If you want to work in the legal industry or study law in the UK, you may have to apply for a visa. Applying for a visa can be a lengthy and slightly complicated, given the variety of visas that can be applied for. Have no fear! We’ll highlight the visas that may be applicable to you, and the application process for each.
Officially called a Tier 4 (General) student visa, you can apply for one of these bad boys if you’re over 16 and have been offered an unconditional place on a university course, can speak, read, write and understand English, can pay for your course and support yourself financially.
Knowledge of English? This doesn’t mean you have to be well versed in Cockney rhyming slang, but it does mean that if you’re going to study a law degree, an LLM or the LPC, you’ll need to complete pass a language test at CEFR level B2. In everyday terms, this would mean that you’re able to show people around and give a detailed description of a place or landmark.
Sound good? Awesome. To apply, you’ll need to provide your passport, a colour passport photograph with your name written on the back and proof you can pay for your course. There may be additional documents to provide, depending on your circumstances. Finally, you’ll need to have your fingerprints and photo taken at a special visa application centre – it’s all very James Bond-sounding!
This visa costs a tidy £310 and you must apply online.
Again, officially called a Tier 2 visa, this visa allows you to work in the UK. You can apply for this visa if you have been offered a skilled job in the UK (a solicitor or barrister would fall under this definition), or if you are from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). To switch from a student visa to a work visa, you have to have successfully completed your LLB, LLM or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). You also need to be sponsored before you can apply for this visa, and the work of sponsor organisation must relate to the work you do. It’s highly likely that your sponsor will be the company that just offered you a job, so this isn’t something major to worry about.
You can stay in the UK for just over five years on this visa and must be paid above £20,500, which shouldn’t be an issue for a trainee solicitor. It’s also necessary that you have a good knowledge of English, but this shouldn’t be an issue if you were educated at a UK university. As with the student visa, you’ll need to submit a passport, a coloured passport photograph and proof that you have the required level of English.
Under this visa (Tier 2), you can only stay in the UK for a maximum of six years. However, you can apply to settle in the UK if you’ve been working in the UK for five years and if your employer still needs you (which they will because you’d have nailed the training contract and be well on your way to becoming an associate solicitor).
Visas can be a complicated business, but there’s plenty of information out there and the application process should be fairly straightforward if you have all the necessary information and documentation.