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I am United States citizen and looking to move to the UK. Currently, applying to graduate school there, which would start in October this year. However, I would like to go as soon as March to join my significant other, who is an EU national working / settled in London. I want to be able to work during this period, ideally paid work. I am looking for advice on visas and programs - the best way to legally get me there quickly and allow me to be more than just a tourist for the next 6 months.

  • Visitor visa: Is it allowed to enter on a standard visitor visa, look for work, and then switch to the appropriate visa? Would I have to leave the UK in between?

  • Partner visa: Based on the rules, I do not think our relationship will convince immigration, as we have not officially lived together nor do we have any other proof of combined assets. Are these stipulations strictly enforced, or might we have a shot just saying we have been a couple since 2014?

  • Work visa: I'm guessing I have no chance at a serious sponsorship knowing that I want to be in school instead in a matter of months.

  • Work visa, such as Tier 5 temporary work: From my research, I am hoping I could have a fixed-term internship, research position, or job for a few months with this visa. If so, what is the best way to find one? I would love some advice on job searching from outside the UK. Should I apply for internships as normal from job websites; or is there a smarter way to find vacancies? Can I contact Tier 5 sponsorship bodies directly for help? Should I approach companies or universities directly for opportunities or research positions? Do I have any hope of being taken seriously, or finding something in a timely manner?

Are there any other potential routes?

I have a bachelor's degree in Biomedical Engineering and significant research experience with neuroscience and data science.

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    I think there is also the Fiancée Visa allowing you to get married in 6 months (you cannot work while under this), after which you can switch to the EEA married family permit visa (which allows working, studying, remainig in the country, etc.). This doesn't require the two year cohabitation rule of the EEA family permit visa, but of course it means you have to get married in 6 months – SztupY Feb 16 '16 at 12:40
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  • Visitor visa: Is it allowed to enter on a standard visitor visa, look for work, and then switch to the appropriate visa? Would I have to leave the UK in between?

No switching allowed whatsoever in country. And to be frank, it is very unlikely they will let you enter if the reason is to look for a job.

  • Partner visa: Based on the rules, I do not think our relationship will convince immigration, as we have not officially lived together nor do we have any other proof of combined assets. Are these stipulations strictly enforced, or might we have a shot just saying we have been a couple since 2014?

You are correct. They are very, very, strict on this, and this visa is indeed quite rarely obtained.

  • Work visa: I'm guessing I have no chance at a serious sponsorship knowing that I want to be in school instead in a matter of months.

That's probably true though it really depends on what the employer is looking for. For example there might exist internship jobs for graduate students in your field. There might even be a partnership program in place with the school(s) you are in interested in. You should really look into this.

  • Work visa, such as Tier 5 temporary work: From my research, I am hoping I could have a fixed-term internship, research position, or job for a few months with this visa. If so, what is the best way to find one? I would love some advice on job searching from outside the UK. Should I apply for internships as normal from job websites; or is there a smarter way to find vacancies? Can I contact Tier 5 sponsorship bodies directly for help? Should I approach companies or universities directly for opportunities or research positions? Do I have any hope of being taken seriously, or finding something in a timely manner?

This is a real possibility (I'm making some assumptions on your age). Further, with this visa, you can actually switch in country.

As SztupY sort of pointed out, I notice you did not even list any of the obvious marriage routes. I'm guessing it is safe to assume that this is not an option you are at all considering. In which case, you seem to have covered all of the bases.

My own advice would be to go ahead and get all of the graduate student stuff sorted out, and come when you are scheduled to start that course.

  • Thanks for your answer! How can I verify the last part about switching from a Tier 5 visa. I seem to find contradictory information about that. – Joachim Feb 20 '16 at 8:41
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    Sorry, had to research this a bit. You cannot switch into any PBS route except the Exception Talent visa. Nor can you switch into any other visitor category. But you can switch into the unmarried partner category (or any marriage category) or a dependent category. immigrationboards.com/immigration-for-family-members/… – ouflak Feb 23 '16 at 14:14

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