Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Changes to Visa Policy

Betsy Transatlantically was started, first and foremost, as an expat blog. (Fooled you, didn't I?  You thought it was about food and fashion.  Silly you!)  My early posts - as you'll remember if you're a longtime reader - were consumed with tales of my journey through my frustrating but ultimately successful visa process.

I received my Tier 1 Highly Skilled Migrant Worker Post-Study Work visa in June 2010, which is valid  through June 2012, and so I didn't think I'd have to start researching next steps until June 2011 at the earliest.  But, lo and behold, here I am in March with six relevant browser windows open on my laptop.


You see, the new government - in all its wisdom - is implementing new visa procedures and laws.  I'm freaking out a little bit about this, and so since I'm looking into the changes that will affect I thought that I might as well try to explain them here, just in case anyone else out there will be affected and/or is freaking out, too.  Do not under any circumstances take my word as gospel, folks!  Absolutely go look at the Border Agency website yourself.  Hopefully, though, this might be a helpful starting place for some of you...

A little background: I came to London in September 2008 as a graduate student on a student visa.  From what I remember, this process is pretty straightforward as long as you read everything carefully and do exactly what they ask.  If you're trying to be a student in the UK, therefore, I'm just going to send you to the appropriate website that outlines the changes which, actually, probably won't really negatively impact anyone who is actually hoping to study at a serious university.  Go on, you're about to undertake an advanced degree.  You need to get used to doing this kind of research on your own!

My options upon graduating from my masters' program were:
1. go home to DC
2. stay in the UK and apply for a Tier 1 visa immediately (I would have had to apply before my student visa expired, if I'm remembering correctly)
3. go home to DC and apply for a Tier 1 visa within 12 months of receiving my qualification
4. go home to DC and hope to God that, if I applied to enough jobs in the UK, the law of large numbers would decree that a company would eventually agree to sponsor me

I chose option trois, as was documented thoroughly on this blog, in part because I'd prefer to be on a non-sponsored visa (the Tier 1) than a sponsored visa (the Tier 2) because that way I'm not tied to my job; a Tier 1 visa provides more flexibility.  Also, though, when I was applying for jobs - which I did like crazy all through spring 2010 - it was very difficult for a UK-based company to sponsor a non-EU worker.

The Tier 1 visa required a bit of jumping through hoops: among other things, I had to have £2800 in my bank account consistently for three consecutive months, I had to have the original copy of my degree, and I had to have a letter from my university acknowledging that it was a legitimate institution.  Check, check, and check.

Now comes the tricky part.  Under the old rules, I could have applied for the next non-sponsored visa once the one I currently hold expires.  (Tons of requirements for that one, too, some of which I wouldn't have been able to meet - but, technically, it would have been an option.)  Under new rules... there is no next non-sponsored visa.


Okay, that's not entirely true.  The new regulations say that, should I choose to apply for a Tier 1 visa, I can try to be "exceptional talent."  No joke.  Exceptional talent.  The problem is that, while my mother and I both know that I am exceptional and talented, there are probably 1000 other people out there who are more exceptional and more talented than I am - and they're capping that visa at 1000 per year.  See:

This means that I will have to go the Tier 2 route.  Not the end of the world, considering I have a good job that I enjoy; I believe that my organization will agree to at least look into sponsoring me because, you know, I'm exceptional and talented.  From what I understand, this is some of what is involved:

- I have to have worked for the sponsoring organization for at least six months immediately prior to the date of application (check)
- I have to be in the same job at the moment of application as the job I'm applying for (which means I'll have to get the ball rolling in the next six months if I want a promotion of any kind)
- The sponsoring organization to apply for a special license
- The sponsoring organization has to demonstrate that there are no suitable settled workers or nationals of a country in the European Economic Area (including the UK) to fill the job by complying with the resident labour market test
- The sponsoring organization has to give me a certificate of sponsorship

This Tier 2 visa will be valid for three years.  Two years on Tier 1 plus three years on Tier 2 equals five years of residency - which is the point at which I can apply for settlement.  But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself...

Oh man, this is making me dizzy.  Can we put the marriage option back on the table?  That might be the simplest thing!  Yargh.


  1. you should also mention to people hoping to study abroad not to tell their intentions to customs if they have not already secured a student visa.
    and also to watch out for falling shingles.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Hush. And they were slats, not shingles.


  3. I had an awful time getting my student visa to the UK because I went during a year with lots of changes, then more changes to the system occurred while I was there. What a nightmare.

  4. I believe that the two years on a post-study work visa do not count toward the five years requirement for settlement. Which completely sucks, but they are apparently quite adamant that people not use studying as a back-door to UK residency.

    Second, what was the next non-sponsored visa you had in mind originally? I didn't realize there was another one for post-study workers.

  5. Karen:
    a) crap. that blows.
    b) there was one I believe that had a minimum salary requirement of £35k as a sort of second step after the post-study work visa, though I don't remember the details! Sorry....

  6. Betsy, as you have a Tier 1 visa, are you not eligible for renewing Tier 1? As I switched immigration categories this time last year I remember being slightly comforted with the fact that once you had leave to remain in the UK, renewing it was slightly less stressful than initial applications (hence how I got Tier 1 in the first place!) I had a QUICK google around on the UKBA site and it seems as though they are still allowing people to "renew" tier 1. I would honestly call them. I called them about 4x when I was doing my application, and 3 out of the 4 times I received helpful information. Good luck!!!!

  7. Also, it says Tier 1 is closed from applications abroad... YOU ARE IN THE UK!!!! Definitely keep reading stuff - the language is like a legal doc - you gotta unpick it to really understand what they are saying. YOU CAN DO IT!

  8. D, I don't think that, although my current visa is unaffected by the changes, I can just renew! I did look, but it's entirely possible that the info I need is right in front of my face and I didn't see it. I'll definitely call them soon, though - this is one place it's worth it to be thorough! Thanks :)

  9. Do you ever use:

    It's a great forum to ask all sorts of expat visa questions, amongst other things. Usually someone knows the answer!

  10. Having the option to renew would be amazing! But I think you're right that we can't. Do update us if you call!

    After reading your post (I didn't realize I needed to be in the sponsoring company 6 months before applying), I emailed my British citizen boyfriend with our wedding date - 6 months after my post study visa expires! (The fiancee visa will buy me the interim 6 months.) Romantic! ;)

  11. Poor Darling, this actually just made my head hurt and I don't even have to do it. Good luck (and I agree that you are both exceptional and talented)...

  12. Oh no!! Good luck with it all. I don't envy you - we had a hell of a time getting our visas too. Thinking about it still makes me shudder.

  13. do you have any irish blood? Since I moved here I got my irish citizenship so my company doesn't have to sponsor me again in June 2012 when my tier 2 expires.. I totally feel your pain!


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