Since the 1950s, the UK has been a popular destination for Indian students and professionals. In 2021, more than 1.85 million people in the UK were recorded as having Indian ethnicity, which is slightly more than 3% of the population.
In 2022, out of the 2.85 million visas issued by the UK government, a quarter were issued to Indian passport holders. This was the result of a 73% increase in student visas issued to Indians, and a 130% increase in work visas.
Does this mean that it is easier than ever for Indians to move to the UK? Yes and no. While there is an increasing number of visa options open to Indians, competition is tougher than ever as more people apply.
If you are interested in moving to the UK from India to study or work, read on for our complete guide to the best visas available for UK immigration from India. We’ll also share tips on getting funding for UK courses for a UK Student Visa, jobs in London for Indians that will allow you to relocate to the UK, and the relatively new UK Youth Mobility Visa for Indians.On our website, you will find lots of advice on making your UK immigration process a success, or talk to one of our consultants for personalised help and guidance.
The following sections will look at the visas available for Indian passport holders who wish to travel to the UK to study or work. If you wish to visit the UK as a tourist and intend to stay for fewer than six months, you can look into a Standard Visa. Also remember that if your parents or grandparents were born in the UK, you might be able to apply for an Ancestry Visa.
We often recommend studying in the UK as an excellent option for our clients who wish to relocate to the UK. The UK has some of the best universities in the world, and studying offers a clear pathway to long-term residence. Plus, UK student visas have flexible rules when it comes to working. You can work up to 20 hours a week during term time and up to 40 hours a week during holidays.
The success of this approach depends on finding an appropriate course. A one or two-year Masters course is often the best option as you can apply on the strength of your existing academic experience.
Courses can be expensive, between £12,000 and £55,000 a year. There are various scholarship programs open to Indian students including the British Chevening Scholarships, GREAT Scholarships, Commonwealth Scholarships, Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarships, and Inlaks Scholarships.
Once you complete your course of study in the UK, it is simple to move onto a two-year Graduate Visa. This, combined with your course of study, greatly improves your chances of finding a good job in the UK that will enable you to stay long-term and eventually settle. If you have graduated from an Indian university, you can also apply for the new Young Indian Professionals scheme.
If you have an offer to study in the UK on a sponsored course, you can apply for a Student Visa. The length of your visa depends on the length of your course. You can usually arrive in the UK up to one month before the start of your course, and the visa will expire around two months after your proposed graduation date.
You must be able to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to pay for your course and that you can support yourself. This is calculated at £1,334 per month for nine months if your course is within London, and £1,023 per month for nine months if your course is outside of London. You can provide evidence of a student loan or financial support to meet the criteria.
The visa is renewable. For example, if you complete a Masters and you are offered a place in a Doctoral program, you can extend your visa.
To qualify for this visa, holders of Indian passports must also prove their knowledge of English by passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) conducted by an approved provider.
The application fee for a student visa is £363 from outside the UK and £490 from inside the UK, plus you will be required to pay the Healthcare Surcharge.
Holders of an Indian passport who have recently completed a bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree, or another relevant graduate program in the UK can extend their stay in the UK for an additional two years with a Graduate Visa. The visa is offered for three years if you have completed a doctoral qualification.
This visa is one-off and non-renewable. You are expected to use this time to find suitable employment that will qualify you for a visa via employment. While on the visa, you are free to look for work, work in most jobs, and start your own business.
To apply, you must show evidence from your education provider that you have completed your course. There is a £715 application fee and you must pay the Healthcare Surcharge.
This is a youth mobility scheme aimed specifically at young Indians; there are comparable schemes for other nationalities. It is similar to the Graduate Visa, but you do not need to have graduated from a UK institution. Young people aged 18-30 with at least a bachelor’s degree level qualification can apply to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
Before applying to the visa scheme, you must apply to a ballot scheme that opens twice a year. This is because there is a limited number of places available; in February 2023 there were 2,400 places. If you get a place on the ballot, you have six months to make your visa application.
You must have at least £2,530 in your bank account when you apply to show that you can support yourself. There is a £259 application fee and you must pay the Healthcare Surcharge.
Visas that allow you to work in the UK are the best option if you want to migrate to the UK from India and settle permanently. Employment visas are linked to your job, so if you lose your job or change jobs, your visa expires.
In some ways, finding jobs for Indians in the UK is getting easier, as employers no longer need to conduct a Labor Market Test to ensure that there are no other suitable candidates within the UK. But competition for good jobs is increasing as more people are studying and becoming internationally mobile for work.
There are a lot of things that you can do to stand out in the job market. You can find resources to help you polish your CV, perfect your LinkedIn profile, and excel at interviews in the Career Hub pages of our website. You can also search for jobs in London for Indians on our website.
Watch Absolutely Ashika explain what you can do differently in 2023 to make sure you land that job in London!
If you have an acceptable offer from a UK employer that can sponsor visas, you can apply for a Skilled Worker Visa. The length of your visa will depend on the length of the contract that you are offered. Your employer will provide you with a sponsorship letter to submit as part of your visa application.
To qualify, your job must offer a minimum salary of £25,600 per year, £10.10 per hour, or your employer must demonstrate that you are being offered the “going rate” in the field.
The application fee varies depending on where you are applying from, for how long the visa is being granted, and whether the job is considered on the shortage occupation list. The fees range from £500 to £1,500 and the Healthcare Surcharge also applies.
To help start-ups recruit required talent, the UK government has launched the Scale-Up Worker Visa. There are a good number of job opportunities for Indians in the UK that fall into this category.
If you have a job offer from a qualifying start-up for at least six months, you will be offered a two-year visa. This is renewable as long as you still meet the criteria. The visa application fee is £715.
If you secure work in the UK that does not qualify for the Skilled Worker or Scale-Up Visa, you may still be able to apply for a Temporary Work Visa. There are several different categories under which you may qualify. Your employer will need to provide you with a sponsorship letter, but they do not need to be authorised to sponsor international workers.
You can find details of the different categories on the UK Immigration website:
- Seasonal Worker
- Government Authorised Exchange
- Creative Worker
- Religious Worker
- Charity Worker
- International Agreement
Visas are offered for up to 12 months in the first instance but are renewable. There is a £259 application fee and you must pay the Healthcare Surcharge.
If your intention is to start your own business or enterprise and you would like to do this in the UK, then there are some visa options available to you. But be aware that the Investor Visa scheme has now closed.
If you intend to start your own business in the UK, as an Indian passport holder you can apply for a Start-Up Visa. This visa enables you to pursue gainful employment while growing your business. The catch is that your business idea must be endorsed by a UK higher education institution or an approved business organization as new, innovative, and viable.
The visa is granted for two years and is non-renewable, but you can move to an Innovator Visa if your business proves successful. The Start-Up visa fee is £378 from outside the UK and £508 from within the UK, plus you must pay the Healthcare Surcharge.
The Innovator Visa has broadly the same criteria as the Start-Up Visa in that you must be developing a new and innovative business to qualify, and the business must be endorsed by an approved body. Endorsement guidelines are a little stricter for the Innovator Visa, and you must be able to prove your knowledge of English.
The visa is granted for three years in the first instance and is renewable if you and your business still meet the criteria. The visa costs £1,036 if you are applying from within the UK and £1,292 if you are applying from outside the UK.
One final option to consider is the Global Talent Visa. The availability of this visa is limited as it is open only to individuals who have won awards in categories including academia and research, arts and culture, or digital technology. A full list of qualifying awards is available here. To be eligible to apply you must also apply for an endorsement letter confirming that you are a leader or potential leader in your field.
While the visa can be challenging to obtain, it is granted for five years in the first instance. It is renewable, but you are also eligible to apply for permanent residence at this time. On this visa, you are free to work, study, or start your own business in the UK with few restrictions.
There is a £456 fee to apply for the required endorsement and an additional £167 visa fee payable if you are given the endorsement. You will also be required to pay the Healthcare Surcharge.
EP Advisory specialises in applying for a Global Talent Visa endorsement. We have helped clients obtain endorsements from Tech Nation, The Royal Academy of Engineering, and Art Council England. Our partner lawyers also complete your visa application (Stage 2) to ensure the best possible results. Please find more information here.
Worried about fitting in when you get to the UK? Watch Absolutely Ashika explain what not to do when you arrive in the UK.
When you apply for any visa to study or work in the UK, you should know about the UK’s visa points system, how to bring your partner and dependents, and about the Healthcare Surcharge, which is payable as part of all visa applications.
In 2020, the UK government introduced a new points-based system to evaluate visa applications. Different elements of the application gain different points, and you must gain at least 70 points for your application to be approved.
For example, a job offer is worth 20 points on its own. It gains an additional 10 points if it is above the minimum salary threshold, and another 10 points if it is in the STEM field. It can gain an additional 20 points if the position is in a skills shortage field. You gain 10 points if you can prove your English language proficiency, and another 10 points if you have a relevant qualification.
This new points threshold means that it is more important than ever that you target the right field of work when pursuing a profession in the UK.
On all long-term visas, your partner and children can travel and stay in the UK with you. Your partner can work with very few restrictions while in the UK.
The UK recognises your husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner if you can prove a relationship of at least two years.
Children under 18 are considered dependents, as are children over 18 if they traveled with you to the UK before they turned 18. Children over 16 must not be married and must be financially supported by you to count as dependent.
In all cases, a separate application fee must be paid per person, and the Healthcare Surcharge must be paid per person.
If you bring your partner or dependents, this also increases the amount of funds you must demonstrate that you have available to support your family. In most cases, this is an additional £285 per month for your partner, £315 per month for your first child, and £200 per month for each additional child.
Anyone who travels to the UK on a long-term visa must pay the Healthcare Surcharge to help support the National Health Service. In return, you get the same access to healthcare in the UK as citizens. This means that most health services are free, but you still need to pay for things such as prescriptions and dental care.
You must pay the Healthcare Surcharge when you make your visa application. But unlike your application fee, this is refundable if your visa is not approved. You can also receive a partial refund if your visa was granted for less time than anticipated.
The Healthcare Surcharge is currently set at £624 per person per year. There is a reduced rate of £470 for individuals on a Student Visa, the Youth Mobility Scheme, and under 18s.
Don’t forget, once you arrive in the UK, there’s still plenty to do, like secure a National Insurance Number. Watch Absolutely Ashika explain the essential things you need to do once you arrive in the UK from India.
As is the case with most countries, you must live in the UK for an extended period of time before you can apply for permanent residence, which is called Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.
If you arrive in the UK on a work visa, you can expect to be eligible for ILR after five years. This period can be shorter depending on your visa. For example, you can apply after three years on the Global Talent Visa. If you are in the UK as the partner of a UK resident, you can apply for ILR after five years.
Some visas do not count towards the five years required to claim ILR, these include the Student Visa and the Graduate Visa. Time spent on these visas can only contribute to ILR after a period of 10 years, in combination with other visas.
Once you have had ILR in the UK for 12 months, you are eligible to apply for UK citizenship.
Is it worth moving to the UK from India?
The UK has long been a popular destination for Indian immigrants mainly thanks to good-quality healthcare and education. Many Indians also find it relatively easy to fit into the UK community due to English language proficiency and a well-established South Asian community.
Can I relocate to the UK from India without a job?
In most cases, you need a job or to be enrolled in a course of study to move from India to the UK. There are exceptions, one is the Youth Mobility Visa, which allows young Indians between the ages of 18-30 to come to the UK and look for work.
Which area is best for Indians to live in the UK?
If you are looking for plentiful job opportunities and a strong South Asian community, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Coventry, and Glasgow are the best cities for Indian migrants.
Are you ready to head to London or another beautiful city in the UK to study or start your dream job? EP Advisory has more than five years of experience offering personalised services to help you find the course, land the job, and get the visa!