Post-Study visa options for international tech graduates
Tier 4 visa holders have to apply to extend their stay if they wish to remain in the UK after their undergraduate course has finished.
Anne Morris is an immigration solicitor and Managing Director at UK immigration lawfirm DavidsonMorris:
Tier 4 international students intending to stay in the UK after their studies have finished have to apply to the Home Office for permission to remain here lawfully.
Allowing your Tier 4 visa to expire without securing new leave will mean you will be considered an overstayer – which can have serious implications for any future UK immigration applications you make.
What are your visa options post-study?
Your visa options post-study will depend on your specific circumstances, and on what you plan to do after you've graduated. We look at some of the more common routes for Tier 4 visa holders, but taking professional advice on your own situation is recommended to ensure you are considering all options to best suit your eligibility and needs.
Continuing your studies in the UK
You may be eligible to apply to extend your existing Tier 4 visa, either to continue a course or start a new one, but you must be sponsored and the application has to be made within strict timescales.
Alternatively, a number of UK universities offer the Tier 4 visa pilot scheme which allows visa holders to apply to study on a Masters course of up to 13 months with a further 6 months added to your visa to allow you to look for job roles in the UK.
Speak to your international student office for more information about eligibility and availability.
- Tier 2 visa
The Tier 2 (General) visa is open to individuals who can find employment in a skilled role with an employer who is a licensed sponsor.
With a Tier 2 visa, you can work in the UK for up to five years with the potential to settle if you meet the eligibility requirements for indefinite leave to remain.
The Tech Nation visa scheme, Exceptional Talent visa, & Research and Innovation Talent visa were designed to attract and retain skills and innovation in the UK’s growing tech sector, with considerable interest and take-up from Cambridge-based companies.
They’re aimed at applicants who can meet high technical and skill requirements, and offer more relaxed eligibility criteria, such as language ability, compared with other visas.
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa
The entrepreneur visa is extremely popular among Tier 4 visa holders. Ideal for the entrepreneurial-minded, it allows you to put your business idea into action or to invest in an existing UK business.
It also offers the flexibility if you plan to go into business with other Tier 4 graduates, with provision for you to make a combined application.
As an added bonus, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa can also lead to settlement in the UK.
To be eligible, you will need to make a minimum financial investment and submit a thorough business plan, which will be scrutinised as part of your application.
A new Start Up visa is currently being developed, and is due to be introduced in the Spring 2018.
- Tier 1 Investor visa
Whether applying as an undergraduate or post-graduate, you will need to meet one of three levels of investment and there are strict rules on the type of investments you can make to be eligible for the Tier 1 investor visa.
Long-term relationship basis
A number of options may be available to you under the long-term relationship rules such as civil partnership and spouse visas. The rules are strict however to deter fraudulent applications, and eligibility will depend on yours and your partner’s circumstances.
Whether you want to find a job, continue your studies, start a business or make investments after your course has ended in the UK, you’ll need to ensure you have your new visa in place before your current Tier 4 visa ends.
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DavidsonMorris specialises in business immigration. We assist companies with PBS Licences, compliance, visa applications and general advice regarding all aspects of UK immigration law.