Student visa (formerly called Tier 4) is to come and study in the UK. If you study at a degree level at a UK university, you can work part-time 20 hours a week during the term, full-time on vacation and full-time for 4 months after completion of the course.
You can switch to the new Skilled Worker visa after completion of a degree course, or even within 3 months before that! There are benefits for employers to hire Student graduates – they can offer a New Entrant salary, which makes it more affordable for the employers and makes sponsorship more likely for the migrants. After 5 years on this visa you can qualify for settlement.
If you are a business, looking to hire and sponsor migrant workers, including graduates, please visit our page for UK Employers here.
Study – Post Study Work – Work – Settlement
There is an exciting development coming soon – a revival of a Post-Study Work visa! It existed before 2012 and was a visa for 2 years, allowing graduates to remain in the UK for 2 years – to look for work, to work as an employee or to set up a business in the UK. While we are still awaiting the details, it is expected to be available for those graduating in the summer 2021. In in that case, you could come to study for a UK degree, get a 2-year visa to look for work, then switch to the above – mentioned Skilled Worker visa. After 5 years – settlement. Post-Study Work visa won’t count towards settlement, so if you are able to find Sponsorship for a Skilled Worker visa sooner, you could start ‘your’ 5 years sooner too.
After 2 years you can switch to a Skilled Worker visa if you have a UK company willing to sponsor you. This is great news as such in-country switching wasn’t possible before December 2020! You can also remain in the UK (without leaving) by switching to a Spouse/Partner visa. Very often we see people switching to an Unmarried Partner visa, having met the ‘living together’ requirement while on Tier 5 YMS.
You can qualify for settlement after 5 years on either work or family visa (but not a combination).
Thanks to the new Points-Based Immigration System, you can switch to a Skilled Worker visa while in the UK, which wasn’t possible in the past! Under this new system, you don’t have to leave the country and apply for an entry visa from your home country, your employer doesn’t have to advertise your job to settled workers or wait for a place under the annual limit ( i.e. doesn’t need a restricted certificate anymore). You don’t have to interrupt your work!
Other options: A Hong Kong BNO visa is available if you are a British National (Overseas) status holder. Then there is a Spouse/Partner visa. All these options lead to settlement in the UK after 5 years in a respective route. Under Hong Kong BNO route, you can also combine time spent in some other categories.
This visa is for Commonwealth citizens who with a grandparent born in the UK. It is for 5 years, allows to work and settle after 5 years.
Hong Kong BN(O) visa
This visa is for those who hold a British Nationals (Overseas) status and reside in Hong Kong or who are already residing in the UK. It is introduced from end of January 2021 and allows BNOs to come or remain in the UK, then qualify for settlement after 5 years. A BNO status isn’t something you can acquire now, i.e. not after 1 July 1997 when Hong Kong was handed over from the UK to China. If you, however, have or had this status, you can use it to relocate to the UK. This category also allows to bring the immediate family members and even adult children born after 1 July 1997 in some circumstances.
If you have spent 10 years, continuously and legally, in the UK on any visas, you can qualify for settlement. Common paths include study at school, study at university, working, settlement after 10 years. It can even be just 10 years of studying because studies at a school level aren’t included in the cap. There are further requirements to meet, such as very strict limit on absences from the UK during this time, which can be (and often is) a dealbreaker, but even then, there may be a point where, with more extension, you can reach it soon!
These are visas based on your relationship, and they all allow working in the UK. Spouses and partners of British citizens can get a Spouse/Partner visa, we have a detailed separation section here. Same applies if your partner has a permanent residency status.
Parents of British citizens can get a Parent visa. Same if your child isn’t British but has lived in the UK for 7 years.
If you are in a relationship with a European citizen, who has a pre-settled or settled status in the UK, you will still be able to apply as a family member under the ‘pre-Brexit’ rules, as long as a family relation (or relationship) existed on 31.12.2020. After that you will be able to apply for a Spouse/Partner visa under the UK Immigration Rules on the same terms and partners of British citizens, i.e. with meeting the Financial Requirement £18,600, English language test etc, as on the page above.
If you are in a relationship with a migrant, who is on a route to settlement, such as Tier 2 General or a Skilled Worker, you can apply for a Dependant visa.
All the family options above allow working in the UK. Tier 2/Skilled Worker Dependants can work for any employer while the main migrant is restricted to working for their Sponsor. Tier 1 Dependants can work for any employer too while the main Tier 1 migrant is restricted to activities on their visas, such as running a business (Tier 1 Entrepreneur) or working in their professional field (Tier 1 Exceptional Talent).