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Visas and Permits for Expats in Edinburgh

By moving to Edinburgh, you’ll be relocating to a place steeped in history. It has been the capital of Scotland since the 1300s; in 1999, it became the seat of a Scottish Parliament again. But if you’re looking for practical info rather than historical details, this expat guide is the right resource for you!
When planning your move to Edinburgh, check if you need a visa for the UK!

EU/EEA Nationals

Moving to Edinburgh is not very difficult for nationals of an EU member state, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. They don’t need a visa to enter the UK or a permit to live there.

However, they should have a job in the UK, go to school or university there, or be able to prove that they are financially independent (e.g. retirees with a guaranteed pension).

Residence Certificates for EU Expats

It’s often recommended that EU/EEA nationals in the UK should apply for an official registration certificate, though it's not strictly necessary. This has two distinct advantages: First, it makes it easier to get access to government services and benefits, if necessary. Second, there will also be less of a hassle if family members from outside the EU/EEA would like to join them in the UK.

In order to get a residence certificate, you need to download the residence card application form online. Please fill it in and send it to the Home Office. You have to pay a fee of GBP 55 as well.

Once they have lived in Edinburgh (or any other place in the UK) for five years, EU/EEA nationals can apply for permanent residence in a similar way.

Regulations for Croatian Nationals

Please be aware that there are, for the time being, special regulations for citizens of Croatia, the most recent EU member state. Job seekers usually need a UK employer to sponsor them. Moreover, they have to apply for a so-called "purple registration certificate".

Self-employed expats or students from Croatia, on the other hand, can simply come to the UK, as long as they are able to finance their stay. Upon arrival, they have to apply for a yellow registration card, though.

Visa Options for Non-EU Expats

Expats from outside the UK or EEA need to apply for a visa before they move to Edinburgh. Which visa type they need and how the application process works will depend on several factors:

  • nationality
  • planned length of stay
  • reason for moving to the UK (e.g. work, business, study, family)

The following visa options are fairly common among expats who move to the UK for work-related reasons:

"Skilled worker visas" (Tier 2) address the needs of skilled laborers and employees. There’s also a separate sub-category for intra-company transfers. So-called "high value workers" fall in a different visa category (Tier 1) than skilled workers.

Visas for Skilled Workers and Employees

Applicants for a visa from the Tier 2 category for skilled employment candidates generally have to fulfill the following requirements, which are part of a points-based system:

  • They need to find a sponsor in the UK. This is usually their future employer.
  • They have to earn an appropriate minimum salary. In 2014, this means an annual gross income of more than GBP 20,500.
  • They have to show proof of English language skills.
  • They need to have at least GBP 945 in savings.
  • Applicants from selected countries may also need to be tested for TB.

Start the application process for your visa at least three months before your planned moving date. You also need to consider that you have to pay quite a hefty sum in application fees.

A visa that’s valid for up to three years will set you back by over GBP 500. If your visa’s supposed to be valid for five years, the fees amount to more than GBP 1,000.

However, if your job is on the shortage occupation list for either Scotland or the UK in general, getting the visa may be easier and/or cheaper than for other applicants. These lists are updated about every one or two years.

The visa can normally be extended for another three to five years. While you are staying in the UK with such a Tier 2 visa, you won’t have any access to public funds during that period. You aren’t entitled to benefits such as job seeker’s allowance, child tax credit, etc.

However, if any benefits or government services are financed from National Insurance contributions, this rule doesn’t apply: Once you start working in Edinburgh, you’ll also pay NI contributions in the UK. Therefore you can receive, for example, a UK retirement pension or maternity pay for new mothers.

Visas for Investors and Entrepreneurs

Investors and entrepreneurs can apply for a Tier 1 visa if they are able and willing to invest substantial sums in the UK.

For example, you can get an investor visa if you have at least GBP 1 million that you’d like to commit to business ventures in the UK. An entrepreneur, however, needs "only" GBP 50,000 or more to obtain a visa and start their own company in the UK.

If you’d like to know more about visa categories and the application process, please have a look at this website provided by the UK Home Office.

You can also find in-depth information on visas and administration in our comprehensive UK Guide. 


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Ruben Barbosa

"Whether it's the Edinburgh Fringe Festival or the Highlands -- such great opportunities to explore Scotland with my fellow expats."

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