Thatched Cottage near Taunton, photographed by Sheridan
So you’re thinking of coming to live in the UK?
Before you start viewing and offering to buy houses, you’ll need to establish how you can legally enter and remain in the UK.
There are specific border controls in place, which are updated regularly to reflect prevailing circumstances, eg Brexit, Covid, terrorism threat.
Visiting without a Visa
If you are Americans or Canadian you can visit the UK as a tourist without a visa and stay for up to six months. You do not have to apply for a visit visa in advance. Six months after entry, you must leave the country. After you have departed, there is nothing preventing you from applying again for a fresh visit visa, subject to you continuing to meet the rules. You must satisfy the Home Office that you are a genuine visitor, and that you will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home. Home Office guidance states: “if it is clear from an individual’s travel history that they are making the UK their home you should refuse their application”. It is a myth that you can continually spend 6 months of every year in the UK.
Staying for more than 6 months
To stay longer than six months, you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance. It must fit into one of the following categories:
- Work, academic visit or business (if you meet particular requrements – for a Work Visa you must have received an offer of employment from a UK employer who holds a sponsor licence issued by the UKBA.)
- Temporary Charity Work (maximum of 12 months)
- Study (up to five years depening on the length of your course and what study you’ve already completed in the UK)
- Transit (on your way to somewhere else)
- Joining a partner or family for a long stay
- Getting married or entering into a civil partnership
- Staying with your child, if they’re at school
- Getting private medical treatment
- For official diplomatic or government business (including transit through the UK)
Note again that owning property in the UK does not give you any rights to obtain a Visa or extend your stay.
To find the appropriate visa for your particular circumstances, check out this official UK Government website page:
Isn’t there a Retirement Visa?
You may have read that it is possible to enter the UK as a ‘retired person of independent means’ if you have a minimum yearly disposable income of £25,000 and you meet several other requirements. This category has been closed for new applicants for several years and there is no indication that it will return.
Investment Visas are a type of Work Visa. The UK offers two main types of investment visas for foreign nationals:
You can apply to the Home Office for permanent residence, known as ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’, in a variety of circumstances, including the following:
- You’re a citizen of an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (under certain limited circumstanes)
- You’re the family member or partner of a British citizen (under certain circumstances)
- You’re the family member or partner of someone who has settled in the UK (under certain circumstances)
- You have a visitor visa AND there are exceptional compassionate circumstances
- You have a study visa AND there are exceptional compassionate circumstances
- You have certain types of work visa (eg ‘exceptional talent’) AND you have lived in the UK for the required number of years
- You have a UK Ancestry visa (subject to detailed requirements)
- You have a pre-existing Retired Person visa AND you have been living in the UK for at least 5 years (these are no longer available to new applicants)
- You’ve been settled in the UK before (subject to detailed requirements)
- You have pre-existing Discretionary Leave AND you have lived in the UK for the required number of years
- You’re in or have formerly been in HM Forces (subject to requirements)
- You have been living in the UK for 10 years from the date you started on the 10-year Private Life route to settlement
- You’ve been in the UK legally for 10 years (Long Residence) AND you meet all the eligibility requirements
- You have refugee or humanitarian protection
When you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain depends on which type of visa you hold.
Indefinite Leave to Remain is not automatically granted, and previous offences or convictions are likely to affect your application.
Owning property in the UK does not have any bearing on obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain.
You can find out more about permanent settlement here: https://www.gov.uk/settle-in-the-uk/y
What if you don’t qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain?
If you do not yet qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain you may be able to extend your existing visa temporarily by applying for ‘further leave to remain’. The requirements vary for each visa
Getting Help with Visa Applications
You can apply to extend your stay independently, but if you need help with getting permission to stay in the UK, you can get advice from an immigration adviser. Use the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) Adviser Finder to find an adviser near you. You should always use an OISC registered adviser.
Knowledge of Life and English Language
If you are aged between 18 and 64 then you will need to pass the Knowledge of Life in the UK Test as part of your Indefinite Leave to Remain application.
You will also need to show that your knowledge of the English language is at the required standard.
Once you have established the feasability of your plan, you’ll need to look at finances for your purchase. Tax is a particular concern. There are specialist tax consultants in the US who can help you to manage your finances.
To the best of my knowledge, the above information was correct in July 2021. Please not that I am not a qualified or registered imigration advisor, and you should seek professional advice.