This section is intended for quick reference. It introduces many of the commonest and the most technical terms encountered in immigration and refugee law. Note: not all the terms set out below are used in our website but may be used by immigration officials or other advisers and are included for that reason.
Where a term referred to in the explanation of a phrase is given an asterisk (*) and is in bold, this means that the term is given its own explanation elsewhere in the glossary.
Accession: The term used to describe the process by which a non-EU country joins the EU. In particular, it has been used to refer to the joining of the EU by ten additional countries from 1 May 2004 under a ‘Treaty of Accession’ made on 16 April 2003. The ten states which joined are: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Accession 8 (‘A8’): The Accession 8 countries. Eight of the countries listed above under *‘Accession’ excluding Cyprus and Malta. The EU free movement rights of nationals of the A8 countries can be restricted until the end of a ‘transitional period’ in 2011. The UK has taken advantage of this to place certain limitations on the rights of A8 nationals, which include their rights to reside in the UK in order to look for work. This has been done mainly in order to prevent their access to forms of welfare support.
Application forms: Since November 1996 a change to the immigration rules meant that in most categories applications to the Home Office to extend ‘leave’ (stay) or to change the category of leave must be made on a standard form, supplied by the Home Office. This includes applications made outside the rules.
British citizens: There are two kinds of British citizens: British citizens otherwise than by descent and British citizens by descent. The difference is that the first group can pass British citizenship on automatically to their children born outside the UK and the second cannot.
British Dependent Territories citizens: People who are British because of their connection with a place that is not yet independent. They may have been born, adopted, registered or naturalized in that colony and can retain British Dependent Territories citizenship as long as the colony continues. When the colony gains independence or ceases to exist as a separate territory, people lose British Dependent Territories citizenship. This form of British nationality left people requiring leave to enter and remain in the UK, and gave no right of abode anywhere other than the particular dependent (or overseas) territory with which it is connected. However, under the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, BDTCs were re-designated as *British Overseas Territories Citizens’ (BOTCs) who became ‘British citizens’ with the *right of abode on 21 May 2002.
British Nationals (Overseas): This status was created for British Dependent Territories citizens from Hong Kong, who are able to keep this British nationality status now that Hong Kong is again part of China. However, the status no longer gives a right to anything more than a passport which functions as a travel document.
British Overseas citizens: People who were born in a place that used to be a British colony but who did not qualify for citizenship under the law of the n ow independent country or of any other country and therefore retained their British nationality. They require leave to enter or remain in the UK, and have no right of abode anywhere through this citizenship.
British Overseas Territories: These territories were previously known as British Dependent Territories, hence the name of the citizenship associated with them. The remaining territories under British rule are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctica, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Island, St Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands, Cyprus sovereign base areas.
British Protected Persons: People from a country which used to be a British protectorate, protected state or trust territory rather than a colony, and did not gain the citizenship of the new independent country or of any other country.
British subjects: People from a country which used to be a British colony, who never became citizens of the UK and Colonies under the British Nationality Act 1948 and who did not gain citizenship of the new independent country or of any other country. Before 1983, the term ‘British subject’ meant exactly the same as *’Commonwealth citizen’ but it is now only used for this small group of people. This status (it is not strictly a form of citizenship) automatically ceases on acquisition of any other nationality.
Certificate of entitlement: Commonwealth citizens who have the *right of abode must prove their right either by obtaining a British citizen passport (if they are entitled to one, and depending on the rules of dual citizenship), or by having a certificate of entitlement placed in their passport. The certificate is a type of visa sticker, but unlike other entry clearances it can also be applied for within the United Kingdom.
Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) – Under Tier 2 of the Points Based System (PBS) all non-EEA nationals coming to the UK to work must have a sponsor. It is the prospective UK employer (sponsor) that issues a certificate of sponsorship to each migrant worker they intend to employ in accordance with the requirements of the UK tier 2 scheme. Being issued a of sponsorship does not in itself guarantee the migrant worker secure entry to the UK but is a precondition when applying for Tier 2 entry clearance.
Civil partner: This is the term given to those who, from 5 December 2005, can enter into a ‘civil partnership’ under the Civil Partnership Act 2004. In this way, the legislation allows same sex couples to give their relationship a legal status. From 5 December 2005, the immigration rules will allow civil partners to be treated in much the same way as spouses.
Common Travel Area: Comprises the *UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. There are no immigration controls at the borders between them and passports are not stamped with leave to enter.
Commonwealth citizens: Most ex-British colonies when they gained independence decided to join this loose group of countries, headed by the British monarch, to retain contacts, trade preferences etc. Commonwealth citizens still retain a few immigration-law advantages over others. All categories of British nationals, except *British Protected Persons, are Commonwealth citizens.
Dual Citizenship: Some people may qualify for the nationality of more than one country if for example, they are born in one country to parents who hold the citizenship of another. Or they may marry, or live somewhere else, and become eligible to naturalize. Whether or not they can hold more than one nationality depends on the laws in each country. Britain expressly recognizes dual (or multiple) nationality, and so do all the commonwealth Caribbean states, Bangladesh and Pakistan. India, and most of the African Commonwealth, do not. In many cases, possession of more than one passport is tolerated, even though a country’s law may not permit recognition. Children are generally permitted to retain dual nationality, and then opt for one or the other on becoming adults, if the law of one of those countries does not generally permit holding more than one passport. It is possible to be both a *British Overseas Citizen and a *British citizen at the same time.
Entrepreneur – The Tier 1 Entrepreneur category is designed to allow an overseas national to set up or take over a British business. Individuals can make an application both within and outside the United Kingdom. The initial investment can be as little as £50,000 if the funding was provided by a venture capitalist, a Government Department or a seed competition. Up to two business partners may apply on the basis of this funding. To encourage overseas nationals to invest in the UK, the UK Border Agency offers entrepreneurs a fast-track to permanent settlement. Tier 1 entrepreneurs are able to to permanently settle in the UK in just three years if they either create 10 jobs or turn over more than £5 million in a three-year period.
Entry clearance officers: Officials at British posts overseas who deal with immigration applications there. In a ‘visa national’ country, they may also be known as visa officers, in a non-visa Commonwealth country as entry clearance officers. In larger posts there will also be a senior rank of officer known as Entry Clearance Manager.
European Economic Area: Covers the countries of the European Union (EU – previously the European Community) plus three other European countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. From 1 May 2004, ten further states acceded to the EU.
Fees: Under the Consular Fees Act 1980, fees can be charged for all entry clearance applications and para 30 HC 395 states that an entry clearance application is not validly made until the fees are paid. The level of fees is set in sterling by the Consular Fees Orders, but they must be paid at the entry clearance post in the local currency. The Home Office also charges for *immigration employment documents (IED) applications and ‘in-country’ applications for leave to remain.
Highly Skilled Worker category (HSMP/Tier 1): The Tier 1 (highly skilled worker category) was designed to allow highly skilled people to come to the United Kingdom to look for work or self-employment opportunities. In 2011, this scheme was closed to all new applications. Only those migrant workers already in possession of a valid Tier 1/HSMP resident permits may continue to extend their stay in the United Kingdom under this category.
Immigration Officer: Usually an official at a British port of entry dealing with on-entry immigration applications. They may also deal with enforcement of immigration control.
Immigration Service: Any member of the Immigration Service may be referred to as an immigration officer. The operational ranks of the service are immigration officer, immigration assistant (below immigration officer, and will not handle casework directly), Chief Immigration Officer, who will be required to approve refusal and detention decisions, and Inspector.
Immigration and Nationality Directorate: The department of the Home Office responsible for handling all applications concerning immigration, nationality and asylum, as well as for endorsement and developing policy in these areas of law.
Immigration Employment Document (IED): This term was introduced by the 2002 Act and refers to any document which ‘relates to employment and is issued for a purpose of the immigration rules. The term is often shortened to ‘IED’.
Indefinite leave: Leave to enter or remain in the UK without any time limit. If there is no time limit, no other immigration conditions can be put on the person’s stay either. A person, who has indefinite leave to enter or remain is generally accepted as being *settled in the UK.
Investor - The Tier 1 Investor category is designed for those who intend to make a substantial investment in the UK. To qualify for the investor scheme candidates must satisfy one of the following ‘attributes’:
- The candidate has a minimum of £1 million. The money must be their own and must be held in a regulated UK financial institution. The money must also be disposable in the United Kingdom.
- The candidate has personal assets to the value of more than £2 million taking into account any liabilities.
- The candidate has an amount of no less than £1 million, which is under their control and is held in a regulated UK financial institution. This may include money which has been loaned to them if the financial institution providing the loan is regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
Leave to enter/remain: Permission given by immigration officials for people to enter or remain in the UK. It may be *limited or *indefinite.
Naturalisation: A process of applying for British nationality. The application is formally at the discretion of the Home Office and can be made on the basis of residence in the UK, marriage to a British partner or Crown service. Naturalisation and *registration are both ways of gaining British citizenship; the citizenship obtained is the same whichever process is used.
Points-based system: The points-based system is the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for 45 years. The system will replace over 80 existing routes to work and study in the United Kingdom with five tiers. Migrants applying under any tier except tier 1 will need to be sponsored in order for their application to be successful. If an employer wishes to recruit a migrant under tiers 2, 4 or tier 5 they will have to apply for a sponsor licence. Under tiers 2 and 5, the sponsor will need to be a UK-based employer. Under tier 4, the sponsor will need to be a UK-based educational institution.
Permit-free employment: A list of jobs which people may come to the UK to do without the employers needing to get *work permits or any other *immigration employment document. From November 2008, this provision is to be removed under the points-based system.
Public funds: Term used in the immigration rules to describe those welfare benefits which applicants need to show that they will not have to claim but that they can be adequately maintained in the UK without them. Often a condition is attached to leave to prohibit recourse to public funds. A person who claims public funds when prohibited from doing so can be subject to administrative removal.
Registration: There are three distinct immigration/nationality law uses of this term:
- Process of applying for British nationality. The word is now used for any child and certain categories of adult applying for British nationality. Registration and *naturalisation are both ways of gaining British nationality.
- Registering the birth of a child at a British post overseas. A child born outside the UK to a *British citizen parent who was not themselves born in the UK may be registered within one year of birth to become a British citizen by descent.
- Registering with the police. Nationals of some countries may be required to register with the police. This means going to the local police station, or the Overseas Visitors Registration Office in London, with the passport, two passport-sized photos and details of address and occupation, registering their details with the police and paying a fee.
Residence permit: A document issued by the Home Office to EEA nationals to confirm their right to live in the UK as persons exercising *EU rights of free movement.
Returning residents: People who had indefinite leave when they last left the UK and are returning to the UK within two years of departure. They should be admitted for an indefinite period, provided the immigration officers are satisfied that they intend to return to stay permanently. If they are returning after they have been away from the UK for over two years, there is discretion in the immigration rules to admit them.
Right of abode: Being free of immigration control and able to enter the UK freely at any time, after no matter how long an absence. It is more than simply having the right to live in the UK or the right to stay indefinitely. All *British citizens have the right of abode. So do some *Commonwealth citizens – people who were born before 1 January 1983 and had a parent born in the UK (when the parent is the father, he must have been married to the mother) and women who were Commonwealth citizens before 1 January 1983 and were married before that date to a man who was born, registered or naturalized in the UK, or who is a Commonwealth citizen with a parent born in the UK, as above.
Schengen group: This comprises all EU countries except the UK, Ireland and Denmark. The group has planned since 1988 to establish a common immigration policy and common border controls, with no internal border checks. The agreement came into effect on 26 March 1995 for seven countries. The Schengen ‘acquis’ or agreement is now incorporated within the framework of the European Union by the Treaty of Amsterdam, except for those countries which have opted out.
Settled: Someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK without any restrictions on the time they are permitted to remain here. British citizens and those with indefinite leave who usually live in the UK are, therefore, all generally accepted as being ‘settled’.
Sole Representative – The sole representative visa category is a viable alternative for an employee of an overseas based firm to enter the UK without a work permit. As a sole representative of an overseas firm, the individual shall be expected to establish a commercial presence for the company in the United Kingdom in the form of a registered branch or a wholly owned subsidiary. Permission to enter the United Kingdom as the sole representative of an overseas firm will normally be granted for an initial period of two years and is extendable for a further three years.
Sponsorship Licence: Under the new points-based system, any organisation or educational institution that wants to employ migrants (non-settled workers) must obtain a licence from the UK Border Agency. Before applying, you must have good human resource systems and compliance in place to allow you to monitor and keep records of the migrants you employ or teach. The UK Border Agency shall give your systems a ranking before they issue you a licence.
Switching: Term used to describe applications made for people who have leave to be in the UK on one basis (for example as a visitor) and who then wish to apply for leave to remain in a different capacity (for example as a spouse) without leaving the UK. The immigration rules severely restrict the circumstances in which people may ‘switch’.
Tier 1 Exceptional Talent - The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa was introduced as a new category of entry in 2011. Candidates do not require a UK job offer or UK employer sponsorship to qualify. Instead, the applicant will be individually assessed according to their skills and talent. To qualify, the applicant must have recognition – or have the potential to receive recognition – as a leader in the fields of science, arts and humanities. This must be backed up by an endorsement from an accredited competent body in their field. This visa route leads to settlement (permanent residency).
Tier 1 Post Study Worker – The Post-Study Work (PSW) category allows non-EEA nationals graduating from UK universities to transfer into a work or business visa.
A candidate must have successfully completed a course at a UK educational institution resulting in some form of tertiary qualification. The UK visa application must be made within 12 months of obtaining this qualification. The Post-Work Study visa is issued for two years and is not extendable.
Tier 2 (General): The Tier 2 (General) category is for foreign nationals who have a skilled job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker. Before you apply under Tier 2 (General), you must have: a sponsor; and a valid certificate of sponsorship. For the year from 6 April 2011 to 5 April 2012, a maximum of 20,700 skilled workers can come to the UK under Tier 2 (General) to do jobs with an annual salary below £150,000.
Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer): The Tier 2 Intra-company transfer category is for employees of multinational companies who are being transferred by their overseas employer to a UK branch of the organisation, either on a long-term basis or for frequent short visits. There are 4 sub-categories:
- Long-term staff - for established, skilled employees to be transferred to the UK branch of their organisation for more than 12 months to fill a post that cannot be filled by a new recruit from the resident workforce;
- Short-term staff - for established, skilled employees to be transferred to the UK branch of their organisation for 12 months or less to fill a post that cannot be filled by a new recruit from the resident workforce;
- Graduate trainee - this route allows the transfer of recent graduate employees to a UK branch of the same organisation, as part of a structured graduate training programme which clearly defines progression towards a managerial or specialist role;
- Skills transfer - this route allows the transfer of new graduate employees to a UK branch of the same organisation to learn the skills and knowledge required to perform their job overseas, or to impart their specialist skills or knowledge to the UK workforce.
Visa nationals: People who always need to get entry clearance in advance of traveling to the UK, for whatever purpose, unless they are *returning residents or are returning within a period of earlier leave granted for more than six months. Countries whose citizens are visa nationals are listed in an Appendix to the immigration rules, which are amended from time to time, usually to add fresh countries.
Work permits: Since the introduction of the Points Based System (PBS) in November 2008, Work Permits (UK) now only issue work permits to UK employers seeking to employ people from Bulgaria and Romania to fill a vacancy that might otherwise be filled by a resident worker. If a UK employer wishes to engage a migrant worker from outside the EEA, they will be required to apply under Tier 2 (General) or Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer) scheme.