Tier 4 Student Visa
The UK’s Student or Child Student Visa (formerly the Tier 4 Student Visa) is for international students aged 16 or over who wish to study and live in the UK. This grants immigration permission to non-British nationals to reside in the UK and study at an authorised institution such as a university or college.
This licensed institution will act as your sponsor – you must have received an offer to study on a course by the licensed student sponsor in order to apply for the Tier 4 Visa.
The Tier 4 Student Visa allows you to stay in the UK for the duration of your studies. Typically, those aged 18 or over who are studying at a licensed UK university at degree level or higher will be allowed to stay for 5 years.
Those studying below degree level will typically be granted a stay of up to 2 years.
There are options for those who wish to continue living in the UK after their studies are complete. However, you must be eligible in order to be granted permission to remain in the UK.
What happens when my Tier 4 Visa expires?
The expiration of your Tier 4 Visa will depend entirely on how long your course is set to last and whether you have already completed any other type of study in the UK.
When your visa is due to expire, you may be eligible to extend your stay in the UK by either switching to a potential work route or applying for further study on a new course. Crucially, you shouldn’t simply allow your Student Visa to expire before applying to switch to a different visa. If you stay in the UK with an expired Student Visa, you will be considered an overstayer.
Therefore, you must apply to the Home Office for a relevant visa or extension.
If you wish to continue your studies in the UK once you have graduated, you may make an application to extend your existing Student Visa. However, you must of course have a licensed sponsor. There is, for example, a Doctorate Extension Scheme which grants students who have gained a PhD or other doctorate level qualification a longer period of time in the UK to allow them to gain further experience in their field.
A Tier 4 Pilot Scheme is also offered at a number of universities, which is ideal for those who wish to study on a Masters course lasting up to 13 months. Those who are granted permission to stay under this scheme will also be granted a further 6 months stay to allow the individual to look for job roles in the UK.
If the Home Office grants you permission to stay, you will receive confirmation of acceptance.
Which work visas can I switch to from the Tier 4 Visa?
If you do not wish to continue studying in the UK after you have graduated, you may instead be eligible to stay in the country by taking up employment.
UK businesses are always keen to retain skilled, talented individuals. For this reason, you may make an application to the Home Office for a Skilled Worker Visa, allowing you to be sponsored by a licensed employer.
The UK Skilled Worker Visa recently replaced the Tier 2 (General) Visa – it still requires that applicants meet the minimum requirement of 70 points. Points are acquired when requirements are met, these include: Being educated to at least A Level or equivalent, receiving a job offer from a licensed UK based employer, meeting the required English language skill level, and meeting the minimum salary threshold of £25,600 (or less if the job features on the Shortage Occupation List).
Students can apply to the Home Office to switch to the Skilled Worker Visa from inside the UK once they have graduated. It is not necessary to leave the UK in order to make your visa application.
Switching to the Tier 1 Start Up Visa
You may also switch from the Student Visa to a Tier 1 Start Up Visa. This is for those who wish to start a new business in the UK for the first time. If you are switching to this from the Tier 4 Student Visa, you do not need to have funds to invest into your business. However you must meet other requirements, including proving that you have the necessary amount of personal savings to support yourself while in the UK.
Which other business visas can I switch to when my Tier 4 Visa expires?
As well as having the option to switch to either a Skilled Worker Visa or Start Up Visa, you may also be eligible to switch to the Innovator or Investor Visa.
Tier 1 Innovator Visa
The Tier 1 Innovator Visa is perfect for those who wish to start a business in the UK and have at least £50,000 to invest into it. This is typically for experienced businesspeople and your business proposal must be endorsed by an endorsing body.
Innovator Visas typically allow applicants to stay in the UK for 3 years initially but may be extended for a further 3 years. For those who are looking to remain in the UK on a permanent basis, this visa is ideal as some Innovator Visa holders are able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after just 3 years of lawful residency.
Tier 1 Investor Visa
Another option for remaining in the UK is by switching to a Tier 1 Investor Visa.
This visa is specifically for those who are able to invest a significant sum into the UK economy. You may switch from a Tier 4 Student Visa to an Investor Visa if you can invest at least £2 million into UK businesses.
This visa is extremely attractive to those who wish to acquire permanent residency in the UK, as it allows you to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain far sooner than other visa routes.
If you invest £2 million into UK businesses, you may apply for ILR after 5 years; if you invest £5 million, you may apply for ILR after 3 years; and if you invest £10 million, you may apply for ILR after just 2 years.
Can I remain with my partner in Britain when my Student Visa ends?
It may be possible to apply for a new visa if you wish to remain in the UK with a British citizen or settled person that you have formed a long-term relationship with since living here. You may have even started a family with this person.
You must prove that you have been living with your British partner for at least 2 years and that your relationship is genuine.
Depending on your personal circumstances and the evidence you provide to the Home Office, your application will either be accepted or refused.
If necessary, you may submit further evidence for your application to continue living in the UK, however if the Home Office still does not permit this, you will be required to leave the UK.
If you are accepted for one of these routes, you may eventually apply for permanent residence in the country.
If you would like any further information or legal advice regarding your options for staying in the UK, IAS can take you through the relevant immigration rules.
Contact us today by calling 0330 433 1213.