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UK Immigration Glossary

UK immigration and nationality law is a complex subject containing many references to its own vocabulary. To help you speak the language and get a better understanding of the information provided, we have compiled a glossary of some of the most commonly used terms and acronyms.

Ancestry status

If you are a Commonwealth citizen aged 17 or older with a UK-born grandparent, you can apply for a UK ancestry visa to come to the UK to seek and accept employment. To qualify, you will need to provide evidence of your ancestral ties. Once your application is approved, you will be allowed to enter and remain in the UK for five years. After this five-year period, you will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to remain (settled status).

Business status

To be granted business status you must have at least ? 200,000 to put into a UK business that you will either set up, join or take over. In addition to other qualifying criteria, your investment must be used by the business to create at least two new jobs for persons already living in the UK.

Commonwealth citizen

You are a commonwealth citizen if you are a national of any country within the Commonwealth of Nations. As a Commonwealth citizen you may receive certain preferential rights and privileges in many other Commonwealth countries, including the UK.


Generally speaking, according to English law you are domiciled in the country in which you have made your permanent home. This is the country in which you intend to settle for the remainder of your life. In many cases this is the county where you were born and grew up.

Dual citizenship

You are classified as holding dual citizenship if you hold citizenship of more than one country. This occurs when you are granted the citizenship of the country of your birth and then obtain citizenship of another country, for example, as a result of having a parent born in that country.

EU – European Union

An amalgamation of twenty-five independent states based on the European Communities. Formerly known as European Community (EC) or European Economic Community (EEC), the EU was founded to enhance political, economic and social co-operation. Member States of the European Union are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

EEA – European Economic Area

Formed on 1 January 1994. Represents an amalgamation of the European Union and the European Free Trade Area.

Entry clearance

Entry clearance is the process whereby a British High Commission or Embassy in another country grants you permission to enter the UK. Commonly referred to as a visa, entry clearance provides evidence of your entitlement to enter the UK with a particular category of permission.

Foreign national (overseas national)

Also known as overseas national, the term foreign national applies to non-UK passport holders.

There are three broad categories of foreign (overseas) nationals:

  • Those who are free to enter, stay and work in the UK with barely any restriction on their length of stay or the employment they take, and who do not require a work permit. For example European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their families, Commonwealth citizens with UK grandparents, working holidaymakers from the Commonwealth, overseas nationals having settled status, spouse and dependent children (under the age of 18) of overseas workers who can lawfully work in the UK, citizens of Switzerland, people born in Gibraltar.
  • Those who can come to the UK, without a permit, to work in certain occupations or for fixed periods of time. For example trainee nurses, au pairs.
  • Those who must have a UK work permit in order to take up employment in the UK.

Home Office

The Ministry of UK Government that manages the handling of all nationality, immigration and asylum applications. The Home Office is also responsible for enforcement and development of policy in these areas.

IND – Immigration and Nationality Directorate

The department of the Home Office responsible for dealing with all nationality, immigration and asylum applications and enforcement and developing policy in these areas of law.

ILR – Indefinite Leave to Remain

This is permission to enter or remain in the UK with no time restrictions. If you have you are said to be settled or hold ‘settled status’ in the UK. Indefinite Leave to Remain is also often referred to as permanent residence in the UK.

Investor status

To be eligible for investor status you must be able to invest at least £1 million in the UK, £750,000 of which must be invested in UK Government bonds or UK businesses. To qualify as an investor there are also a number of other criteria that must be met. Under the investor category you are only eligible to work in self-employment.

Leave to enter

Permission given by immigration officials at the port of entry to enter the UK in accordance with a particular immigration category.

Leave to remain

Permission given by the Home Office to remain in the UK. It may be limited or indefinite leave to remain.

Limited leave

Leave to enter or remain in the UK for a specific amount of time. Conditions may be attached to your leave, such as restrictions on your ability to seek employment and the requirement that you can support yourself without any reliance on public funds.


Also known as British naturalisation, this term is used to describe the process whereby non-British adults apply for British citizenship.

OISC – Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner

An independent public body set up under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. The OISC is responsible for ensuring that immigration advisers fulfill the requirements of good practice.

Public funds

In terms of immigration, public funds means claiming any of the following benefits: income support, family credit, council tax benefit, housing benefit, child benefit, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, attendance allowance, severe disablement allowance, invalid care allowance, disability living allowance, disability working allowance.

Right of abode

Right of abode means that you are free from United Kingdom immigration control and you do not need permission from an Immigration Officer to enter the UK. You are allowed to live and work in the UK without restriction.

Residence permit

This is a document issued to EEA nationals by the Home Office entitling the EEA national and their dependents to reside and work in the UK.

Returning resident

A returning resident is someone who has left the UK and has been given permission to return to the UK to live, with no restriction on their time. This applies if you have settled status in the UK are returning to the UK within two years of departure.

Settled status (settlement)

Also known as settlement, you are considered to be ‘settled’ in the UK if you are ordinarily resident here and have no restriction on the amount of time that you may remain in the UK.

Sole representative

You may apply to enter the UK as a sole representative in order to establish an office of an overseas business in the UK. To qualify you must intend to work full-time in this capacity and you must not be a majority shareholder in the overseas parent company.

Visa nationals

People who always require entry clearance to enter the UK, even for a short visit.

Work permit

A UK work permit is an Immigration Employment Document (IED), gained by a UK employer, for a specific individual to enter the UK to take up a specific role.

Working holiday makers

If you are a commonwealth citizen between the age of 17 and 30 (inclusive) you may be granted entry clearance to enter the UK for a period of up to two years on a working holiday maker visa. Under this category any work that you undertake should be incidental to your holiday and you are allowed to pursue a career in the UK. In addition you are not entitled to work for more than 50 per cent of the two year period for which your working holiday maker visa was issued.