You have been granted a UK visa that allows you to reside in the UK, study, work here or do business. When you receive your passport with the visa stamp in it or get your first biometrics it feels like a dream come true. You are relieved and happy with a feeling that the time of worry and doubt is now in the past and you can start your new life. Time, however, passes quickly and sooner rather than later you will have to face the same daunting process again. Except now it is perhaps more worrisome, because your life is now tightly tied to the UK and a visa refusal will mean losing all you worked so hard for.
So what can you do to ensure that your visa renewal or the extension of your leave to remain is successful? Well, the good news is that there are a few things that you can undertake to ensure your UK visa is renewed and we are here to share these tips with you.
Step 1: Understand the UK Immigration system
As a first point, you must understand that the UK has a complex immigration system. This should be done from day one when you decide you want to live in the UK.
There is no one rule for getting a visa and leave to remain. There are multitude of routes and each of these routes have their own unique characteristics, rules and requirements.
For this reason, you should not rely on layman advice. No matter what other people who have leave to remain in the UK tell you, you cannot be sure that what has worked for them will work for you. It might even seem that they have similar circumstances to yours, but they might be on a different route altogether. Our immigration lawyers see cases nearly every day when someone has put their immigration status in serious jeopardy because they have relied on non-professional forums, advice from friends and acquaintances.
It is always a good idea to do your research, read on the available routes, but keep in mind that this is a complex legal area and unless you have considerable legal knowledge and experience within this field, you will not be able to fully grasp it. This, however can be your foundation from which to build up.
Next, you should speak to a qualified Immigration solicitor. Aim form someone with experience and good track-record. Make sure you are seeking advice from a qualified immigration lawyer and not an unregulated agent who might disappear in two days leaving you on your own to deal with the fallout of their erroneous advice.
A good immigration solicitor will help you understand where your own circumstances fall within the UK immigration system and will advise you on what route is right for you.
Step 2: Understand the rules and requirements for your route
This is an absolutely crucial part to ensure that you will have a stress free visa renewal experience. You need to make sure that you understand the requirements for your immigration route from day one. And here is where a quality immigration advice becomes decisive. Good immigration lawyers will guide you to a successful initial application, the best immigration lawyers will also ensure that you are prepared for your extension application. This means that once your initial application has been successful they will also offer you comprehensive advice on any requirements you will need to meet during your leave to ensure that your extension of leave to remain progresses without an issue.
Our immigration lawyers on daily bases see or speak to new enquiries who have reached the end of their leave and have failed to comply with some important requirement attached to their leave which puts their renewal application in jeopardy. It can be as simple as not having registered with the police when they were meant to, spending more time outside of the UK their specific route allows for, not meeting an investment requirement attached to their leave, doing work they were not meant to do, the list goes on.
To avoid this, ensure that you know what rules you are meant to follow. If you didn’t have the best luck with the legal representatives who have prepared your initial application or if you have done your own application, it’s worth investing in a consultation with a specialist immigration solicitor as soon as possible. You might have to spend a little bit of money, but the return on it will be worth it. It will offer you the peace of mind and certainty of knowing what you are doing. In effect that consultation should be your guide for the next years, until your visa renewal time.
Step 3: Ensure that your route allows for extension
This step, in fact should be covered under the Step 2 above, because if you get a proper immigration advice on the onset, you will know whether your immigration route allows you to extend it and for how long. There are many immigration routes that have a limit on the time you can spend in the UK on. For instance, Tier 4 visas that are aimed at those who are coming to the UK so study. The general rule on that visa type is that you cannot have more than 5 years on it (exceptions apply only to very limited cases), Tier 2, most Tier 5 visas as well as the new start-up visa are other examples and the list can go on.
Therefore, you need to ensure that your visa can be extended before you start planning around that extension.
Step: 4 Start preparing early
If there was only one advice that our immigration lawyers were asked to give in respect of how to successfully renew your visa, it would be ‘Start early. Don’t leave it last minute.’
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to start getting ready for your visa renewal early on. Most of the immigration routes are pretty heavy on documents that you are required to submit in support of your application. Often, it will take you more time then you realise to put all these documents together. There are also a lot of requirements in respect of the form and content of most documents. Hence, your immigration lawyer might ask you to have the documents amended or reissued in the right format etc. As such, you need to ensure you have enough time to not only gather all the necessary documents, but for your lawyers to check them properly and if required operate any changes needed.
Step 5: Submit your application on time
This seems like an obvious point, but we will repeat it over and over, as too many people still miss the importance of submitting their immigration visa renewal applications on time. You have to apply to extend you leave before your current leave expires, or you risk becoming an overstayer with all the unpleasant repercussions.
Many people still operate under the assumption that they have 14 days after their leave expires to make an application. This is not so. The 14 day period that most people refer to as ‘grace period’ does not really exist. If an application is made after the leave has expired, but it is made within 14 days, the Home Office may decide to not view it as a reason for refusal. There is a big ‘may’ attached to it and it will only happen if the Home Office thinks there is a good reason for the delay. In most cases the Home Office will find there was no good reason for it, even in cases where the good reason is very apparent. Therefore, you should do all in your power to make your visa renewal application is on time. It also has to be added that even if the Home Office eventually accepts your reasons for delay, you will be someone without leave for the period that they are making a decision and this can be up to 6 months and even more in some cases. For that entire period, you will be unable to maintain a job, rent, hold a bank account etc.
In conclusion, to ensure that you have a stress free journey to your settlement in the UK you need to be aware of the rules in respect of your stay, abide by them and be constantly vigilant in respect of maintaining your immigration status. The right immigration lawyers can be your best partners in this journey, so do not neglect getting quality immigration advice. It might cost you a bit, but in the end it will save you a lot more in wasted Home Office fees and other expenses.