Immigration – An Overview

Immigration applications to the UK such as for business or visitor visas, British nationality, and asylum deal with complex areas of law involving strict rules and regulations. The UK Border Agency is responsible for controlling migration in the UK, managing border control and enforcing immigration regulations.

Immigration law is constantly evolving with the rules continuously changing. The rules that govern applicants, the length of permitted stays and so on depend very much on the nature of each individual application. An immigration lawyer from Meyner and Landis LLP who is an expert in the law and procedures involved in all aspects of immigration law can help you with your questions.

Business Immigration

It is common for employers to want to employ workers from overseas, ranging from professionals and entrepreneurs, to temporary labourers. Overseas students may also wish to come to the UK to study for a period of time. Employers and educational institutions will need to sponsor such individuals, a device which helps to manage the relationship between the organisation, the individual worker or student, and the Border Agency.

The sponsoring organisation must comply with certain obligations whilst the employee or student is in the UK, for example, ensuring an employee is not working illegally. The UK’s points-based system is crucial to this element of immigration law, under which applicants are awarded points depending on which category they fall into, and taking into account various factors such as their age, experience and qualifications.

The system is split into five categories:

Tier 1 — Highly skilled workers

Tier 2 — Skilled or professional workers

Tier 3 — (Currently suspended)

Tier 4 — Students, including both adults and children

Tier 5 — Temporary workers and young people covered by the Youth Mobility Scheme

Coming to the UK for Personal Reason

Sometimes, an individual wishes to come to the UK to be with a family member or partner, either for a limited period or to settle permanently. For example, a spouse may be in the UK; a marriage is planned; or an elderly relative wishes to join his or her child in the UK. In each case, it must invariably be shown that the relative in the UK can provide adequate accommodation and maintenance costs without the use of public funds.

Children frequently wish to join parents in the UK. This is usually straightforward, particularly where both parents have been granted leave to remain in the UK. Similarly, where an individual wishes to join his or her spouse, the procedure is clear-cut. If someone wishes to get married in the UK to someone already settled here, a fiancé(e) clearance will be required. Civil partnerships are also recognised relationships under UK immigration law and are treated much the same as marriage partnerships.

Some cases are more complicated and some issues such as an individual’s EEA membership, human-rights concerns or forced marriage may require specific, and sometimes, particularly sensitive handling. A knowledgeable immigration lawyer can help you with these tough issues.

Living Permanently in the UK and Citizenship

Individuals who have lived legally in the UK for some time may have the right to apply for indefinite leave to remain here, free from immigration control. The procedure and requirements depend on the nature of the applicant and may involve factors such as whether the applicant is a British overseas territories citizen or a British subject, the nature of the current citizenship, nationality and the year of birth.

Indefinite leave to remain is the unconditional right to live in the UK permanently with no time limits attached or restrictions on employment. Applicants must have lived in the UK for between two and five years depending on the nature of their existing visas, their marital status, and whether they have previously been granted permission to settle in the UK.

A crucial part of the process is that applicants must show sufficient knowledge and understanding of the language and culture in the UK. This is usually satisfied by way of a formal course or the Life in the UK test.

Applicants wishing to apply for naturalisation as a British Citizen must also take the Life in the UK test and fulfill certain other criteria, including that they:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Intend to live continuously in the UK
  • Be able to speak and understand the English language (or Welsh or Scottish Gaelic) to an acceptable standard
  • Be of sound mind and of good character
  • Meet the appropriate prescribed residential requirements for the particular ground on which British Citizenship is applied


Refugees seeking asylum in the UK must prove they fear persecution if they return to their home countries. If a refugee is classed as particularly vulnerable, he or she can apply through the Government Gateway Programme designed specifically for the resettling of the most vulnerable of refugees. This includes victims of trauma and violence needing specialist care or where basic human rights are threatened.

Other asylum seekers must lodge an application for protection under either the Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and show they fear persecution based on, for example, their race, religion, social group or politics. As part of the application process, an applicant must attend a formal interview at which as much information must be given as possible about the reasons for the application and why the asylum seeker fears a return to his or her home country.

Successful applicants, together with their dependants, will be given a residence permit for an initial period of five years after which they may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain — or probationary citizenship after July 2011.

Legal Advice

To avoid mistakes that could have serious consequences, it is wise to get the legal advice of an experienced immigration lawyer at Meyner and Landis LLP to assist you as early in the immigration process as possible.

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