How to Relocate to Scotland




Recently we’ve been getting asked a lot about how to move to Scotland to live so we thought we’d put together a bit of a helpful guide. Maybe the pipes are calling you home?




Scotland compared with other places does not have many people – we only have around 5.5 million people and about 70% of these people live in the central belt and the lowlands.  Glasgow has the highest population, followed by Edinburgh.
I have heard Edinburgh described as a ‘truly cosmopolitan town’ – this is a perfect description.  It doesn’t feel like a city, and is a wonderful mix of people from different countries.

Unless you are moving from a very expensive city like New York the cost of living here is high.  Our houses tend to be a lot smaller and have less space around them.

We are not that religious, and those who are tend to be very quiet about it.   30% of people here are church of scotland, 15% catholic, 5.5% other christian, 1.5% Islam.   Around 36% of Scotland say they have no religion.

Move for the right reasons – Scotland is not Kilted Celtic Pirates

There is a bizarre image that gets portrayed of Scotland. Attending games in the US we see this a lot – the celtic kilted pirate. Seeing the skull and cross bones flag flying next to the saltire is a confusing one, buxom women in basques and gents with kilts and pirate sabres. Bit of a confused mixture of Walt Disney, Willam Wallace – Mel Gibson version and Captain Jack Sparrow.
Scotland is not like this so would be a bit of a shock for someone thinking it was.

So … still want to relocate – here’s some help

We should start by saying – the rules of visas change constantly so please check up.  The number one rule with visas is you have to get these before you enter Scotland.  Do not come to Scotland and try to apply for the correct visa.  You’ll waste a lot of money

Applying for this visa is quite stressful and expensive but once it’s done that feeling must be amazing. It’s going to take at least 5 years of doing various visas and extensions to be able to apply for indefinite residency and become a citizen. Then you can officially get the accent 🙂

Visa Confusion

Now I will try and talk you through the different visas.
A basic vistors visa allows you to travel around Scotland and the UK for up to 6 months. You are not allowed to work on this visa and have to return home to apply for different visa.

No Visa for Retiring

Retiring to Scotland is understandably appealing. When I think of retiring –  it’s on a Scottish island with a peat fire, maybe a bit of knitting. Sadly no actual retirement visas exists – this was stopped in 2008. You could only maybe come over as a dependant of a family member living in Scotland otherwise I don’t know how you can do it for longer than 6 months.

Ancestry Visa

If you are a citizen of a Commonwealth country and have a grandparent who was born in the UK (this includes the Republic of Ireland if born before 1922 as it was then part of the UK), you can apply for a visa to live and work in Scotland and the rest of the UK. This visa lasts five years. For this visa you must have the intention to undertake work, as well as showing that you have enough money to support yourself in Scotland.
You do not need a job offer for an Ancestry Visa, just to prove that you are looking for work. You can come in on this visa if you’re studying full-time as long as you are also working part-time. An Ancestry Visa would allow you to study in the UK but you would have to pay the International fees. Remember you are not a citizen while on an Ancestry Visa – this has to be applied for afterwards.

To apply you need birth certificates for your UK born grandparent (it doesn’t have to be Scotland). Also funds – in your bank account you’ll need £1200 – £1600, 90 days prior to your date of application.

Dependants have to apply to join you from outside the UK.

Cost: £405
Length of visa: 5 years
more info:
After visa:  you can apply to extend or stay permanently. £811 – £1,311 to extend

Get a job offer – so invited to Scotland

These are looked at case by case.
An employer would normally sponsor the works visa.  If single the employer needs to show that the job can not be offered to someone within the same country – how this person is uniquely qualified for this job that they have to bring them in from another country. If you have studied within the UK this can be easier. If not this is quite a hard process to go through.

If one person of a married couple from the US gets offered a job in Scotland you have to show that the job is the dominant job in the family (so highest paying). Then the spouse comes as a ‘dependant’. The dependant has to be granted the visa before coming to the UK.

No job offer – but are bringing a business to Scotland

For this you can apply for a Entrepreneur’s Visa. This is for people who want to set up or run a business in the UK. The big hurdle with this one is you need access to at least £50,000 investment funds to apply. It costs around 1.2k and you can only stay for 3 years and 4 months. After this you can apply for a 2 year extension. Like other visas after 5 years you can apply for indefinite settlement and become a citizen

Youth Mobility Scheme

If you come from certain countries, are aged between 18 and 30 and have £1,890 in savings, you may be eligible to apply for a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa. This visa will last for up to two years and will allow you to live and work in the UK during this time.

I want to invest in Scotland

If you are going to make an investment of £2,000,000 or more into Scotland, you can apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa.

Marrying a UK citizen

Firstly visas need to be applied for before leaving your country.

Applying for a visa before you are married.
A marriage visa only allows you to marry in Scotland not live there. A separate spouse visa needs to be applied for once married. A marriage visa allows you 6 months to get married. Then when you are married you get an allowance of 30 days to stay in Scotland. After that a spouse visa needs to be applied for – you will most likely have to return to your home country and apply for this there.

A marriage visa costs around £85

The spouse visa will allow you 2 1/2yrs residency in Scotland, you are applying “To join family living permanently in the UK” as a SPOUSE. You have to apply for this visa outside the UK. Then after the 2 1/2yrs you have to apply again (so 5 years in total) then you can apply for citizenship. Before this 5 year point it’s like a probationary period where you are not a citizen so have to cover health care and prove you can support yourself. It’s a 70 page form you need to fill in.

If you marry a UK citizen outside the UK and plan to live in the UK then the marriage has to be recognised within the UK.

You can not just marry in the UK without a visa.

You have to wait 5 years to get a Full UK Residency.

You have to answer various things – like how much your spouse earns and show bank accounts also have to do a 15 minute English test to show you know the language.

So there you have it – like most countries applying for residency is difficult but not impossible. With our impending exit from the EU there will be inevitable changes, the small matter of Scottish Independence is still a consideration, given that the Scottish government is more open to immigration than the UK as a whole (as a country we desperately need to build our young workforce to keep tax revenues flowing). It’s entirely possible that if Scotland became independent or if immigration became a devolved issue we could see a considerable change in these regulations. lets just see…

Scotland is an open, diverse, multicultural, and welcoming country. (in our opinion and experience) We welcome those who share these values…. just leave the cutlass and eyepatch at home 🙂

About Amanda Moffet

I run with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

View all posts by Amanda Moffet →

38 thoughts on “How to Relocate to Scotland

  1. noel cathey

    oh my gooooodnesss! so much to learn– hmmmmm ok lots to think about just the matter of a 70 page form to fill out is a reasonable reason to get a lawyer,,,,,, maybe just buy a house and live there 6mo at a time? hmmmm tu i think america is realllly looking at other countries due to many situations of politics etc,,,,,, 2017-2021—- hmmmm- thank you. for all the info— u are awesome

  2. Angela Barrie

    Hello Amanda,

    Thank you for that very informative article on How to Relocate to Scotland.

    My situation is not mentioned in the article and I wondered if you could tell me what the rules are for people who were born in Scotland (1958) but emigrated to a commonwealth country at age 2 with Scottish parents?
    I have vacationed in Scotland and sometimes think I’d like to return for extended vacations or stays but don’t know if being born there but having a Canadian citizenship would mean a difficult Visa process, or which Visa would be the applicable one to go for?

    Any info you can pass along would be much appreciated, or a website you would recommend perhaps?

    Many thanks,
    Angela Barrie
    Montreal, Canada

    • Elizabeth Fraser

      I think you are still technicaly a British Citizen too unless you actively give up your citizenship but you should probably check with the British Embassy in Canada or something like that.

    • M

      Good news. You were born in Scotland as so are already a dual UK / Canadian citizen. You don’t need a visa. Instead, you can apply for a UK Passport. And yes, you can hold both a UK and Canadian passport simultaneously.

    • Sir Randall Paul

      Angela, wi the information me got from kin in scot government if ye were born there an hiv yer scottish birth certificate ye are a citizen there.. call tha scottish consolate and ask them how ye can go there .. ‘

    • Amanda Moffet

      You’ll need to find out if you have renounced your British citizenship. This may not be the case – if not you can just apply for a British passport. Canada and the UK accept dual citizenship – meaning you can be both. Some Countries insist you give up any other citizenship.

  3. Ursula Hay

    Hi, my husband was born in Scotland ( we are in South Africa) and has a British passport and so does my son
    But I only have South Africa passport. We would like to relocate to Scotland. What visa would I need to get and do I need this before I do my job search?

  4. Leanne

    Kills me that I’m one generation away for the ancestry one. Both my paternal great-grandparents were born in the U.K. And one also went back and passed away/was buried there.

  5. Gary Alba Kelly

    Scots clan seriously we as Scots welcome awe nations with open arms find your comment on immigration offensive to my fellow Scots patriots and the refuweegies and the rest around Alba this a know I’m right remove this feed thus miss represents my nation Saor Alba Gu Brath

  6. Gary Alba Kelly

    Ps Scots clans we the clans noo happy to live under a British rule the clans fought out numbered I’m many battles this sight miss represents my nation as we awe know yes vote was rigged to loss you’ve also stated leaving the UE so obviously this site miss represents my clans and many more this concern will be raised this site is gonna look rather stupid now pointless removing post has been copied and posted in awe clan group a represent and pages on Facebook this we will not accept as Sovereign Scots actually raging ere a smell sassanchs in ere or either some other nation trying to milk oor Scottish reritsge yours faithfully Gary Alba Kelly patriot

    • Amanda Moffet

      I think you mean EU. Sassanach is a term for a lowlander Scot – you are trying to type as a lowlander — bit confused by your comment. Scotland is very split about the vote for Independence, just over half the people living in Scotland voted to remain a part of the Union. I’m not sure what this has to do with this article though. This article is about how to relocate to Scotland – what visas can be applied for.

  7. Diane Moffat

    My grandparents were born and married in Scotland, but they moved to Canada. I am just curious as to where I would find an application form in order to start the process of applying for citizenship? Thank you

  8. John Griffith

    I was born in Edinburgh in 1944 but have lived the majority of my life in Canada if I wanted to retire back to Scotland what would be required.

  9. Sandy McLachlan

    My mother was born in Scotland and came to the US when she was 2, can I apply for dual citizenship?

  10. Angela monckton

    My father was born in scotland his parents lived thier my maiden name is Robertson i would love to live in scotland but i am a coucil tennant is there any chance

  11. Carol Urquhart

    Last year, I received both my citizenship, and then my passport for the UK. My mother was born in Scotland, and I am first generation Canadian. With both citizenship and passport, can I just move to the UK and retire there? If I decide to work there, do I need a work visa? I cannot find direct answers to these questions. Thanks for your help.

    • Amanda Moffet

      Think you can – if you are a citizen. Don’t need a works visa if you are a citizen. I don’t know about state pensions as you would have had to paid into the UK tax system.
      “All British citizens automatically have right of abode in the UK.” No visa required.

  12. Ken McAlpine

    I was born in Glasgow (19 Malcolm st,parkhead ) Scotland,I would like to return to Scotland to live with my New Zealander wife,what would be involved,thanks ken McAlpine

  13. McMurdo Smith

    I was born in Scotland moved to the USA with my parents. I became a US citizen. Am retired now and would like to move back. Is it possible?

  14. Kevin McMillan

    I was born in Irvine in 1964 , emigrated in 73 to Canada , what would I need to do to relocate “home” ?

  15. Michael A. Fitch

    On part 2 of the spousal part. Lots of paperwork and make sure you have lots of money. Total cost till it’s all done in 2019, about £5,500.00 (That’s pounds!)!

  16. Jason Pontes

    Hi, my great grandfather was born in Scotland, and moved to South Africa, where my Grandfather was born. My grandfather worked on the mail ships between Liverpool and Cape Town, and I believe had a Scottish passport. My mother never obtained a Scottish/UK passport. Is there anyway I could apply for an ancestral visa? I would pay medical upfront ffor the 5 years for my family and myself, and we would work to support ourselves?

  17. Scott Ference

    My husband and I have been together for 13 years and only got married earlier this year. He is a British citizen who has been living in the US since he was 13 with a Permanent Resident Green card. I am a US citizen. While his immediate family (mother, father, siblings) all live in the US, all of his aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. still live in England.

    We want to move to Edinburgh in a couple years so we are researching now. I am trying to find out if I will be able to move there on a Spouse Visa since he is still a British citizen or will the fact that he’s lived in the US since he was 13 not allow that?

  18. CCarlin

    someone commented that you could basically buy a house and stay there every six months, is that even an option? I am concerned about not being able to get a work visa, and am seriously interested in relocation.


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