconded for the purpose of assisting the UK company to deliver the contract and must remain employed and paid by the overseas company throughout their visit.

Business visitors cannot:

  • take paid or unpaid work
  • produce goods or provide services in the UK
  • sell goods and services to members of the public.

A non-visa national business visitor would normally be granted leave to enter the UK for a maximum of six months on each visit. Visa nationals can apply for a business visit visa which is normally valid for six months and allows an unlimited number of entries to the UK during the validity of the visa.

Individuals who visit the UK regularly can apply for a multiple-entry business visa that can be valid for up to 10 years.

Working in the UK: The Points-based system

The UK Government's points-based immigration system ensures that only those with the appropriate skills are able to come to the UK to work. As the points-based immigration system has recently been phased in, individuals and companies that wish to work in the UK should ensure that they are fully up to date with the latest information and guidance by visiting: or by contacting +44 (0)114 207 4074.

The key element of the system is that applicants to work in the UK are awarded points based, in general, on qualifications, previous earnings, UK experience, age, English language ability, access to funds for maintenance and the demand for particular skills from any given sector.

There are five tiers of the points-based system, specifically:

Tier 1: Applies to people who are looking for highly skilled employment in the UK, or are self-employed or setting up a business. The categories within Tier 1 are:

  • Highly Skilled Workers: for people seeking to come to the UK to look for work or self-employment opportunities. 
  • Entrepreneurs: for people investing in the UK by setting up (or taking over) and being actively involved in the running of one or more businesses in the UK. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have £200,000 of their own money available to make a fresh investment into a business in the UK. 
  • Investors: for high net worth individuals who are making a substantial financial investment in the UK (points are awarded based on the ability to invest £1 million in the UK). 
  • Post-study workers: for international graduates who have studied in the UK. Post-study workers are free to work in the UK for up to two years. This category provides a bridge to highly skilled or skilled work. If individuals are granted permission to stay as a post-study worker, they must switch to another points-based system category in Tier 1 or Tier 2 if they want to work beyond the two year limit.

Tier 2: Applies to skilled people with a job offer who are looking for employment in the UK. The main business-related categories within Tier 2 are:

  • General, and
  •  Intra-company transfers (under one of three categories - Established Staff, Graduate Trainees and Skills Transfers).

Tier 3: This Tier was created to allow entry for limited numbers of low skilled workers needed to fill temporary labour shortages. This Tier is currently suspended by the UK Border Agency until further notice.

Tier 4: Applies to people who are coming to the UK to undertake a course of study at a UK educational establishment. 

Tier 5: Applies to people who are coming to the UK to undertake a period of temporary work or coming to the UK via the Youth Mobility Scheme. The categories within this Tier are creative and sporting workers, religious workers, charity workers, individuals on government authorised exchanges, international agreement schemes and youth mobility schemes.


Under the points-based system, employers or educational institutions require a licence to sponsor an individual wishing to enter the UK for employment. The process of obtaining sponsorship takes approximately four weeks. 

UK Trade and Investments recent inward investment clients can request that the organisation provides a letter of support as part of their immigration application. 

Transitional Arrangements

The points-based system affects people who currently have permission to stay in the UK in immigration categories that have been removed as part of the changes to the UK immigration system.

Individuals affected by this are able to complete the period for which they have been granted permission to stay (providing they comply with the existing terms of their permission to stay in the UK).

Sole representative of an overseas firm

As part of the changes being made to the UK immigration system, the existing Sole Representative category remains open. It is, however, under review and there may be changes made during 2010.

If a substantial trading company located outside of the UK has no current branch, subsidiary or representation in the UK, it may be able to send a member of staff as a Sole Representative. Prior entry clearance is mandatory for this category.

Sole Representatives of overseas firms require permission to enter the UK and must:

  • demonstrate that they have been employed outside of the UK as a representative of a firm that has its headquarters and carries out most of its business outside of the UK, and which has no branch, subsidiary or
  • other representative in the UK
  • be applying for entry to the UK as a senior employee (with full authority to take decisions on behalf of the overseas firm for the purpose of representing it in the UK) and be establishing and operating a registered
  • branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the overseas firm
  • intend to be employed full-time as a representative of the overseas firm
  • be competent in the English language to a basic user standard
  • not be a majority shareholder in the overseas firm
  • not intend to take employment except within the terms of the above
  • be able to maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants
  • adequately without needing help from public funds.

Initially, a person seeking to enter the UK as a Sole Representative may be admitted for a period of two years. After this period, it is generally possible to extend leave to remain in the UK for a further three years. Sole Representatives must have a UK Identity Card.

A Sole Representative of an overseas firm may be accompanied by his/her spouse and children (as dependants). The children of people entering the UK as Sole Representatives are entitled to the same free education as British children. A Sole Representative and their family are also eligible to free healthcare provided by the National Health Service. The spouse of a Sole Representative of an overseas firm is entitled to take up any employment.

*Information courtesy of Correct as of March 2010.

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