I am a US citizen and currently live in the US. I have wanted to try living abroad for some time now, and the United Kingdom seems like a good option to do so, except for some possible visa concerns. I am also looking into getting a graduate degree (professional masters) soon, so I thought that doing so in the United Kingdom would be a good way to pursue both goals simultaneously.
Unfortunately, the student visa has the following restrictions (source, emphasis mine):
- claim public funds (benefits) and pensions
- work in certain jobs, for example as a professional sportsperson or sports coach
- be self-employed
- study at an academy or a local authority-funded school (also known as a maintained school)
This is a concern for me as a big part of my life is working towards owning and running my own business, but this restriction may prevent that. In practice, this means working on my own and occasionally with others to create the product that would be sold, and other preparatory activities such as market research. Even if it is unlikely to eventually succeed, doing this activity is important to me on an emotional level. Furthermore, even if I am allowed to do such preparatory activities on this visa, it is important for the success of such an endeavor to be able to quickly launch a product when it is ready in order to enter the market at an appropriate time, so it is important that I do not have to wait for immigration paperwork to go through before doing so. All of my businesses would be online and service customers in as many countries as possible, so they would not impact the UK market any more than they would if I launched them within the United States.
As such, I have two very related questions:
- Are my concerns about how this visa would affect my goals accurate/warranted, or does this only apply in more traditional freelance scenarios (e.g. owning a business that doesn't have a unique product such as a tradesperson)?
- If they are, what other visa options, if any, exist that would not interfere with my goals?
I looked into work visas, and although they seem to allow some level of self-employment, they are very tied to holding a particular full time job, which would interfere with the goal of getting a graduate degree, even if only insofar as not having enough time to perform the duties of the job and work towards the degree.
It is worth noting that the job that I am qualified for are on the list of acceptable jobs for skilled worker visas. More specifically, I am currently working towards an undergraduate degree at a US university and I am considering the UK for a graduate degree after in the same field. This undergraduate degree applies to the field on the list, and I have worked multiple internships in the field, quite successfully. Should I decide to stay in the US after I graduate from my undergraduate degree I do not anticipate any trouble finding a good job in this field even without a graduate degree, so presumably I could find one in the UK too unless the job market is much harder.
I also looked into entrepreneurship visas, but they have strong requirements for working towards the business full time, which is not what I want to do right now.