Overseas students may not wish to hear about retirement planning (just yet!), but immigration planning is an essential consideration for their future education and career plans in the UK. There are multiple immigration routes available to students on a child student visa to continue to study and work in the UK after they have completed their education at an independent school.
Many independent schools in Scotland hold a Home Office sponsor licence, allowing students from outside of the United Kingdom to attend and study. To join these schools, the pupil must obtain a child student visa – this allows a student between the age of four and 17 to study in the UK.
Students under the age of 16 can hold a child student visa for the duration of their course or for up to six years, whichever is shortest. If they are under 16 prior to expiry of the first visa, they can apply for an extension. If the applicant is 16 or 17 years old, they can apply for a child student visa for the duration of their course and up to a maximum of three years, again, whichever is the shortest period.
A child student visa does not lead to “settlement” in the UK. Settlement is also known as “indefinite leave to remain”, which is the status that allows a person the right to live permanently in the UK. However, a crucial factor to be aware of is that the child student visa can be the start of a route to settlement.
Indefinite leave to remain – ten years long residence
The long residence category of the immigration rules allow any person who has lived in the UK lawfully for at least ten years to apply for indefinite leave to remain. When applying under the long residence category a person may combine time spent on a range of visas, including time spent on a child student visa, student visa, graduate visa, skilled worker visa, to name but a few…
Those who are granted indefinite leave to remain can apply to become a British citizen after 12 months.
How to reach ten years long residence?
There may be some instances when a student has already spent ten years on successive child student visas. If so, it may be that prior to even completing their education at an independent school they are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain based on ten years residence.
For children who have spent less than ten years on child student visas, switching to other visas is the essential step. For students at independent schools on a child student visa, the common next step is to switch to the student visa, to allow them to attend university.
The student visa
The student visa is available to any person aged 16 or over. For a four-year undergraduate degree the normal maximum period of study is five years on the student visa, although longer visas will be granted to allow undergraduate study in courses such as medicine, architecture, dentistry and veterinary medicine.
The student visa is not a route to settlement but counts towards long residence. After a person successfully completes their undergraduate degree, applying to switch to the graduate visa is often the following stage.
The graduate visa
A graduate visa grants a person permission to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing their university degree.
The graduate visa has no specific requirements in respect of the type of employment a graduate must undertake and includes looking for employment. Again, it is not a route to settlement but counts towards long residence. People on the graduate visa can then switch to other visas, for example, the skilled worker visa.
The skilled worker visa
A skilled worker visa allows a person to apply to stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an employer who holds a sponsor licence. To qualify as a skilled worker the employer must hold a sponsor licence and the job must be listed by the Home Office as a skilled worker occupation and meet specific salary thresholds.
A skilled worker visa can be for any period up to a maximum of five years and after this, a person can apply for settlement – this sets it apart from the child student, student and graduate visas.
However, most students who started on the child student visa will very likely become eligible for settlement by ten years long residence well before they complete five years as a skilled worker.
The magic ten
The ten-year period will be reached at different stages depending on how long the student held the child student visa. The most common scenario will likely be the school leaver who attends university and successfully completes their four-year undergraduate degree. A few possible scenarios are as follows –
What does it mean by “continuous residence”?
To be eligible for indefinite leave to remain based on long residence it must also be shown that there has been continuous residence. This means that in the ten-year period, at no point has the person been outside the UK for 180 days at a time or been absent from the UK for a total of 540 days overall. Students planning the “coming of age” gap year need to be particularly aware of this rule!
For a person on a child student visa, their long-term ambitions in the UK are wholly reliant on their immigration status. Considering immigration planning from an early age is therefore highly advisable.
If you need support on any of the issues highlighted here, Mark Templeton, Head of Immigration, will be happy to assist.
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