Today, the British Government confirmed that our application to settle in the UK has been successful! Now, I realise that most of you reading this may not be close to the detail when it comes to UK immigration law, but this is a big deal. A really big deal. Let me explain.

Many South Africans who move to the UK have one big goal in mind – to get their hands on a British Passport. For most people, reaching this goal is a 6-year process and depending on your personal circumstances, the process of getting a passport is either simple and straightforward or (close to) impossible. It basically all comes down to your visa type, that is IF you can get a work visa these days. Speaking to many of my South African friends, it’s clear that they’re willing to offer their first (and sometimes second) born for an opportunity abroad but constantly find themselves stuck in a catch-22 situation where they first need to have a job offer before they can apply for a visa, yet many employers require them to be in the UK already before considering them for a position. So even the first step, of getting a visa, can be tricky business.

Then, if you do succeed in getting a work visa, you’ll soon realise that there are three major ‘problems’ with the visa system:

  1. It’s not a one night stand – it comes with strings attached.
    Every visa, regardless of its type, comes with a set of restrictions and exclusions. Some people may only work for their licensed sponsor and others may only work a set number of hours per week. Some visas offer a route to citizenship, some don’t.
  2. Like the weather, rules can change. Quickly.
    Never get too comfortable when you live in another country on a visa as governments around the world can change their immigration laws quickly and without notice. The most recent example we’ve seen is the changes made to the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa that no longer offer a route to citizenship as settlement applications for this type of visa has closed down permanently on 4 June 2020. I hope I’m not the bearer of bad news for anyone reading this post, but feel free to check it out on
  3. It’s only temporary – visas have an expiry date.
    Work visas are typically issued for 2 or 3 years after which it must be renewed. The renewal is subject to Immigration’s approval, not to mention the mountain of paperwork and the application fee you need to submit each time you renew a work permit. If you think applying for a tourist visa is too much paperwork, wait till you apply for a work visa – it’s insane, really.

Then, after 5 years of continuously living in the UK, and assuming the government didn’t fiddle with your visa rules, you can apply to settle permanently. This “settled” status is also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (or “ILR”) and is the single greatest (not to mention most expensive) hurdle to overcome as an expat (speaking on behalf of all non-EU nationals). Even if you don’t want to obtain British citizenship later in life (which is optional), applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain is mandatory and if your application is refused, well, tough luck grandma, and enjoy the in-flight movie on your way home. On the other hand, if you’ve been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain, you can live and work in the UK permanently without any restrictions. And then, after 12 months of holding this legal status, you can apply to become a British citizen which gives you access to a British passport.

So that’s it – we overcame the biggest immigration hurdle today and we can now live in the UK for as long as we want. Better yet, becoming British nationals is now within touching distance.

All right, let’s pop some champagne!

Thanks for checking in.



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