Foreign students in the UK who are not nationals of the European Economic Area must contend with one of the toughest immigration systems in the world and an ever-changing set of rules. This article gives an overview of the options available when your UK adult student visa is expiring.
If you intend to continue studying in the UK
The most straightforward option is normally to extend your student visa. This is an application for “leave to remain” under the Tier 4 (adult student) category.
You must meet the following requirements:
- Have been accepted onto an suitable course with a registered Tier 4 sponsor;
- Not have spent more than the maximum period permitted in the UK on a student visa (ranging from three to eight years depending on the course level);
- Meet the English language requirement;
- Meet the financial requirement (to have held a specified amount of money for a month preceding the application); and
- Not fall under the general grounds for refusal (relating to criminal convictions etc).
Further details on the eligibility criteria can be found in the Immigration Rules and official guidance (available on the UK Border Agency website). It’s vital to understand the requirements as there is very little flexibility if they are not met.
If you want to work in the UK
If you have a job offer from an employer who is licensed to sponsor foreign workers you may be able to extend your stay in the UK under the Tier 2 (General) immigration category. This is subject to various requirements, including a minimum proposed salary and skill level. A list of licensed Tier 2 sponsors is available on the UK Border Agency website.
Alternatively, if you want to engage in business in the UK after graduating you could consider the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category (you must have £200,000 or in some cases £50,000 available for investment); or the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category (you must have studied at degree level at an authorised institution that has approved your proposed business plan).
If you are married to or in a long-term relationship (two years cohabitation is normally required) with a British citizen or national of the European Economic Area you might be able to make an application to remain here on that basis.
There is a number of immigration categories in addition to the above that may allow you to extend your stay in the UK. It is also possible to make a “discretionary “application if you do not fall under a specific category although these are only approved in the most compelling circumstances.
In all cases there are two golden rules to follow when your student visa is expiring. First, start planning well in advance. Second, use an adviser who is registered with the Law Society or the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). This will not guarantee that you will be able to stay in the UK but should ensure that you are aware of all the options and minimise the risk of your application being refused on a technicality.
This article was written and contributed by Contact Law
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If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email:
You could qualify for a tax refund if you are an overseas student, work permit holder, Tier 1, Yellow or Blue Card holder – in fact any visa type – even if you are no longer legal or even in the UK!