If you’ve come to the UK to study and have had a wonderful time and would like to stay on, here are some ideas that may help you choose what you wish to do next.
First of all, you have to complete your studies as from 17 July 2023 you cannot change into a work-related route before you have finished your course.
You may also consider continuing studies in the UK. You may be able to extend your student visa in the UK depending on the gap between the end date of your current visa and the start date of the new course. You should keep it in mind that Student visa does not normally lead to settlement (right to remain in the UK permanently). But the time you spend in the UK as a student counts towards entitled to indefinite leave to remain under the Long residence rule. This rule allows you to apply for indefinite leave to remain if you have lived lawfully in the UK for a continuous period of ten years.
You are probably aware that you are not allowed to stay in the UK for more than five years studying at degree level or below. This does not include the time you may have spent in the UK studying as a child before you turned 18. There are also some exceptions to this rule, such as for students of medicine, law, music or architecture. And there is no time limit for studying at PhD level. But unless you studied in the UK as a child and then progressed to a university, you are unlikely to study in the UK for a continuous period of ten years and you will have to consider further options.
Being resident in the UK for a continuous period of 10 years does not mean you cannot leave the country, but there are a few rules worth noting if this option is of interest:
- You should not be out of the country for more than 540 days in the relevant 10-year period
- Absences of more than six months interrupt continuity of residence
- If you leave the country with a valid visa and return with a new visa within six months, continuity of residence is not interrupted
- If you overstay your visa even by one day, continuity of residence is interrupted, unless you were granted extension of leave to remain while still in the UK
If you believe you may qualify for settlement on the basis of long residence, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to confirm your entitlement. An immigration lawyer will make sure that you have not wasted the opportunity.
Best options to stay in the UK on completion of studies
This is available to all UK graduates from qualifying universities at a degree level or above. If you have successfully completed your course before you Student visa expired, your will have the option to extend your stay for a further two years, or three years if you have studied at PhD level.
With the Graduate visa you will have the right to work in the UK and explore all options open to you. The benefit of the Graduate route is its unlimited flexibility. You can work as much or as little as you like and you can set yourself up as a freelancer or start a business.
The disadvantage is that, same as the student route, Graduate visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain – unless you’re relying on the long residence rule described above.
You can switch into sponsored employment route before expiry of your Graduate visa and if you have started your own business and have settled employees working for you, your own business may be in a position to offer you sponsored employment.
Three work permitting routes to settlement to consider after studies
These are two sponsored routes require a job offer from an employer who acts as a sponsor and therefore has to have a sponsorship licence in the required category. You can switch to either of these two routes from a Student visa after completing your studies or you can take up the Graduate route first and then switch into the skilled worker or the scale-up worker route.
Both these routes allow you to qualify for indefinite leave to remain after five years. If you rely on these five years as the qualifying period you do not have to worry about the total number of days you were absent from the UK, but you have to make sure that you are not out of the UK for more than 180 days in any 12 months. If you want to sit on the fence and keep both long residence and sponsored worker options open for an ILR application, you have to bear in mind that the rules about absences for these immigration options are different and meeting the requirements for one does not guarantee that you meet the requirements for the other.
You may qualify for indefinite leave to remain under the long residence rule, i.e. having reached 10 years of lawful residence, before you qualify for indefinite leave to remain under the 5-year route as a worker. In this case, you can apply earlier, but if you have dependants in the UK, this may set the clock back for them.
Global talent is another option open to you if you are a potential leader in academia, arts and culture or digital technology. This route does not require sponsorship from an employer but you may need an endorsement from an approved endorsing body unless you are the winner of one of those prestigious prizes which allow you to apply for the Global Talent visa without an endorsement.
Global Talent in Research and Academia is a wonderful option if you are a key player in a project funded by one of the approved bodies. Eligible grant has to be for not less than £30,000 and cover a period of at least 2 years of which one has to remain at the time of application. This route is available both for PhD graduates but also for researchers without a PhD if they are responsible for providing technical or domain excellence or developing new technologies and methodologies for the cluster.
Peer review option is available in Exceptional Promise category for PhD graduates.
The advantage of the Global Talent visa is that it offers accelerated settlement after three years of residence. Absences rules are in some circumstances more generous than in sponsored employment routes as the time spent abroad for research activities may be disregarded when assessing continuous residence. The route does not require you to be continuously employed as long as you have earned money in the UK in your area of excellence.
Whichever option you choose, remember that one visa refusal may set the clock back for you and you will have to count time afresh. This is why professional help with the visa application is so important.
If you are planning to stay in the UK and need support in making this happen, get in touch and find out how we can help.