Sadly, there is such a thing as overstaying your welcome in the UK. When this happens, they chase you out with British bulldogs and a fleet of Beefeaters.

That’s not really true, but when your visa does run out, it becomes impossible to obtain a job, secure somewhere to live, or travel in and out oft he country.

In fact, you become completely illegal on British soil. Most Antipodeans in the UK arrive here on a working holiday visa – which lasts two years and allows you to get paid work – or on a student (Tier 4) visa. However, if you want to stay in the UK once these expire, you have to apply for ‘leave to remain’. This is a lengthy process which is entirely in the hands of the Home Office and is considered on a case-by-case basis. Once you have provided all paperwork, the government will decide whether you can stay and how long for.

If you’re thinking about staying, we recommend you thoroughly research what you need to do to extend your visa. There are many companies out there that can help you nail down the facts. Here, we’ve provided some guidelines, but seeking professional advice is your best bet if you want to increase your chances of staying put.

%TNT Magazine% Travellers Suitcases

Who qualifies?

To apply for leave to remain, you must already hold either a working holiday visa, a tier 1 (entrepreneurial), tier 2 (work permit) or tier 4 (student) visa. You can move between categories depending on your reasons for wanting to stay.

Visitors to the UK, who are granted six months here, cannot apply for leave to remain. If you are applying for a tier visa for the first time, you must apply for it from your home country. To apply for permanent residency, rather than leave to remain, there are different requirements – these include marriage to a UK citizen, five years working here on a tier 2 (work permit) visa, or 10 years legal continuous residence, made up of mix-and-match visas which you have been granted over that time. To check specifics, visit the UK border agency website, ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.

What you need:

To make an application for leave to remain, you will need to make your case to the Home Office. Firstly, you will need to provide bank statements proving that you can afford to stay here. You will also need to include your qualifications and, if you’re applying to stay on the basis of work, you will need information and support from your job. If you are applying to extend a tier 4 visa (student) you will need a CAS statement from your place of study. Australians and Kiwis are exempt from having to prove they speak English but South Africans are now required to demonstrate proficiency of the language.

The UK border agency has a handy form finder on its website, which will help you get your paperwork together. However, it’s best to speak to a specialist during the process because the laws change so rapidly and good legal advice can really boost your application. Visa Inn provides a very useful ‘Ask Allan’ question and answer service with Allan Van, who is an immigration lawye rwith more than 20 years’ experience. The Home Office website is also good for advice.

%TNT Magazine% Traveller Flights Departure

Where to apply and what it will cost:

There are two ways to apply. You can either send off your forms by post or you can book a same day application at the Home Office. A postal application for a tier 4 (student) visa extension costs £406. Same-day applications are more expensive – £100 non-refundable to book and £781 in person. Prices vary slightly depending on which type of tier visa you are extending. The benefit of a same day application is that the decision is made on the spot (we say that – what we mean is after hours of queuing in the waiting room. Still, the process is more efficient).

Deadlines:

Most immigration lawyers would advise that you get your application sent off a few months before your current visa is due to expire. However, you can actually put your application in the post on the very same day your visa expires and you can remain in the country until you hear back from immigration (although you can’t do a lot while you’re here – legally anyway). Make sure you keep copies of all dated envelopes.

%TNT Magazine% Departures 450 300

Refusals, rejections and appeals:

No one said rejection is fun, and this is no exception. The Home Office can ‘refuse’ your application outright. This is where the government has considered what you’ve asked for but has decided you’re not eligible for the extension. If your application is‘refused’ you can appeal the decision within 10 days (plus two for postage) and you can remain in the country until a decision is made – this can often take up to six months!

A ‘rejection’ happens only when you haven’t included the correct information or paid the fees – in this case you can resubmit your application and are given an extra 28 days from when your original visa expired to get your paperwork in order again. Remember, applying for leave to remain is considered on a case-by-case basis. Make sure to keep records of all correspondence and get in touch with specialists to increase your chances.

Image credit: Getty