Unfortunately, it is no longer possible for student visa holders (Tier 4) to apply for Tier 1 Post-Study Work or the once very popular Tier 1 General (formerly known as the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme - HSMP). However, there are options available although everyones circumstances are different so please treat the following as only a very rough guide:
Possible visa options:
1) Tier 2 (General):for those who are lucky to have a job offer from a licensed Sponsor (employer) and a Certificate of Sponsorship. In this case, when switching from Tier 4 Student to Tier 2 General inside the UK, there is no annual limit and there is no need for employer to advertise the job first (ie no need for a Resident Labour Market Test). The job still has to be at a relatively high skill level (NQF6) and pay appropriate salary as on the Code of Practice (but minimum £20,300). To qualify for this (Tier 2 without advertising the job) you need to have completed your degree (a letter and transcript would be enough, no need to wait for a degree certificate). If you have not completed your degree yet then your Tier 2 Sponsor needs to advertise the job first and you'd have to apply outside the UK, which also means an annual limit of 20,700 work visas per year.
The outcome is a visa for up to 3 years, which then can be extended for up to another 3 years and after 5 years (and a salary of £35,000) you could apply for permanent residency. If you don't settle and 'your' 6 years have run out then you would have to leave the UK, wait for 12 months outside the UK, and only then re-enter Tier 2 category, effectively starting from the beginning. For an extra cost, the Home Office now also offer 5 years sponsored work permits for tier 2 general
This, along with a number of other applications, can be done on a same day basis. We are registered at the Public Enquiry Office in Croydon to process premium, same day applications
2) Another Tier 4 Student visa: for those who wish to continue their studies in the UK. There has to be academic progression, such as from Bachelor to Master.
3) Tier 1 (Entrepreneur): for those with entrepreneurial spirit and access to £200,000 in funds, which will be available to start a new business or to join/buy an existing business in the UK.
The outcome is a visa for 3 years, which then can be extended for another 2 years and after this you could apply for permanent residency.
Students switching to an Entrepreneur visa can only submit applications outside the UK. In-country switching is only allowed for those who have £50,000 from the specified sources, such as grants from the government departments or from regulated venture capital funds.
4) Spouse/Partner Visa on the basis of a relationship with a British citizen or with a person who has a permanent residency in the UK.
Spouse by definition have to be married and can switch from Tier 4 to a Spouse visa after the marriage. This also covers civil partners (same-sex partners who registered their relationship at a Register Office).
It does not matter if your visa expires soon and/or you only recently got married.
More commonly in such cases, we are asked about the above scenario but for Unmarried Partners (partners who are together but not married). In this case you can apply if you have lived together (lived, not just dating) for 2 years AND can prove it with the documents, such as bills or bank statements showing you lived at the same address. This (living together) can be in the UK or abroad or a combination of countries - as long as you have lived together, at any location.
The outcome is a visa for 2.5 years (from 9 July 2012), with the right to work for any employer or to be self-employed. After this you can get extension (same Spouse visa again) for another 2.5 years. After total of 5 years on Spouse/Partner visas you could apply for permanent residency.
Again, this can be done on a same day basis
5) Spouse/Partner visa on the basis of a relationship with a European (non-UK)citizen.
Same rules apply as above (married; or if not married- lived together for 2 years) but the outcome is a visa for 5 years, after which you can apply for permanent residency.
This is a very good category. To start with, such applications are free of the official government fees, plus this visa allows to work for any employer or be self-employed. The only downside is such applications are only postal (no same-day service available) and may take up to 6 months.
6) If you happened to live in the UK for 10 years, legally, on any visas continuously, then you could apply for permanent residency on that basis. Such applications are also only postal and take 4-6 months. 7) If your spouse/partner has his/her own visa, such as a Tier 2 visa, then you may be able to obtain a Dependant visa, ie a visa 'dependent' on your spouse/partner's visa. From 1 October 2013 such switching became possible from inside the UK, before that dependants had to apply from their native countries.
Spouse / Partner
1. The dependant is subject to qualifying residential period to be eligible for settlement. For the duration of qualifying residential period and associated conditions that may apply, see Note below.
2. If the dependant has completed the relevant qualifying residential period at a time that the principal migrant applies for settlement and meets the other requirements then the dependant may be included in the principal migrant's settlement application.
3. If the dependant has not completed the qualified qualifying residential period at the time that the principal PBS migrant applies for settlement, then:
a) If the PBS dependant's current leave will expire after he/she has completed the qualifying period and the dependant meets the other requirements for settlement then the dependant may apply for settlement directly (319E).
b) If the PBS dependant's current leave will expire before he/she completes the qualifying period then the dependant can apply , before his/her current leave expires, to extend his/her PBS dependant leave until such time that he/she becomes eligible for settlement (319C and 319D). Though switching to FLR(M) leave is also an option but extending PBS dependant leave is simpler (e.g. - only maintenance funds to be shown, no English language requirement) ***** CHANGES 6th April 2014 *****.
c) Doctor / dentist dependant with employment restriction - For PBS dependant who is a doctor / dentist but does not satisfy 319D(b)(iii) should consider switching to FLR(M) at the earliest opportunity to become free from the employment restriction, instead of continuing on PBS dependant leave.
Entry clearance application as PBS dependant submitted before 09-Jul-12: The PBS dependant will always be subject to rules in place before 09-Jul-12. The PBS dependant must have lived with the principal PBS migrant in the UK for at least 2 years in a marital relationship, civil partnership or in relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership (319E(d)(i)). This "2 year" period need not be as a "dependant" and need to be "continuous". *** Probably unchanged? *** These requirements and conditions apply both when extending leave as PBS dependant (319E(d)(i)) or if switching to FLR(M) leave (287(a)(i)(d) or 287(a)(i)(e)) any time during the 2 years period to become eligible for settlement. ***** CHANGES 6th April 2014 *****
Entry clearance application as PBS dependant submitted on/after 09-Jul-12: The PBS dependant will be subject to the new rules introduced on 09-Jul-12. The PBS dependant will be eligible for settlement only after completing 5 year probationary period as a dependant of the principal migrant (319E(d)(ii) or E-ILRP.1.3.). This "5 year" period need not be "continuous".
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