There are many reasons why you might want to apply for a long term UK visa, including to work, to do business, to do a course of study or to join your relatives.
Under the UK’s Immigration Rules, there are various long term visa options for those looking to come to the UK to visit, work, study or even settle here on a long-term or permanent basis.
In this guide, we look at some of the most common options for a long term visa for the UK, from what these allow, how long they last, who is eligible and how much an application will cost.
Importantly, even if you meet all of the requirements for a long term visa, you should always explore all available options before deciding on the best one for you. By seeking expert advice from the outset, before applying for a visa, your legal advisor can help you to navigate the rules and to identify the route most suited to your set of circumstances.
Long term UK visit visa
The long term visit visa is the permission needed to enable you to regularly visit the UK, on multiple occasions, for up to 6 months at any one time. This could be for tourism and leisure, such as visiting your friends and family, or taking regular holidays in the UK. It could also be to carry out all kinds of business activities, such as attending meetings and seminars, provided you are not undertaking any paid employment.
Depending on the reason for your proposed UK visits, and so long as you can demonstrate to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that your intentions are genuine, rather than planning to use your visit visa to live in the UK for extended periods of time, you may be granted a visa with a validity period of either 2, 5 or 10 years. This means that you will not need to re-apply to UKVI every time you decide to come to the UK, provided each planned trip is not more than the maximum length of stay endorsed on your visa, usually 6 months.
You will be eligible for a long term visit visa if you are genuinely seeking to visit the UK for a purpose permitted under the visitor rules, you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants, and you intend to leave the UK after each visit. If you can justify the reason for multiple UK visits, and you have strong ties to your home country and stable finances, you may be granted a long term visit visa. The cost of applying for a long term visit visa is £376 for a 2-year visa, £670 for a 5-year visa and £837 for a 10-year visa.
Long term UK work visas
There are many different UK work visas currently open to overseas nationals, all with different route-specific requirements. In many cases, you will need the offer of a job that meets the minimum skill and salary requirements from a licensed UK sponsor, such as the skilled worker visa. There are also certain unsponsored work routes, such as the global talent visa, as well as a brand new partly sponsored/unsponsored work route, known as the scale up visa.
For the skilled worker visa, you may be permitted to work in the UK for up to 5 years. After 5 years, and provided you still meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), allowing you to permanently settle in the UK.
For the global talent route — for which you will need to successfully apply for endorsement as a leader or potential leader in the fields of digital technology, arts and culture, and academia or research — you can stay in the UK for a period of 5 years, with the flexibility to engage in a range of different activities without being tied to a sponsor. You will also be able to extend this visa on an unlimited basis and, depending on your field of expertise, apply for ILR to allow you to settle in the UK on an accelerated basis of just 3 years.
Under the scale up worker route, launched in the summer of this year, you can come to the UK to undertake an eligible job role for a fast-growing UK business, so long as that business meets the specific eligibility criteria to sponsor overseas scale-up workers. Provided you have a confirmed job offer to do work for an approved scale-up business for a period of at least 6 months, you will only be required to stay with that sponsor for that length of time. You will then be free to switch to an unsponsored role in the UK with another employer.
You can stay in the UK as a scale up worker for 2 years. You can also extend your stay as many times as you like by 3 years, so long as you still meet the eligibility requirements. After 5 years of continuously living in the UK, you can then apply to permanently settle.
The costs of applying for a UK work visa can vary, depending on the visa type and your circumstances. For example, when applying on the skilled worker route, in addition to an application fee of up to £1,423, you may also be liable to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 per year ‘and’ meet a financial requirement. This means that you will need £,1270 in the bank to show that you can support yourself on arrival in the UK.
Long term UK business visa
As an overseas entrepreneur or entity looking to establish and expand your business in the UK, a global business mobility (GBM) visa may be the right option for you. Launched in the spring of this year, there are several different sponsored GBM routes to choose from, allowing overseas businesses greater flexibility in transferring migrant workers to the UK.
The long term GBM visas are for senior or specialist workers, UK expansion workers or secondment workers. The senior and specialist worker visa is aimed at skilled intra-company transferees, whilst the UK expansion worker visa will allow an existing senior manager or specialist employee to come to the UK to set up a new branch of an overseas business that has not yet started trading in the UK. The secondment worker visa will enable existing employees of overseas employers to do an eligible job for a UK-based organisation, in circumstances where the employer has a high-value contract with that organisation.
The length of these different GBM visas can vary from between 2 to 5 years. However, you cannot stay more than the total permissible length of stay for your chosen route, so you would need to switch into a different category to apply for settlement. The cost of applying for a GBM visa ranges from £259 to £1235 when applying from outside the UK. You may also have to pay the annual healthcare surcharge and meet a financial requirement.
Other long term business visa options include the start up and innovator visas. The start up visa is an unsponsored route for those wanting to set up an innovative UK business for the first time, but who also need to work to support themselves while developing their ideas. In contrast, the innovator visa is for those with industry experience and at least £50,000 up-front funding to invest in a UK business venture, who can dedicate all of their time to that business. It is also for those who are progressing from the start up visa.
For both visas, you must be endorsed by either a business with a track record of supporting UK-based entrepreneurs or a UK higher-education provider. The endorsing body will assess each application to make sure that the business idea or business is innovative, viable and scalable. A successful applicant under the start up route will be permitted to stay in the UK for 2 years, at which stage you may be eligible to switch over to the innovator route. The innovator visa will be granted for a period of 3 years, without any limit as to how many times this can be extended. An application for settlement can also be made after 3 years.
The cost of applying for a start up visa is £378 from outside the UK, whilst the fee for an innovator visa is £1,036 from outside the UK and £1,292 to switch into this route from inside the UK. You will also have to pay the annual healthcare surcharge and again meet a financial requirement.
Long term UK study visa
You can apply for a student visa to undertake a course of study in the UK if you are aged at least 16, have been offered a place by a licensed student sponsor, and have enough money to pay for both your course and support yourself. How long you can stay on this type of visa will all depend on the length of your course. If you are aged 18 or over, and your intended course of study is at degree level, you can typically stay in the UK for a period of up to 5 years. If your course is below degree level, you can usually stay for up to 2 years.
You may be able to extend your visa to continue your studies in the UK. As a recent UK graduate, you may also be able to apply to switch to the graduate visa from inside the UK. The cost to apply for a study visa from outside the UK is £363. You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge, although this will be discounted to £470 per year.
In relation to the maintenance requirement, you must be able to show that you can pay for your course fees, and that you have access to £1,334 per month for 9 months for courses in London and £1,023 per month for 9 months for courses outside London.
Having completed your course of studies, you may want to switch into the graduate route. The graduate visa is an unsponsored work route designed for overseas students who have successfully completed a UK bachelor’s degree or post-graduate degree, or a PHD or other doctoral qualification. The length of this visa is limited to either 2 or 3 years, depending on whether you graduated with a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree, or a PHD etc. Whilst the graduate route will not put you on a path to settlement, you may be able to switch to the skilled worker visa if you meet the minimum skill and salary requirements for this route.
The cost of applying for a graduate visa is £715, together with the healthcare surcharge.
Long term family visa
There are various long term family visas: for partners and spouses, for children to join a parent in the UK, for parents of children living in the UK and for adult dependant relatives.
For example, the partner visa is designed for the spouse or partner of a British citizen or someone settled in the UK. It can also include anyone married to or in a long term relationship with a person with humanitarian protection or refugee status.
Even if you do not meet the requirements for a family visa, you may still be granted a visa if there would be insurmountable difficulties for you and your partner if you had to live together as a couple outside of the UK. You may also be entitled to a visa if you have a child in the UK with British citizenship or has lived in the UK for at least 7 years and it would be unreasonable to require them to leave, or if it would breach your human rights to prevent you from coming to live in the UK.
If you are applying for a family visa from outside the UK, you can live in the UK for 2 years 9 months on a partner or parent visa. After this you will need to apply to extend your stay, although you can then apply for indefinite leave to settle in the UK on a permanent basis. A child visa will typically be granted for the same period of time as their parent’s visa. Similarly, when applying as an adult coming to be cared for in the UK by a relative, how long you can stay will depend on the status of your family member.
The cost to apply for a family visa is £1,538, and £3,250 for adult dependant relatives.
Even if an applicant meets all of the eligibility requirements for a UK visa, they can still be refused permission to either enter or stay in the UK under the general grounds for refusal. By seeking expert advice before applying for a visa, this can help to maximise the prospects of a successful outcome.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. We support employers, entrepreneurs, investors, workers and their families with all types of UK visas, settlement and nationality applications. For advice on UK work visa options, contact us.
Long term visa FAQs
What is the longest visa you can get for the UK?
There are various visas that will be granted for a maximum length of 5 years, and providing the visa-holder with the option to extend their stay or apply for settlement in the UK. This includes the skilled worker visa.
How can I stay long-term UK?
To stay in the UK long-term, you must apply for a visa that will either allow you to make unlimited applications to extend your stay or put you on a path to settlement, such as the skilled worker visa.
How much is UK 5 years visa?
The cost of 5-year visas can vary dramatically. For example, the fee for a long term visit visa, valid over 5 years, is £670, whilst the fee to apply for a skilled worker visa from outside the UK is £1,235.
What is long-term work visa in UK?
There are various different types of long-term work visa available in the UK, including the sponsored skilled worker visa or the scale up visa, as well as the unsponsored global talent and graduate visas.
Last updated: 10 December 2022