How to Relocate to Scotland

 

welcome

 

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?

 

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

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

arrgh
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:
https://www.gov.uk/ancestry-visa
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_Ancestry_Entry_Clearance
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
https://www.gov.uk/tier-1-entrepreneur

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 www.scotclans.com with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

View all posts by Amanda Moffet →

70 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

    Reply
      • Sean

        The United States of America is not on this list. I assume that means that I would not be able to get an ancestry visa even though i fit all the other requirements? Would i be able to appeal for a visa anyway?

        Reply
        • Sean

          My grandmother was born in Scotland and immigrated to America as a young woman. I am able to provide her birth certificate to prove it.I do not have much family left and most of them live in Scotland. I am just wondering if it would be possible for me to still acquire this visa or if my best bet would be the Youth Mobility Scheme.

          Reply
  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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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 .. ‘

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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?

    Reply
    • Amanda Moffet

      You would need to be a dependant of a husband working in the UK, so think your husband would need to move here first then you come over with Spouse Visa. Then think you have to be here for 5 years before applying for full UK residency. https://www.1stcontact.com/visas/uk-visas/partner-visas
      There may be extra work if you were married outside the UK your marriage needs to be recognised here.
      I think there may also be a certain amount of money a spouse has to earn to settle here. Immigration rules that require a Briton to be earning a minimum amount before they can bring a non-EU spouse to the UK.
      Lots of info here: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/move-to/move-to-uk/

      Reply
    • Richard Mullin

      Hi Ursula
      Our family is pretty much in the exact same boat as yours.
      I was born in Scotland but my wife was born in Zim and has a South African passport. ( Our kids have British passports )
      I was wondering if you have gone ahead with the whole spousal visa and how it went?
      Any advice appreciated
      cheers
      Richard

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • Gail Hardy

      I’m with you, Leanne. My great grandfather and his wife were both from Scotland (Lanarkshire) and married in Chicago. He helped run the Peabody Coal mines in Illinois according to my mother. I’ve wished for years that it had been my grandfather who came over.

      Reply
  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

    Reply
  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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  9. Sandy McLachlan

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

    Reply
  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
    .

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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

    Reply
  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?
    Thanks
    McMurdol

    Reply
  14. Kevin McMillan

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

    Reply
  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!)!

    Reply
  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?
    Thanks
    Jason

    Reply
  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?

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  19. colleen

    So I have an American Passport, I live in Paris, Fr. But my grandparents were born in Scotland. Can I still qualify for the Ancestory Visa?

    Reply
  20. Oluwafemi jegede

    Hello Amanda
    I like to relocate to Scotland,I live in Germany and I have a German nationality.mean I am EEA member,but I don’t know which type of visa do I need?
    Thanks

    Reply
  21. Melissa Lindsay

    I Actually have a few questions, My mother’s mother who was born in 1931 in Glasgow , moved here when she was about 17, Myself and my husband are both scottish decent and live in the United States, we are looking to relocate us and our 2 kids to Scotland, which visa would we have to apply for? We are looking to make a permanate move from the states to Scotland.

    Reply
  22. Melissa Lindsay

    and my other question is, how hard would the transition be for my children this is a long term decsion our daughter is 12 and our son is 3, we truly want the best for them but we dont want to make a huge decision if it will affect the kids but they deserve to see where their families come from as well as the beauty of the country

    Reply
  23. Sarah

    Hi. I live in Australia and left Morayshire 14 years ago. Born in UK. Would I need significant savings to return as a permanent resident of Morayshire? What’s the required amount? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  24. Patricia

    Hallo.

    I live in South Africa and my family has been part of South Africa for many generations. My Fiance and i are looking to relocate to Scotland but have NO idea how to do it and what we need. I am currently studying Financial Accounting and he does air-conditioning.

    What type of visa would we need to live and work in Scotland and maybe have our family there as well?

    Your advice would be appreciated.

    Thank You

    Reply
  25. Teri Neckel

    We live in Florida USA and want to retire to Scotland…buy a small home and live off our US social security, pensions and savings. is this possible? Would we still have t return home every 6 months or could we apply for a longer stay visa? And how about Medical Care?
    thanks for your help any information would be appreciated. We are both USA citizens.
    Teri

    Reply
  26. Jean

    My husband and I are looking to take a trip as his grandparents were born in Scotland (historical exploration) two of the castles out there were in his family clan. From reading this web page he would be deemed as a Scottish Citizen, is that correct? We are retired in Canada and it would be fascinating and fun to obtain citizenship, but would I, as his wife be permitted to reside with him if he was a citizen?

    Reply
  27. Deborah Wilbanks

    I have no Scottish ancestry (maybe UK – Wilbanks) but not within two generations. I work with blood transfusion, non-crossmatched products, in a large hospital. Looks like my best bet might be a kidney donation…..easier than a spouse.

    Reply
  28. shelly

    My ancestors who were forced out of Scotland years ago and I cannot imagine what their struggles were like. Just finding out that I’m 75% Scottish and 25% Great Britain, Am I welcomed back to where my blood belongs???

    Reply
  29. Cydni Kelly

    Hello:) thanks for the heads,
    i just wanted to ask i have a British passport as my father is from Scotland.
    i am looking into migrating to Edinburgh from south Africa, but cant seem to find anything about how to do so with the correct passport.

    Reply
  30. Nikky Page

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for the great information. I am an Australian woman aged 54 years still working, and my partner is 36 years and working but not earning as much. Neither of us has a grandparent who was Scottish. I have a Great grandparent who was Scottish though. We have 3 fur children too (indoor cats) that we could not leave behind. We were thinking about buying a house there and moving permanently to live. Is there any chance for us? What would we need to do?
    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.
    Nikky

    Reply
  31. Caroline Louise

    Hi Amanda (mum almost named me that!)! My mother was born in Edinburgh. She came over to NYC during WWII when she was a young teen- finished high school in the States until the War was over and then went home. But the returning soldiers taking the Uni spots and the lack of food and jobs just made her want to return to New York. She did, where she met my father. They married, in 1949, but he was paranoid that she would be deported, for some reason, and made her give up her British citizenship. They divorced in 1967 and she got remarried to another American. She’s now 89 and is still in New York but, sadly, in the throes of dementia. There would be no way she could get her citizenship back– it would be too confusing for her. And I’m not sure she’d want to- as she might lose her Social Security retirement benefits(?) So, why I’m asking, anyway, isn’t for her: it’s for myself. As the child of a Scottish mother, I’d like to know if I can get dual citizenship even though mum gave up her citizenship because my father made her? (My father is deceased.) It’s incredibly frustrating if I can’t. My mum is from Scotland! I want to move there! Why can’t I? I haven’t been able to get any answers from the British Embassy in NYC because they say I have to go in person and make an appointment and I currently reside 1000 miles away in Minneapolis! Thank you SO MUCH for any assistance!

    Reply
  32. Shanna

    Wondering if you can assist me. I am South African and my grandmother was born in Burma.
    Her father was stationed there to my knowledge. Both her father and mother were Scottish.
    She has been in s.Africa since around 2 years old. She doesnt have her scottish passport but would be happy to obtain it if it would help me. Is there anyway i could get an ancestral visa through her?

    Reply
  33. Sherry Morrison

    How far back to they require a grandparent to be? My 5th Great Grandfather was Alisdair McGillivray, who in 1745, fought for The Bonnie Prince Charlie as the General, and died in the Battle of Colluden. There is still a monument marking the spot where he died to this day. I believe it is in Loch Ness. I would have to go back and read my notes to be sure.
    Would that qualify me to be elligible for a visa?

    Reply
  34. rohail

    Good morning
    I want your assistance that I was adopted in Glasgow in 1970 and then was forced to leave Pakistan and living here since them ,however my step father and mother who were my uncle and aunty has died recently ,can I apply for ancestor visa or so and also for the in heritage property etc. Plz.

    Reply
  35. Amalia Vasquez

    Hi Ms. Amanda,

    I hope this email finds you well. I have a favour to ask about my job offer from the prestigious hospital in UK. One thing I want to know in the package which includes the processing fee UK Work Permit visa, is it the responsibility of the job applicant? It is written in the contract that the HR Dept will be responsible for the processing including other related documents. Please advised. Thank you for your time.

    Reply
    • Amanda Moffet Post author

      You will need to speak to the company offering you employment to find out if they are completely organising your visa for you or just helping and paying, this does need to all be set up before coming here.

      Reply
  36. Miranda Davidson

    Hi Amanda,
    My husband is Scottish and has been in South Africa for 50 years. We have been married for 30 years. I am South African and would like to know if I need a special visa to live in Scotland. We are both retired and want to know. My husband gets a British pension and would like to know whether his pension will increase according to the British scale as we live in a commonwealth country and his pension has never increased. Will we be entitled to NHS? Should my Husband pass away before me “Will I be thrown out of the country.” he is 84 and I am 70. We do intend to buy our own home and not expect charity. My main reason for wanting to go to Scotland is that we white people are not safe in South Africa.

    Reply
    • Amanda Moffet Post author

      Hi
      If your husband didn’t give up his British Citizenship then it should be straight forward if you can financially support yourselves. Is he still a British National? He may need to do things like the Habitual Residence Test.
      Your tax/NI has been paid in South Africa so the pension (i think) would have to be transferred to the UK. But if he’s worked in the UK then a pension may be due.
      To qualify for financial help it’s all means tested so goes on savings etc. To get non-emergency NHS hospital treatment you need to prove evidence you are an ‘ordinarily resident’ in the United Kingdom or you can get charged.
      A spouse visas will be needed for yourself.
      Accommodation would need to be paid for by yourselves.

      Reply
  37. Alipasha Geramifard

    Hi Amanda,
    I hope you can help me a little and give me some Ideas about my situation.
    I am a 41 Y.O Mechanic engineer with about 15 years of experience in project planning and management in fields of oil, gas and petrochemical construction and equipment fabrication projects. My wife is teaching at the university as a Ph.D. member of the chemical engineering faculty. we live in Iran and I believe that Scotland would be a good choice for migration but we have no relatives there to guide us on this matter. I just wanted to know if there is a suitable type of visa or application method in order to help us move to this country.
    I’ll be very glad to have your guidance.
    Best
    Pasha

    Reply

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