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This article from Times Higher Education tells about the struggles of Non-EU scholars with the UK’s visa policy. The article was published in January 2014. Since then, the visa fees to remain in the UK have increased in general.

My family and I have lived in the UK for 2 years now. We are non-EU nationals. Currently, I am working as a postdoc. With our visas expiring in one year, I have been contemplating about what to do next.

I quite like my project, and there is a possibility for the university to extend my contract as a postdoc, by submitting a grant application for a separate project as a continuation of my current one.

However, to renew my family and my visas would require £651 per head. This would give us the eligibility to stay in the UK for another 3 years maximum, after which we would need to pay £1,500 per head for an indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Assuming the fees do not change, this means that 4 years from now, I will need to have at least £12,000 in my account, £10,000 of which will go into paying the fees, in order for me and my family to be able to stay permanently in the UK. With a postdoc salary, this just seems daunting at the moment.

My main question is: Is it possible for a project grant, including research fellowships, to pay for my family and my visa fees? I suspect that the project grant could probably pay for my fees, but not my family.

One possibility is for me to try to go up in the academic salary ladder by getting a lecturer position. But even if I am able to get a lecturer position, I am not quite sure if the increase would be enough to pay the fees. It looks like a more realistic option would be to leave the country, although moving to another country as a family is not so simple and also needs money. From this aspect, it might be better to stay.

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    While this is certainly a very important question for you, I fail to see how this boils down to anything else than "How can I make more money as an academic?". And I am not sure if this is a good question to ask on this site. – xLeitix Apr 22 '15 at 15:24
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    It is potentially even worse. You need to be a resident of the UK for 5 years in order to apply for ILR. While a 2 year visa and a 3 year visa add to 5 years, unless you entered the UK on the first day of the visa, you might come up short and need to extend again. This is what happened when I was on my 5 year work permit. I entered the UK 3 weeks after getting my work permit since I couldn't book flights prior to getting the visa. That meant I was 3 weeks short of 5 years when my visa expired. I had to pay £6,50 to extend for 3 weeks. – StrongBad Apr 22 '15 at 15:52
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    This question might be a better fit at expats.SE. – StrongBad Apr 22 '15 at 15:55
  • @xLeitix, thanks. I have now changed my question. I hope it is better now. – adipro Apr 22 '15 at 19:46
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    My gut reaction to this question is that your costs as a worker on the project can be covered; your family's probably cannot. – aeismail Apr 22 '15 at 20:06
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I think this would depend on the circumstances and there is going to be a difference between people currently inside and outside the UK. For example, the MRC, and probably other research councils, considers relocation costs as allowable. For someone currently outside the UK, visa fees for an entire family might be allowed as relocation costs, although they will probably be too large. For someone currently inside the UK, I think it would be difficult to claim visa fees are relocation costs.

When I came over to the UK as a lecturer, I was funded by an NIHR grant. I believe the grant, although it could have been a departmental account, paid for the visa fees for my family. The money paid for the visa fees was considered income, although not pensionable, and therefore taxed. The grant also covered the additional tax liability associated with the visa fees. When my visa expired and I needed to renew, the department basically laughed at me when I asked them to cover my visa renewal fees.

As payment of the visa fees are considered income, it is unclear how They could be costed into a grant. It is possible that overhead from a grant or a discretionary account could be used to pay the fees. My experience suggests that departments are not happy to allow a PI to use discretionary funds to pay themselves. I might be allowed to pay for visa fees for my staff, but I have never tried.

It is also probably worth noting that finding someone able to sponsor non-EU employees, especially at the post-doc level, is becoming increasingly difficult.

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