Glossary of Key Legal Terminology for UK Immigration

The law and the terms used can be complicated to those who are unfamiliar with legal jargon. This A-Z guide of common legal Immigration terms and phrases provides definitions of key legal terms that solicitors and their clients will come across in UK Immigration matters in England and Wales.

Our solicitors and barristers are UK Immigration Law experts. For expert legal advice that you can rely upon contact our legal team so we can assess your case.


Adult Dependant Relative Visa – A visa category designed for non-EEA adult dependent relatives of British citizens in the UK who require long-term care.

Administrative Review- A formal review procedure challenging a Home Office decision where there has been a clear case working error. Unlike appeals, no new evidence can be considered.

Ancestry Visa- A visa for Commonwealth citizens who have grandparents born in the UK. The Ancestry Visa is also categorised as a non-points based system work visa. 

Appeal- A way to challenge a decision in front of an independent Immigration Judge either on papers or during an oral hearing.

Asylum- The protection granted by the UK  to foreign citizens who flee their home country due to fear of persecution.


Biometric Residence Permit – “BRP” holds the personal data of a migrant including their name, date of birth, nationality and visa status (including validity). Migrants must carry this along with their passport when they travel abroad in order to allow re-entry to the UK.

Brexit – The UK’s decision to leave the EU. After the transitional period EU nationals and their family members will not be able to enjoy the same rights as they currently do; such as free movement, thus making it more difficult to come to the UK.

British Citizenship/Nationality –  Free from any immigration control or restrictions in the UK. There are several ways to become a British citizen dependent on an individual’s circumstances.

Business Immigration – Visas for business people and high net worth individuals.


Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) – Issued by employers to Skilled Worker Visa Applicants as part of the sponsored work application process. The CoS contains information relating to the migrant and the job role.

Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) – Issued to Student Visa Applicants as part of the application process. The CAS contains information relating to the migrant and the course.

Court of Appeal – A higher court in the UK whereby if an Applicant is granted permission to appeal at the Upper Tribunal which was then dismissed, they may be able to appeal to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration from another Judge.

Curtailment – The Home Office can take back a visa for a number of reasons such as the breakdown of the relationship between the Applicant and Sponsor. If a visa is curtailed the migrant will be informed in writing and will usually have 60 days to make further representations or make a fresh application.


Dependent – Usually children or partners (but can also include parents, grandparents and siblings) who are reliant on the main Applicant (i.e. financially). Dependents can apply to come to the UK at the same time as the main Applicant or to join them in the UK at a later date.

Deportation – When a migrant is forced to leave the UK, usually due to criminality or if they are found to have obtained their visa fraudulently.


Endorsement Body – For Start-up, Innovator and Global Talent visa applications, Applicants must first secure an endorsement from a Home Office approved body. Endorsement bodies must assess whether the business idea is innovative, credible and viable (for Start-up and Innovator applications) or if the individual is a leader or emerging leader in their chosen field (for Global Talent applications).

Entry Clearance – A visa application made from outside the UK.

EU Settlement Scheme- The EU Settlement Scheme was introduced following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The EU Settlement Scheme is the transitional arrangement for EU nationals and their family members to lawfully remain in the UK. Depending on the length of lawful residence in the UK, Applicants will either be granted Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status.


Family Permit – An application made under the EEA Regulations or EU Settlement Scheme for the non-EEA family members of EU nationals to enter the UK to join their EU national sponsor. Family Permits are only valid for 6 months. Applications close on 30 June 2021.

Fiancé Visa – For the non-EEA partners of British or settled people to come to the UK in order to get married to their British or settled partner. The visa is considered temporary and is therefore only valid for 6 months with no right to work. Applicants need to switch into the spouse visa if they wish to remain in the UK after the validity of the visa.

First Tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) – The first court that an immigration appeal will be heard at.


Global Talent Visa – Expanded on the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route and is for leaders or emerging leaders in their chosen field to come to the UK.

Gurkhas (Settlement) – A discretionary application for settlement or “indefinite leave to remain” in the UK specifically for individuals discharged from the British Army, Brigade of Gurkhas prior to 1 July 1997 and their family members.


Home Office – The Government department that makes a decision on UK Visa and Immigration applications.


Immigration Bail – Replaced Temporary Release and Temporary Admission. Migrants on Immigration Bail are released from Immigration Detention but must adhere to the bail conditions they are given.

Immigration Detention – Migrants who are subject to immigration control are held in Immigration Detention before they are deported or removed from the UK or until they are given permission to stay in the UK.

Immigration Health Surcharge – The “IHS” payment is required by UK visa Applicants and gives them access to NHS health services. The IHS is mandatory and payable at the time of the visa application.

Immigration Skills Charge – Sponsor Licenced employers may have to pay an additional charge before they issue a CoS to a potential migrant employee.

Indefinite Leave to Remain – “ILR” is an application made under the Immigration Rules and means successful migrants are free from immigration control or restrictions. Also referred to as settlement or permanent residence.

Innovator Visa – For business people who wish to set up a business in the UK and have at least £50,000 to invest in that business. Applicants must first get an endorsement from an endorsement body in order to make an Innovator Visa application.


Judicial Review – A mechanism to challenge a decision from the Home Office. This should only be used as a last resort when all other appeal rights have been exhausted. Judicial Reviews can be a complex, lengthy and costly route and is not one that should be taken lightly.


Knowledge of Life and Language in the UK – A requirement for Applicants who wish to apply for British citizenship or settlement in the UK.



Marriage Visitor Visa – This visa is for non-EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK in order to register a marriage or civil partnership. This is a visa only valid for 6 months and cannot be extended. Applicants who wish to remain in the UK with their spouse or civil partner after the marriage should apply for the fiancé visa.


Naturalisation – The process of becoming a British citizen.



Permanent Residence – The same as indefinite leave to remain or settled status and means migrants are free from immigration control. Applications for Permanent Residence are made under the EEA Regulations.

Permitted Paid Engagement (“PPE”) – A short-term visa for non-EEA nationals who have an invitation to the UK as an expert in their profession.

Points Based System – Applications (such as for work and business) which require a certain number of points.

Private Medical Treatment Visitor Visa – Temporary visa for 6 or 11 months which enables non-EEA nationals to come to the UK to receive private medical treatment which is not available in their home country.



Registration Certificate – Confirmation of an EEA national’s status in the UK under the EEA Regulations. Replaced by Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Residence Card – Confirmation of a non-EEA family member of an EU citizen’s status in the UK. Replaced by Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) – The RLMT must be competed as part of most Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa applications (unless exemptions apply).  The purpose of the RLMT is to give settled workers the opportunity to fill the advertised job role before it is offered to migrant workers.

Returning Resident – Someone who has indefinite leave to remain but has been outside the UK for more than 2 years and then wishes to return to the UK will have to apply as a returning resident, otherwise they may be denied entry at the border as their indefinite leave to remain and therefore their right to be in the UK has lapsed.

Revocation (Sponsor Licence) – when an organisation’s sponsor licence is revoked they have lost their permission to lawfully employ sponsored workers or enrol foreign students under the Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 visa categories. Revocation happens when the sponsor has not complied with their sponsorship duties.


Short-term Study Visa – a visa category for someone intending to do a short course of study in the UK such as English language course or to do a short period of research as part of a degree course.

Sole Representative Visa – a visa category with the purpose to allow an individual representative of an overseas business to enter the UK in order to establish and run a registered branch of the business or wholly-owned subsidiary of the business in the UK.

Sole Responsibility – prior to a UK based parent bringing a child into the UK to live with them they must prove that they have ‘sole responsibility’ over the child consisting of legal responsibility, financial responsibility and emotional responsibility.

Sponsor Licence –Tier 2 and Tier 5 businesses and education providers who wish to sponsor a migrant for work or study must first have a sponsor licence.

Sponsorship Management System (SMS) – The SMS is a portal for Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors as well as student sponsors. It allows them to apply for the sponsor licence, sponsor new migrants, monitor existing migrants and keep up to date with compliance duties.

Spouse Visa – The non-EEA national spouses and civil partners of British or settled people can apply to join their spouse or civil partner to live in the UK.

Start-up Visa – Replaced the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa. The Start-up Visa is for individuals who wish to set up a business in the UK and they first require an endorsement from an endorsing body.

Standard Visitor Visa – Allows non-EEA nationals to come to the UK for a period up to 6 months for a range of reasons such as leisure, business, to take part in sport or creative events, or to receive private medical treatment.

Student Visa – a visa category for international students (including EEA nationals from 1 January 2021) who have been offered a place on a course at an academic institution in the UK who has a student sponsor licence. 


Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa – This route is now closed to new Applicants and is replaced by the Start-up and Innovator visas under Appendix W.

Tier 1 (Exceptional) Talent Visa – This route is now closed to new Applicants and is replaced by the Global Talent visa under Appendix W.

Tier 1 (Investor) Visa – visa category for those wishing to invest £2 million or more in the UK.

Tier 2 (General) Visa – a visa category for non-EEA skilled workers who have received a job offer in the UK from a Tier 2 sponsor licence holder. 

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Visa – a visa category for non-EEA nationals who have been offered a role by their employer in the UK branch of the organisation.

Tier 2 (Sportsperson) Visa – a visa category for non-EEA nationals who are an elite sportsperson or qualified coach recognised by the sports governing body as being at the highest level of their profession.

Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Government Authorised Exchange Visa – a visa for non-EEA nationals who want to come to the UK for a short amount of time for work experience or training. The visa is valid for 12 or 24 months depending on the length of the scheme they are applying for.

Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Visa  – a visa category for migrants from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea and Taiwan who are aged 18 to 30 and from who want to experience life in the UK (including live and work) for up to 2 years.

Turkish Business Person Visa – a visa category under the Ankara Agreement is for Turkish nationals who want to come to the UK to start or new business or help run an established business.


Unmarried Partner Visa – a visa category for long term partners of British citizens or those settled in the UK who wish to join their partner in the UK. Also called a De Facto visa.

Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) – the tribunal responsible for handling appeals that are made against decisions from First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum) relating to visa applications, asylum applications and the right to enter or stay in the UK.



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