Who is Exempt From UK Immigration Control?

Other Categories of UK Work Visas

Currently, there are over 31 different types of UK Work Visas that we can subdivide into 5 main categories:

  1. UK Work Visas without a Job Offer
  2. UK Work Visas with an Overseas Employer
  3. Temporary UK Work Visas
  4. UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK
  5. Other Categories of UK Work Visas

In this series of articles, you’ll get an overview of all these visa types that will help you understand the purpose of each visa route and decide if this route is for you.

In the PREVIOUS article, I’ve covered four UK Work Visa routes that were not included in any of the previous four categories:

5.1 International Sportsperson

5.2 Minister of Religion

5.3 Scale-up Worker

5.4 Frontier Worker

In this article, you’ll find out about

5.5 The Exempt category


5.5 Exempt category

Certain categories of applicants are exempt from UK Immigration control.  However, they are not British citizens and do not have a right of abode in the UK.

Who is Exempt?

Category 1

Who is Exempt From UK Immigration Control?
Who is Exempt From UK Immigration Control?

The obvious category includes Sovereigns, Heads of State or Heads of ex-Reigning Houses, who are personae gratae to His Majesty’s Government (HMG), whether travelling officially or privately.  Members of their family forming part of their household and their private servants are also exempt from immigration control.

All people on an official state visit to attend the Head of State will also be exempt from immigration control.  However, this does not include journalists and businessmen.

Category 2

The second category of those excluded from UK immigration control includes members of the diplomatic, administrative, technical and service staff and career consular officers of States recognised by HMG.

What is unique for the exempt category is that children aged 18 and up to their 25th birthday may also qualify if they are in full-time education.  They will need to show an intention to study in the UK at a registered educational institute licensed under the points-based system.  The child will need to intend to complete their studies before their 25th birthday.

Category 3

Those travelling to the UK as a matter of policy, diplomats travelling through the UK to or from a country where they are accredited will also be exempt.

Category 4

The next exempt category includes Serving Government Ministers (or equivalent, such as Governor Generals) of states recognised by HMG travelling to the UK on the official business of their government.

Posts may issue two-year exempt vignettes to people in this category.  Family members forming part of their household are also exempt from immigration control.  Members of their household include, but are not limited to, spouses, civil partners and children under 18.

Category 5

You can also be exempt if you are an employee of a certain international organisation based or with offices in the UK.  This is provided you have been recruited overseas.

Here  you’ll find a list of International organisations whose employees qualify for exempt entry clearances.

Category 6

Exempt category 6 includes other people forming part of the official party or delegation of (e) Serving Government Ministers or equivalent and (f) Employees of International Organisations, for example, civil servants, secretaries, and interpreters.

Category 7

If you are a Commonwealth or Overseas Territories citizen and have been selected for training in the UK Armed Services, you can also be exempt from UK Immigration control.

The Ministry of Defence will normally confirm to Posts directly that you have been selected.  However, your dependents will not be exempt from immigration control.

Category 8

You can claim an exemption if you are a member of the Commonwealth and NATO armed forces.  However, that is provided that you are a citizen of the participating country.

You will qualify if you were posted for service in the UK or attending training courses either at a military establishment or with a UK firm.  In this case, you will get an exempt vignette valid for the period of the training or posting.

Your dependent spouse and dependent children will not be exempt from immigration control and will need to apply for entry clearance separately.

Category 9

The next category of those exempt from immigration control include people serving or posted for service as a member of an international headquarters or defence organisation.

Category 10

Who is Exempt From UK Immigration Control?
Who is Exempt From UK Immigration Control?

People accepted as arms control personnel under the Vienna Document 1992 (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe) and the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty 1992 will also be exempt from UK Immigration control.

The main issuing post for issuing these exemptions is Vienna.  People in this category should get an exempt vignette valid for two years.

If you belong to any of the above exempt categories, you do not need prior entry clearance, even if your country is on the Visa National List.

You do not submit your biometrics either.

Also, applications in this unique immigration category cannot be refused under the provisions of the Immigration Rules.  This is because those applying in the exempt category will not be subject to UK legislation.

Any decision to deny an exempt vignette will be under the provisions of the relevant international framework, such as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 https://legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/conventions/9_1_1961.pdf

In very rare circumstances, when the decision-maker feels that the applicant is not entitled to the exemption vignette, they should include detailed reasons why they felt that the diplomat or their dependant should not be provided with an exempt vignette.

Who is Exempt From UK Immigration Control?