Immigration into the UK now falls into two broad areas – employment and business related migration and family or personal migration.
The Points-Based System manages business and sponsored migration and is aimed at improving the transparency of the UK immigration system. The system is broken down into five tiers covering highly-skilled and post study workers; company sponsored migrants; students and temporary workers. Under the Points-Based System the majority of applications involve a dual process, with elements undertaken in both the UK and in the applicant's country of ordinary residence. For individuals already in the UK, some switching between the various tiers is possible; however initial applications are usually made from outside of the UK.
Family and personal migration commonly includes applications for spouses of UK residents; aged dependent relatives of UK residents and those with ancestral ties to the UK. Applications of this type almost exclusively need to be made in the applicant's country of residence, overseas. Whilst some categories have residence-based qualifying criteria to secure permanent residency, others may confer this status immediately.