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Briefing: UK immigration law and the British Crown Dependencies

Are you applying to stay in the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey?

This is one of the final questions asked at the submission stage for all UK residence visa applications. Immigration professionals will invariably select “no” and progress with submission. But for those independently making an application to enter or extend their stay in the UK, this question may be a stumbling block.

What are these territories listed? Why is this question being asked? If I select no, can I still visit the Isle of Man, Jersey, or Guernsey? What about living and working there? And how would saying yes impact my application?

In this post, we’ll try to answer those questions and provide an overview of UK immigration law as it applies to the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey — collectively known as the British Crown Dependencies.

What are the British Crown Dependencies?

The Crown Dependencies are three island territories located within the British Isles. They are not part of the United Kingdom, but are closely connected to it. Each territory is a separate jurisdiction: the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey contains three separate but overlapping jurisdictions: Alderney, Sark and Guernsey itself.

The territory covered by the two Bailiwicks is informally referred to as the Channel Islands, because it is made up of several islands in the English Channel near France. The Isle of Man is in the Irish Sea between the UK and Ireland. The three territories are sometimes referred to as “the Islands” in UK legislation.

The Crown Dependencies are each self-governing, have directly elected legislative assemblies, and their own legal systems and courts of law. All are outside the European Union. They are not represented in the UK’s parliament and are not recognised as independent sovereign states. However, the UK government does remain responsible for each Crown Dependency’s defence policies and foreign affairs.

As such, the Crown Dependencies are clearly not part of the UK and are fairly autonomous – but still remain closely linked to and dependent on the United Kingdom in many respects. This dependence also embraces immigration law. The Immigration Act of 1971 integrates each Crown Dependency’s immigration requirements to reflect those of the United Kingdom.

Why are the Crown Dependencies flagged up in UK visa applications?

It follows from their self-governing status that if you intend to live and work in one of the Crown Dependencies, submitting a UK visa application is the incorrect one to make. Each Crown Dependency has its own immigration processes and procedures for those wishing to work there, but their foundations lie in the Immigration Act 1971. In practice, the Crown Dependencies and the UK have similar, and in some cases identical, immigration requirements.

Schedule 4 of the Immigration Act 1971 explicitly integrates UK immigration law with that of each Crown Dependency. It says that applying for a visa to reside in one of the Crown Dependencies is as if you are applying for a UK visa. But this does not mean you are being granted a visa for entry or residence in the United Kingdom, only that it is being granted by the United Kingdom through its administrative and legislative processes.

The integration between the UK and the Crown Dependencies’ immigration requirements extend to applicable visa conditions. Any condition that would be attached to a UK visa (such as limited work permissions if directly sponsored by a company, and absolutely no recourse to public funds or benefits to name a few) would also apply to visas granted in the Crown Dependencies.

The Common Travel Area

The UK and the Crown Dependencies form part of a “Common Travel Area” with the Republic of Ireland, a separate and independent country. Each territory has its own immigration policies, but as UK governmental guidance puts it, each policy is based on an “overarching common approach that supports alignment”.

The concept of the Common Travel Area is to primarily facilitate the free movement of British and Irish citizens. People from the Crown Dependencies are considered British citizens, as they are covered by the British Nationality Act 1981.

As part of the Common Travel Area, there are no routine immigration controls between the UK and the Crown Dependencies. This is expressly outlined in section 1(3) of the Immigration Act 1971. It says that once you have been granted lawful entry to one territory, you are subsequently permitted to travel within the Common Travel Area.

As the government of the Isle of Man puts it, this free movement system:

means that an applicant who has entered the common travel area and who has been examined for the purpose of immigration control (for example in the UK) does not require leave to enter any other part of the common travel area. Simply, travel between the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom is an internal domestic journey and there is no separate immigration or other control. 

Nationalities listed in Appendix Visitor: Visa national list of the UK Immigration Rules need to apply for a visa in advance of their visit to the UK (and are referred to as “visa nationals”). Nationalities not listed are permitted to visit the UK without applying for a visa in advance of their trip (these are “non-visa nationals”). Either way, once a visa or non-visa national has lawfully entered the UK, they can then travel to the Crown Dependencies.

There are, of course, exceptions. These are outlined in section 9(4) of the Immigration Act 1971. Free movement and entry to the UK is not permitted if a person travelling from the Crown Dependencies is subject to a deportation order, had entered one of the Crown Dependencies illegally, was refused a visa to enter the UK, or if refusing entry is considered “conducive to the public good on grounds of national security”.

Can I visit the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey on a UK visa?

In short, if you have been granted with a UK visa, you do not need a separate visa to visit one of the Crown Dependencies. There is no immigration control between the UK and the Crown Dependencies, nor between the three islands themselves.

The same can be said if you have a visa from one of the Crown Dependencies – you are permitted to subsequently visit the United Kingdom. If you wish to live and work in the UK, you would need to apply for a separate and applicable UK visa.

For those who have submitted a ‘leave to remain’ visa application within the UK (for an extension of stay or indefinite leave to remain), it’s useful to note that you can still travel within the Common Travel Area before a decision has been made. 

Paragraph 34C of the UK Immigration Rules explicitly states that:

Where a decision on an application for permission to stay has not been made and the applicant travels outside the common travel area their application will be treated as withdrawn on the date the applicant left the common travel area.

In other words, if you travel outside the Common Travel Area once your leave to remain application has been submitted (and before it’s been decided), your visa application is considered as automatically withdrawn. This is important to note as the Home Office no longer retain immigration or travel documents once a visa applicant attends their biometric enrolment appointment. 

Many people independently submitting a ‘leave to remain’ application are unaware of this caveat. They wrongfully assume that because they haven’t submitted their passport and valid biometric residence permit, they can travel internationally whilst their visa application is pending. This is not the case. But travelling within the Common Travel Area is perfectly fine and will not withdraw an application.

How can I get a visa to live and work in one of the British Crown Dependencies?

If you intend to live and work in one of the Crown Dependencies, you must apply for the correct residence visa. If you meet the eligibility requirements to apply, you must be outside the UK and must attend your biometric enrolment appointment from a country of legal residence. A country of legal residence is your country of nationality, or where you’ve been issued with a residence (and not a temporary or short-term visitor) visa. Once you’ve been granted a visa from a Crown Dependency, you are also permitted to visit the UK.

Visa applications for the Crown Dependencies are applied for online via https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/country-selection

You can then select the applicable immigration category if you intend to work, study, join or accompany a family member. Once a selection has been made, a list of visa categories and their corresponding fees are outlined:

Once an application has been submitted and paid for, you can secure a biometric enrolment appointment through either TLS Contact or VFS Global.

Booking through either TLS or VFS is country specific – TLS Contact manages appointments in Europe, Africa, and parts of the Middle East; and VFS Global all other countries. These are third party commercial companies that have partnered with the Home Office to manage the administrative components to all entry clearance UK (and as we can see, Crown Dependency) visa applications.

It must be said that each Crown Dependency has its own visa eligibility requirements and mandatory supporting documents. In general, each Crown Dependency has the final say in granting or refusing an application.

There is no Immigration Health Surcharge requirement in the Crown Dependencies, as each has its own healthcare system. People generally have to pay for their own healthcare either directly or by obtaining private health insurance.

Applying for a visa to work in the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has its own Immigration Rules which, “whilst not identical to the UK Immigration Rules, are based on the UK Rules and are very similar”. The territory even produces its own “statements of changes” outlining any amendments made to their Rules — as is the case with the UK.

The Isle of Man currently offers 6 different work categories: the Worker Migrant route, the Worker ICT route, the Worker (Seasonal) route, the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker or Youth Mobility) route, and the Worker Migrant Health and Care visa route. 

The Isle of Man provides substantial guidance on how to apply under each category and which documents are required for submission.

Visa applications for immediate dependants (such as the spouse, long term unmarried partner, or children of a main applicant) must also be made via https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/country-selection  

Biometric residence permits are not issued by the Isle of Man, only visa labels as placed within one’s passport (also known as vignettes) for their full duration of stay.

  • Isle of Man – Read the guidance on eligibility, how long you can stay and the evidence you need to provide.

Applying for a visa to work in the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey (the Channel Islands)

Jersey and Guernsey also have their own sets of Immigration Rules. Home Office guidance describes the main differences between these and the UK Rules when it comes to work visas:

The Channel Islands have not introduced the PBS [Points Based System] but will recognise permission granted under the UK’s Minister of Religion and Youth Mobility Scheme only. All other employment routes are considered under their work permit scheme, by way of an online visa application.

The government of Jersey states that British and Irish citizens, alongside individuals with pre-settled or settled status as issued under the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) do not need to apply for a visa to enter, visit, work, study, or settle in Jersey. The government of Guernsey has similar requirements.

These immigration permissions directly reflect those of the UK’s Immigration Rules.

Biometric residence permits are not issued by the Channel Islands, only visa labels as placed within one’s passport (also known as vignettes) for their full duration of stay.

  • Jersey – Read the guidance on eligibility, how long you can stay and the evidence you need to provide.
  • Guernsey – Read the guidance on eligibility, how long you can stay and the evidence you need to provide.

Indefinite leave to remain and time spent in the British Crown Dependencies

As a final note, and an interesting one at that, if someone intends to apply for ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (also referred to as settlement or permanent residence) under Appendix Continuous Residence of the UK Immigration Rules, any time “lawfully” spent in the British Crown Dependencies is considered time spent in the UK (see paragraph CR 2.4 of the UK Immigration Rules).

CR 2.4. Any time the applicant spent lawfully in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man is treated for the purpose of this Appendix as time spent in the UK provided the applicant’s most recent grant of permission was in the UK.

UK settlement applications require a full outline (date of departure, date of return, and reason for travel) for all trips made outside the UK during one’s qualifying period. If someone was continuously resident in the UK under the Tier 2 General / Skilled Worker category and applied for settlement, the qualifying period would be 5 years.

In other words, lawfully visiting or residing in the British Crown Dependencies if you’ve been issued with a UK visa would not be considered an international ‘absence’ for the purpose of maintaining one’s continuous residence period in the UK.

This is especially useful to note if an applicant is on the cusp of reaching their maximum overseas travel limit and is ready for an adventure!

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Iman Kara-Ali

Iman Kara-Ali is a Senior Immigration Consultant at Deloitte. Iman has a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B Hons.) from City University London, and a Master of Laws (LL.M) from Leiden University.