As a Canadian, there are a few routes available to you for UK immigration. We take a look at some of your visa options.
How the UK visa application system works
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) uses an application system referred to as Entry Clearance (EC). Under the EC system, people who want to come to the UK to live and work must apply for a UK visa. Canadians who want to visit the UK for a short period do not need a visa.
However, you will need one if you want to immigrate to the UK and must apply for your visa while still in Canada. The application process includes a biometric interview, where digital fingerprints and photographs are taken and recorded against the applicant’s profile.
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- UK Ancestry visa
- Youth Mobility Scheme visa
- Partner (spouse) visa
- Skilled Worker visa
- Student visa
- Tier 1 Investor visa
The UK’s Ancestry visa
A UK Ancestry visa is one of the most popular routes to UK residency. This visa is available to people who have some kind of family connection to the UK.
You can live and work in the UK for a period of up to five years with an Ancestry visa, as well as exit and re-enter the UK freely on multiple occasions. You can then begin to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which can lead to full British citizenship.
Requirements for a UK Ancestry visa
You can apply for a UK Ancestry visa if you’re a Commonwealth citizen and are able to show that one of your grandparents was born:
- In the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
- Before 31 March 1922 in what is now Ireland
- On a ship or aircraft that was either registered in the UK or belonged to the UK government
In addition, you must be able to show that:
- You are 17 years or older. There is no maximum age limit.
- You are able to work and that you intend to work or seek employment in the UK for the duration of your visa.
- You can support and accommodate yourself and any dependants without access to any public funding.
You can also claim ancestry if either you or the relevant parent were adopted. You may not, however, claim UK ancestry through your step-parents.
Benefits of an Ancestry visa
- You will be able to work in the UK without restriction
- You can bring your family with you
- You can travel around Europe easily
See more: Could the UK Ancestry visa be your ticket to British citizenship?
Youth Mobility Scheme visa
This visa allows young people (aged 18-30) from Canada and other qualifying countries to live, work and travel in the UK for up to two years without a job offer, certification or employer sponsor requirement. The Youth Mobility Scheme visa – often referred to as the UK working holiday visa – is a great way to gain international work experience as well as travel throughout the EU.
Requirements for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa
Canada is one of the countries that qualifies for this visa but, you must also meet these other requirements:
- Are aged 18 to 30
- Have £2,530 in savings
You won’t be eligible for the working holiday visa if you have:
- Children under the age of 18 who live with you
- Children you’re financially responsible for
- Already been in the UK under the scheme
Benefits of a Youth Mobility Scheme visa
Aside from being able to live, work and travel in the UK for two years, if you manage to secure a sponsorship for a job while on the working holiday visa, you will be able to switch to a Skilled Worker visa while you’re still in the UK. he Skilled Worker visa is a route to citizenship.
See more: UK Working Holiday Kickstart Package
The UK Partner (spouse) visa
If you are married or in a long-term relationship with a British citizen or someone with settled status, you can apply for a UK Partner visa, also known as a spouse visa. There are certain requirements you will have to meet to prove that you are in a valid relationship.
Requirements for a spouse visa
In order to apply for the visa you and your spouse must:
- Be over the age of 18
- Have met (not just online)
- Be lawfully married to one another or have been living together in a relationship for at least two years when you apply
- Be a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and will marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within six months of arriving
- Intend to live together permanently
- Ensure that you meet the financial requirement, by the British National of having a job offer earning at least £18,600 a year, or combined cash savings of £62,500. (These figures are variable and depend on the number of dependants included in the application.)
You may also apply as a dependant (spouse or partner) in any of the following circumstances:
- You are married or in a long-term relationship with someone who holds a UK Ancestry visa
- You are married or in a long-term relationship with someone in the UK through a Student visa
- You are married or in a long-term relationship with someone who holds a work permit
- You are married or in a long-term relationship with someone in the UK through Tier 1 immigration (business and investor visas)
Benefits of a UK spouse visa
The main benefit of being in the UK on a spouse visa is that you can work in the UK without the restrictions that a Skilled Worker visa presents.
You are allowed to live and work in the UK for a two-and-a-half-year period initially, and you may also exit and re-enter the country multiple times. At the end of the two and half years, you can apply to extend your stay in the UK for a further two and a half years.
After being in the UK for a total of five years, you may be eligible to apply for ILR.
See more: How to extend your UK spouse visa
The UK’s Skilled Worker visa
The UK has a points-based system for Skilled Worker visas. You will need at least 70 points to be eligible for a visa. A core 50 points is earned from the mandatory requirements of a job offer at a certain skill level from a licensed sponsor and evidence of English language ability. You can earn an additional 20 points by meeting a salary threshold, holding a PhD in your field or if your job is on the skill shortage list.
Requirements for a Skilled Worker visa
- Work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
- Have a “certificate of sponsorship” from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
- Do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations
- Be paid a minimum salary – how much depends on the type of work you do
Benefits of a Skilled Worker visa
You can apply to extend your visa as many times as you like as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements. After five years, you may be able to apply for ILR. This gives you the right to live, work and study in the UK for as long as you like. After a minimum of 12 months holding ILR, you may be able to apply for British citizenship.
See more: FAQ: How to immigrate to the UK under the new points-based system
UK Student visa
A Student visa allows a person aged 16 and older to study in the UK. If you’re 18 or over and your course is at degree level, you can usually stay in the UK for up to five years. If it’s below degree level, you can usually stay in the UK for up to two years.
Requirements for a Student visa
- Be 16 years old or over
- Have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor
- Have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course – the amount will vary depending on your circumstances
- Be able to speak, read, write and understand English
- Have consent from your parents if you’re 16 or 17 – you’ll need evidence of this when you apply
Benefits of a Student visa
While the Student visa doesn’t lead to citizenship, you can extend it, provided you are continuing your studies in the UK. You are also able to switch to a Graduate visa, which can extend your stay up to three years.
Someone on a student visa may also switch to a Skilled Worker visa, if they get a job offer. Another option would be to switch to a spouse visa if they get married to or are in a long-term relationship with a UK citizen or someone with settled status.
Tier 1 Investor visa
Requirements for a Tier 1 Investor visa
The UK’s Tier 1 immigration programme provides the opportunity to enter one of the top economies and most prominent finance and commerce centres in the world. To qualify, you have to meet the following requirements:
- You have to invest a minimum of £2 million in government bonds or share capital of active and trading UK companies.
- Be 18 years or older.
- Be able to prove that the money belongs to either you or your spouse, unmarried or partner.
- Have opened an account at a UK-regulated bank to use for your funds.
Benefits of a Tier 1 Investor visa
You can live, work and study in the UK without restriction for three years and four months. The visa can be extended for a further two years. With the Investor visa you are able to apply for ILR after:
- Two years if you invest £10 million
- Three years if you invest £5 million
- Five years if you invest £2 million
- Being able to bring your family with you.
- There are fewer requirements for an investor visa. You won’t have to demonstrate your work experience, provide proof of education or take an English test.
See more: Here are the UK business visas explained
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