Immigration Laws in the UK

Updated April 07, 2017

Immigration laws in the UK are governed by the UK Border Agency, which is the body that is responsible for creating, interpreting and enforcing these laws. Each class of immigrant, from visitor to long-term resident, has different criteria it must meet under UK immigration law.


Eligibility for a visa is one of the most important parts of the UK visa process. The UK issues visas for a number of categories, including students, spouses, fiances, civil partners, workers and investors. The first step to obtaining a UK visa is to determine if you are eligible under current UK visa laws.

Eligibility for most categories of visa is determined using a points-based system, where criteria, such as salary, age and qualifications, are assessed on a weighted scale and assigned a specific number of points. Those potential immigrants who meet the required number of points for their visa category are invited to apply for a visa. This allows potential immigrants to judge their own qualifications against UK immigration law before they apply.

Family-based visas do not use the points-based system. The laws which apply to this category of immigrant determine eligibility based on the relationship between the immigrant and her UK partner. These laws also require the immigrant to be accommodated and supported independently of public funds, since, by law, many benefits and welfare programs are forbidden to new immigrants.

Immigrants from the European Union (EU) and those who hold EU citizenship do not fall under UK immigration law; instead, EU legislation governs the movement of residents of their member states.

Support and Funds

No matter what category of visa an immigrant is applying for, she is required to prove that she has adequate funds and accommodation for the duration of her stay in the UK. This applies to everyone entering the UK, from visitors to individuals looking for settlement.

UK immigration law dictates that appropriate accommodation be provided for the immigrant, accompanied by proof in the form of a mortgage, land registry entry or tenancy agreement. If the immigrant will be staying with others, such as a house share or staying with family, a letter from the residents or landlord is also necessary. An assessment of the house and living areas is required; the immigrant's accommodation must have adequate sleeping space and rooms for the occupants, as well as the immigrant.

Funds are a crucial part of immigration; immigration laws in the UK require immigrants to have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the UK, without recourse to public funds. Each visa category has different requirements for this figure, so check the guidance notes for your visa application. Only original bank statements are accepted as proof.

Visiting the UK

Under current immigration law, many visitors to the UK do not require prior entry clearance. Visits are restricted to six months at a time, with those who are accompanying academic visitors being granted up to 12 months. Visitors are not allowed to work while in the UK in paid or voluntary work; they also cannot convert to any other visa status while in the UK.

When examining a visitor at the border, the immigration officer is looking to be satisfied that the visitor has enough money to sustain herself over the visit, that she intends to leave the UK and that there is no intention to work. If any of these criteria are not met, the visitor can be refused entry to the UK.

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About the Author

Gwen Wark is a freelance writer working from London, Dublin, and New York. She has been a published writer since 1998 with works appearing in both university and local publications. Her current writing projects include SEO, web copy, print and advertising features. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in history from Rutgers University.