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Using a Tier 4 student visa to eventually get British citizenship

by John Dunn | Sep 26, 2017
  • UK universities are recognised as some of the best in the world, meaning graduates are in high-demand in the UK job market. What’s more, if you study in the UK on a Tier 4 (General) student visa, it’s far easier to get a job in the UK and switch to a Tier 2 (General) work permit and even one day naturalise as a British citizen.

    First things first, you’re going to need a Tier 4 (General) student visa

    If you’re over the age of 18 and thinking about studying at a UK university or college, you’re going to need a Tier 4 (General) student visa. This visa works on a points based system. You will need 40 points to be eligible for this visa. Points are awarded for the following:

    • Confirmation of acceptance for studies: 30 points
    • Proof of sufficient funds: 10 points

    Confirmation of acceptance for studies

    You will need to have received an unconditional offer of a place in a course at a university or college that is a licensed Tier 4 sponsor. Once you have received your offer, your university or college will send you a reference number called a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS). Your CAS counts 30 points toward your visa application.

    Do note: You must apply for your visa within six months of receiving your CAS.

    Sufficient funds

    You will need to prove that you are able to pay for your course, as well as your monthly living expenses throughout your stay in the UK. This will count as 10 points toward your application.

    The amount you will need for your course will vary depending on the length of your course and where you will be studying. Tuition fees are, on average, approximately £12,000 per year, but they can range from £8,000 to £36,000 per year.

    You must also show that you have:

    • £1,265 per month for living costs if you are studying in London for the majority of your studies*
    • £1,015 per month for living costs if you are studying outside London or anywhere else in the UK for the majority of your studies

    *London is considered to be any site situated wholly or partly within the area comprising of the City of London and the Former Metropolitan Police District.

    Further reading: Stay in South Africa and send your child to a UK university

    The English language requirement

    You will need to prove that you are able to speak, read and understand English. This means passing a Secure English language Test (SELT). Your required knowledge of English will vary based upon your level of study.

    If you are going to be studying at degree level or above, you will need to have an English level equivalent to Common European Framework for languages (CEFR) level B2, as well as your SELT from an approved provider.

    Other requirements

    You will also need to ensure that you pay the immigration healthcare surcharge as part of your application. This will grant you access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) throughout your stay.

    The earliest you can apply for your Tier 4 (General) student visa is three months before you start your course. It is therefore vital that your visa application is presented correctly and includes all the relevant documentation and information. If your application is solid, you should receive your visa within three weeks of your application and be on the path to receiving your UK degree.

    Need assistance with your student visa application?

    As a UK graduate it’s much easier to find a job in the UK

    If you’re not quite ready to leave the UK once you’ve completed your degree, you have the option to live, work and naturalise in the UK after you graduate. You can do this by applying for a Tier 2 (General) work permit. In order to apply for this visa, you will need to receive a job offer from a UK-based company.

    The points based system

    You will need to obtain 70 points as per the UKVI points based system in order to be eligible for this visa. Below is a breakdown of the required points:

    • 30 points for having a valid job offer from a registered Tier 2 sponsor
    • 20 points for an offer of a minimum salary of £20,800 (or the industry equivalent)
    • 10 points for having at least £945 available to you
    • 10 points for meeting the English language requirement

    If you meet all of the requirements and your application is done correctly, you should receive your visa within eight weeks of your application. 

    The benefits of switching from a student to a Tier 4 (General) student visa

    The major benefit of switching is that your potential employer will be much more willing to hire someone who graduated in the UK than an employee who graduated outside the UK. This is because employers are exempt from having to search for a local candidate for a position that is being filled by a UK university graduate, regardless of that graduate’s nationality. Employers are also exempt from paying the Immigration Skills Charge when they hire a UK university graduate.

    This means that it will be much easier for you find work in the UK, as your employer will be able to save valuable time and money employing you as opposed to an international graduate.

    Your work permit could be your ticket to full British citizenship

    The Tier 2 (General) visa is valid for five years and you are allowed to bring dependants with you on this visa. After you’ve been in the UK for five years, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain and ultimately naturalise and become a British citizen.

    So it’s clear that when you study in the UK you’re not just getting a superb education; you could be setting yourself (and your family) up for a whole new life in the UK.

    Want to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa?

    Our immigration advisers can assist you through every step of the process. Get in touch with us via email on or give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7759 7580.

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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