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Briefing: UK immigration law and the British Crown Dependencies

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Author-Iman Kara-Ali

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

Immigration professionals often come across this question at the submission stage of various UK visa applications. Invariably we check “no” and carry on.

But you might, on occasion, take a moment to ponder what a short weekend break to the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey would actually look like. You open a new tab on your web browser and begin sliding through an assortment of majestic photographs of each island. You open another tab and look into the pretty reasonable flight prices. Before you know it, there’s a whole holiday and itinerary planned.

Then reality strikes, the daydream comes to an abrupt end, and you’re back to reality and faced with the Immigration Health Surcharge portal. The endless battle with third party visa processing websites begins anew.

But pseudo-holiday planning aside, for those who are 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 one is a separate jurisdiction: the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and the Isle of Man. In addition, the Bailiwick of Guernsey actually 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 do want to live and work in one of the Crown Dependencies, making 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 for one of the Crown Dependencies is as if you are applying for a UK visa. But this does not mean that you are being granted a visa for entry or residence in the UK, only that it is being granted by the United Kingdom through the UK’s administrative and legislative processes.

The integration between the UK and the Crown Dependencies’s immigration requirements extend to applicable visa conditions. Any condition attached to a UK visa (such as the police registration requirement, limited work permissions, and absolutely no recourse to public funds) would also apply to visas granted in the Crown Dependencies.

The Common Travel Area

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

The concept of the Common Travel Area is primarily to facilitate the free movement of British and Irish citizens. (People from the Crown Dependencies are British, 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 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 Isle of Man government puts it, the 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 2 of Appendix V (Visitors) of the Immigration Rules need to apply for a visa in advance of their travel to the UK (and are referred to as “visa nationals”). Nationalities not listed in Appendix 2 are permitted to travel to the UK without getting a visa in advance (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 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?

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In short, if you have been granted 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, however, you would need to apply for a separate UK visa.

For those submitting a UK visa application “in country” (for an extension of stay in the UK, for example), it’s useful to note that you can still travel within the Common Travel Area before a decision has been made. Unlike other trips outside the UK, travelling within the Common Travel Area will not automatically withdraw your already submitted visa application.

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

Where proof of identity provided under paragraph 34(5) has been returned to the applicant pending a decision on their application for leave to remain and the applicant travels outside the common travel area their application for leave to remain shall, provided that it has not been determined, be treated as withdrawn on the date that the applicant left the common travel area.

In other words, the date an applicant travels outside the Common Travel Area after submitting a visa application is the date their visa application is considered as automatically withdrawn. Many people applying for an extension of their UK visa are unaware of this, and assume that because they have retained their passport and (valid) biometric residence permit, they can leave the UK while their visa application is pending. This is not the case. But travelling within the Common Travel Area is perfectly fine and will not have that effect.

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 eligible to apply, you may do so from within the UK or outside it. Once you have been granted a visa to live in one of the Crown Dependencies, you are also permitted to visit the UK.

Visa applications for the Crown Dependencies are applied for using either the Home Office’s Access UK portal, or the Visa4UK website. They are then processed by UK Visa Application Centres — but each Crown Dependency has its own eligibility requirements and required mandatory 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 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 does not offer Tier 2 work visas; it has its own work visa programme. Unlike their UK equivalent, these visas are only granted for three years rather than five.

When applying for a work visa, the applicant will also require an endorsed “Confirmation of Employment” document from their prospective employer, similar to an assigned Certificate of Sponsorship in the UK.

If you intend to apply for a visa to work in the Isle of Man, you will need to secure a Confirmation of Employment and then complete an online visa application form via Visa4UK, selecting either the “Isle of Man Worker Migrant” or the “Isle of Man Worker (Intra-Company Transfer) Migrant” category.

Once completed and paid for, you would then submit your biometric data and any supporting documents (including your valid passport for the visa) at a UK Visa Application Centre.

Visa applications for dependants (such as the spouse of the main applicant and any dependent children) should also be made through Visa4UK.

Biometric residence permits are not issued by the Isle of Man, only visa vignettes (visa labels placed within a passport) for the full duration of stay.

Applying for a visa to work in the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey

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 points-based system (PBS) but will recognise Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) only. All other employment routes are considered under their work permit scheme.

The government of Jersey has a helpful list of people who do not need a permit to work there under its system:

  • a British citizen or a British subject with the right of abode
  • a national of a member state of the European Union (EU) / European Economic Area (EEA)
  • a non-EEA family member of an EEA national may also work without a permit but must obtain an EEA family permit before entering Jersey
  • a Swiss national
  • a Commonwealth citizen admitted on the grounds of UK ancestry
  • a Commonwealth citizen with a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode
  • a participant in the Youth Mobility Scheme
  • a minister of religion
  • a business visitor
  • a non EU / EEA passport holder who has no restrictions attached to your stay

If you intend to apply for a visa to live and work in one of the Channel Islands, you will need to:

  1. Have your prospective employer submit a work permit application on your behalf.
  2. Complete an online visa application form via Access UK by selecting the “Visit, study, work or settle in certain British Crown dependencies, Commonwealth countries or British overseas territories” category (see image A below).
  3. Select the appropriate sub category and territory to progress in completing your application form (image B below).
  4. Once completed and paid for, you would then submit your biometric data and any supporting documents (including your valid passport for the visa) at a UK Visa Application Centre.

Image A

Image B

Biometric residence permits are not issued by the Channel Islands, only visa vignettes (visa labels placed within a passport) for the full duration of stay.

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 known as settlement) under the UK Immigration Rules, any time “lawfully” spent in the British Crown Dependencies is considered time spent in the UK (see paragraphs 245AAA(e) and 319E(d)(iii) of the UK Immigration Rules).

In other words, lawfully visiting or residing in the British Crown Dependencies would not be considered absences out of the UK, and would not break one’s continuous residence period.

This is especially useful if an applicant is on the cusp of reaching their travel limit overseas but is desperate for a holiday.


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