Coming to Scotland as a non-European Economic Area national
From America to India, China and beyond, we’re welcoming people from around the world to use their specialised skills in industries across Scotland. With the right visa, you can join them.
If you are from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you will need a visa to live and work in Scotland. The type of visa you require depends on what you want to do when you’re in Scotland – such as visiting, working or studying.
Some of the most common visas that allow you to live and work or carry out business related activities in Scotland and the rest of the UK include:
The Start-up category is intended for high potential entrepreneurs who are seeking to start up a business in the UK for the first time. Applicants under this category will not require to evidence access to investment funds for their business. You will require an endorsement from an approved endorsing body which will include leading business organisations and higher education institutions.
The Start-up visa will be issued for a period of 2 years. Towards the end of this period, you will be able to apply to switch into the ‘Innovator’ category.
This category is for more experienced business people seeking to establish a business in the UK. You will generally require a minimum of £50,000 funding available to be invested into your business and will also require an endorsement from an approved endorsing body.
Visas under this category will be issued for 3 years in the first instance. Towards the end of this period, you will have the option to apply for an extension for a further 3 years, or to apply to settle permanently in the UK.
Tier 1 (Investor)
If you are going to make an investment of £2,000,000 or more into Scotland, you can apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa.
Tier 2 (General)
If you have an employer in Scotland who is willing to sponsor you because you have specialised expertise and there is a gap in the Scottish workforce that cannot be filled by someone else in the European Economic Area, you may be eligible to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa.
In addition to sponsoring you, your employer may have to satisfy the ‘Resident Labour Market’ test, proving that no other person in the EEA has the skills to do the specified job as well as you.
Global Talent Visa
You may be eligible for a Global Talent visa if you work in a qualifying field and meet the relevant criteria in order to obtain endorsement from an approved endorser.
Each endorser will have their own criteria which details how you qualify:
- as a recognised leader (exceptional talent)
- as an emerging leader (exceptional promise)
- under the UK Research and Innovation endorsed funder option
Find out more about the global talent visa and approved endorsers on gov.uk/global-talent
If you are a citizen of a Commonwealth country and have a grandparent who was born in the UK, you can apply for a visa to live and work in Scotland and the rest of the UK. This visa lasts five years. You must be aged 17 or over and have the intention to undertake work, as well as showing that you have enough money to support yourself in Scotland.
You can be eligible for this visa through any grandparent born in the UK, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, or in what is now the Republic of Ireland if they were born before 31 March 1922. Eligibility cannot be gained through great-grandparents, nor through step-parents.
Tier 5 (Youth mobility scheme)
If you come from certain countries, are aged between 18 and 30 and have £1,890 in savings, you may be eligible to apply for a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa. This visa will last for up to two years and will allow you to live and work in the UK during this time.
There are many other categories of visa listed on the Home Office website including:
Generally you must first secure a place at a licensed education institution, which can then sponsor you for your visa application. There are a number of additional requirements you must meet in order to obtain your student visa. For further information visit ‘Study in Scotland’ website.
The UK government has recently announced a proposed extension to the post-study period from the current maximum of six months to two years. On 14 October 2019, the UK Home Office released a Fact Sheet to provide additional details on the new Graduate Immigration Route, confirming its launch in summer 2021. The Fact Sheet can be found here.
Standard visitor visa
If you and your family want to visit Scotland, you can apply for a standard visitor visa. It allows you to travel around the country and the rest of the UK for up to a maximum of six months.
English language and maintenance
For almost all types of visas there are very stringent requirements that require to be met to prove English language skills and the ability to support yourself financially. The exact requirements are different for each visa category and details are shown on the Home Office website under visa category.
When and where to apply
You must apply for your visa or permit before you travel to Scotland and the UK. If you do not have the required clearance entry documents, you can be refused entry to the UK and sent back home. There are specific requirements that you will need to meet depending on the visa you are applying for.
You may have to apply online depending where you are located. Normally you apply for your visa or permit to allow you to enter and work in the UK at a British Visa Application Centre – these are often at British Embassies, Consulates or High Commissions located around the world. You can find out where to apply in your country on the Home Office website.
Processing times vary depending on the type of document you are applying for and where you are applying from. You can find out about current visa processing times on the Home Office website.