Tier 4 Student Visa (which was recently replaced by the “Student Visa”) allows foreign students to live in the UK to enrol and study in one of the many educational options that the UK offers.
However, you’ll not be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under a Student Visa utilizing the ordinary 5-year settlement route, though there are many other routes you may take after finishing your studies that will grant you the opportunity to obtain ILR status. We’ll be going over these options in greater detail.
What Is a Tier 4 Student Visa?
A Tier 4 Student Visa (now simply “Student Visa”) is a permit granted to students from outside the UK in order to study a degree-level course at a college, university, or other eligible institutions available in the country.
To be eligible for a Student visa, candidates must be 16 years old and have to score 40 points minimum, apart from being offered a slot at a UK educational institution. The new Student Visa is not very different from the Tier 4 visa save for the fact that it’s now offered to students from the EU and the EEA following Brexit.
For the purposes of this guide, the options we will be detailing below apply irrespective of whether you hold a Tier 4 Student Visa or a Student Visa.
Switching from Tier 4 (Now “Student Visa”) to Tier 2 General Visa (Skilled Worker Visa)
Your first method towards achieving Indefinite Leave to Remain status – which in turn will open the gateway for British citizenship – consists of switching from a Tier 4 Student visa to a Tier 2 work visa (replaced by Skilled Worker Visa). This only works if you receive a job offer right after graduating or 12 months after enrolling in a PhD study.
Skilled Worker visas will permit you to stay in the UK to work for an eligible employer, provided that this employer is approved by the Home Office and that the salary offered is at least either £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour (whichever is higher).
The employer must be deemed a “sponsor” or, in other words, they must have a sponsor licence to be an eligible employer. If they don’t have a sponsor licence, they may apply for it if they’re suitable.
If the employer already has a sponsor licence, they should hand you a certificate of sponsorship, which is an electronic record with a reference number that you’d have to attach to your visa application.
Notwithstanding the salary thresholds we disclosed earlier, you’ll have to check the annual “going rate” assigned to each occupation, as they may be higher. To give an example, if you apply for an occupation that has a going rate of £30,000, a £25,600 yearly salary will not be enough to be considered eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa. You may check the current going rates per occupation by clicking here.
What If I Don’t Have a Job Offer After Graduation?
You could still switch to a Graduate Visa, which grants you a 2-year leave in order to find work. If the degree obtained is a PhD or another doctoral qualification, your leave duration extends to 3 years.
Be mindful that a Graduate Visa cannot be extended, nor can it be utilized to achieve ILR status, but you can switch to a Skilled Worker Visa once you found a job that meets the requirements, in which case you’ll have the chance to request your ILR visa later on.
Switching to a Spouse Visa
If during your studies you enter into a marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen or a person with UK-settled status, you could switch to a Spouse Visa or Partner Visa, which permits you to live and work in the UK. It also paves the way for an ILR application down the road.
To switch to a Spouse Visa, you must likewise fulfil a series of prerequisites. Let’s give an overview of each one:
Your partner must be either one of these:
– A British or Irish citizen
– A person with Indefinite Leave to Remain, settled status, or similar
– From the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland and a UK resident before 1 January 2021 (having obtained pre-settled status)
– Under humanitarian protection in the UK.
Moreover, both partners must be either:
– In a civil partnership or marriage legally recognized in the UK.
– In cohabitation for at least 2 years
– fiancée/fiancé/proposed civil partner with the commitment to enter into marriage or civil union within six months.
The Home Office, to ensure that you’re not engaging in false representation, will conduct a “Genuine Relationship” test by which you will be asked to provide documentary and/or audiovisual material that can lend credence to your intention of remaining with your partner during the validity of your visa.
Proof of Financial Means
Apart from your partner’s immigration status/citizenship, you’d also have to reach a joint income threshold of at least £18,600 annually if you have no children, £22,400 if you have one child and an extra £2,400 for each subsequent child.
To this effect, you may show bank statements, payslips, or similar documents.
Proof of Accommodation
Another requirement that you ought to meet is with regards to accommodation. To that effect, you must provide evidence that you have a place to live that’s not overcrowded and that’s exclusive to you and your family, whether it’s owned, rented, or granted through any other legal means.
Knowledge of English
By earning a degree taught in English in the UK, you don’t need to take an English Test to prove your knowledge of English. However, since you’d probably still be undertaking studies by the time you apply for the Spouse Visa, you can demonstrate your knowledge of English by taking an approved English language test at CEFR level A1 or higher.
You are exempt from this requirement if you are from a majorly English-speaking country such as the U.S., Canada, or Australia, among others.
Applying for 10-year Long Residence ILR
A longer route you may take is the 10-year settlement route, in which you may include your time spent in the UK under a Student Visa or Tier 4 Student Visa.
The 10-year settlement route (also known as “long residence”) could potentially lead to ILR status whenever several conditions are met. Some of these conditions are more stringent than on the ordinary 5-year route.
For example, you must show proof that you have been living in the UK for 10 years continuously, meaning that you must not have been absent from the country for a period of 180 days at a time or 540 days in total. Time spent in prison, secure hospital, or young offender institution will not count, nor will any time spent in Ireland, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man.
Also, whenever you travel abroad, you ought to have departed while still under a leave to remain in the country and there should be no gaps or periods without a leave, regardless of the category (including under a Student Visa or Tier 4 Student Visa).
Other eligibility demands for ILR under long residence status include the following:
– You must undertake and pass the “Life in the UK” test.
– You must prove your knowledge of the English language via the means we have explained earlier (approved English test, degree or qualification taught in English, etc.)
– You have not breached nor are breaching any immigration laws.
– There are no reasons of public interest that would render it inconvenient to grant you ILR.
– You have no relevant criminal convictions, either unspent or serious spent convictions.
Rights Under Indefinite Leave to Remain
Once you obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain, you can stay in the UK for as long as you like. You may also freely enter and leave the country, unless you’ve spent more than 2 years abroad, in which case your ILR status could get compromised.
What’s more, you have access to free NHS healthcare, State Pensions, and other services. Under some specific circumstances (if you’re an EU citizen, for example) you can vote in local elections. You can’t register to vote in general elections or referendums unless you have British, Irish, or qualifying Commonwealth citizenship.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to obtain a Graduate Visa before switching to a Skilled Worker Visa?
Provided that you have a job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from an authorised employer, you will not need to be under a Graduate Visa to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa.
Does my time spent under a Student Visa or Tier 4 Student Visa count toward my 5-year settlement route?
Unfortunately, your time under a Student Visa or Tier 4 Student Visa has no bearing on the time calculation if you want to take advantage of the 5-year route.
How long is the validity of the Spouse Visa?
A Spouse or Partner Visa has a validity of 30 months. You could extend the visa for 30 more months, after which time you would have fulfilled the time requirement to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.