It is no longer possible to apply for a Tier 1 General (commonly known as HSMP), which use to be the natural next step in the past.
Please note: below is a simplified summary only, for an advice for your individual circumstances we advise to book our advice session (over email or at our office at Tower Hill in Central London).
1) Tier 1 (Entrepreneur): for those with entrepreneurial spirit and access to £50,000 in funds, which will be available to start a new business. Such new business has to be registered only within 3 months before switching from a PSW to an Entrepreneur visa (not earlier, ie previous entrepreneurial activities won't count, or rather count but the standard £200,000 if funds).
The outcome is a visa for 3 years, which then can be extended for another 2 years and after this you could apply for permanent residency.
Entrepreneur applications are only postal (no same-day service) and take 3-4 months, may even be 6 months.
2) Tier 2 (General): for those who are lucky to have a job offer from a licensed Sponsor (employer) and a Certificate of Sponsorship. In this case, when switching from Post-Study Work to Tier 2 General inside the UK, there is no annual limit and there is no need for employer to advertise the job first (ie no need for a Resident Labour Market Test). The job still has to be at a relatively high skill level (NQF6) and pay appropriate salary as on the Code of Practice (but minimum £20,000).
The outcome is a visa for up to 3 years, which then can be extended for up to another 3 years and after 5 years (and a salary of £35,000) you could apply for permanent residency. If you don't settle and 'your' 6 years have run out then you would have to leave the UK, wait for 12 months outside the UK, and only then re-enter Tier 2 category, effectively starting from the beginning.
Switching from PSW to Tier 2 inside the UK can be done on Premium same-day service and we can help with appointments as well as, naturally, with the checking documents and completing the application form.
3) Spouse/Partner Visa on the basis of a relationship with a British citizen or with a person who has a permanent residency in the UK.
Spouse by definition have to be married and can switch from PSW to a Spouse visa after the marriage. This also covers civil partners (same-sex partners who registered their relationship at a Register Office).
It does not matter if your visa expires soon and/or you only recently got married.
More commonly in such cases, we are asked about the above scenario but for Unmarried Partners (partners who are together but not married). In this case you can apply if you have lived together (lived, not just dating) for 2 years AND can prove it with the documents, such as bills or bank statements showing you lived at the same address. This (living together) can be in the UK or abroad or a combination of countries - as long as you have lived together, at any location.
The outcome is a visa for 2 years, with the right to work for any employer or to be self-employed. After 2 years you could apply for permanent residency.
Switching from PSW to a Spouse/Partner visa can also be done on Premium same-day service and we can help with appointments as well as, naturally, with the checking documents and completing the application form.
4) Spouse/Partner visa on the basis of a relationship with a European (non-UK)citizen.
Same rules apply as above (married; or if not married- lived together for 2 years) but the outcome is a visa for 5 years, after which you can apply for permanent residency.
This is a very good category. To start with, such applications are free of the official government fees, plus this visa allows to work for any employer or be self-employed. The only downside is such applications are only postal (no same-day service available) and may take up to 6 months.
5) If you happened to live in the UK for 10 years, legally, on any visas continuously, then you could apply for permanent residency on that basis. Such applications are also only postal and take 4-6 months.
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