Part of being an international student is keeping track of when your student visa ends. Pretty much my entire PhD schedule(s) are developed in relation to this date. So, when calculating my 100 day countdown to having a full draft, I worked backward, from the exact date my visa ends, to the date that I had to submit this thesis, to when I needed hand in my notice of submission, to when I needed to have the full draft of my thesis written (in chapter format and not just notes).
Now why would this matter? Well, it’s more to do with my post-PhD plans, specifically where, which in turn dictates potential when(s). I’d like to remain in the UK after I complete my PhD, which throws up a whole host of unique problems. Currently, international students are given 4 months after their visa expires to attend the viva and complete any corrections. Once those 4 months were up, you would have get hired by a company that will sponsor a work visa, or leave the country. This meant that I had to complete my PhD and find a company (ideally a university) that could sponsor a work visa for me BEFORE my visa ends this September.
As of April 2013 the UK Border Agency changed the rules (again) which allows sucessful PhD graduates to stay in the UK for another 12 months, essentially to contribute to society (i.e. work, join research projects, volunteer etc.). This new development meant that I could just concentrate on finishing my thesis, which is enough pressure as it is.
However, having been on several different UK visas I am keenly aware that the devil is always in the details and the application process is NEVER straightforward. Thankfully the Student Services Unit at the University of Manchester has a dedicated team that deals with international student matters and so I contacted them for some advice. I was wondering if I could actually submit within the 3 year time frame and, as a precautionary measure, wanted to check what my options were if I needed to apply for submission pending (i.e. need more time to finish my thesis) since my visa would have ended if I went down this route. Lo and behold, it looks like I have two options:
Option A: Submit on time (September 2013), attend the viva (between Oct-Dec) then leave the UK in January 2014. I can only return to the UK if I was offered a job by a company that was able to apply for a work visa on my behalf.
Option B: Apply for submission pending period at my University to extend the thesis submission deadline. Get application approved (fingers crossed) and apply for student visa extension (thesis submission date + 3 months for viva/corrections + 4 months additional time for job hunting etc.) during which time apply for Doctoral Extension Scheme (+ 12 months for work experience).
The UK has been my home for several years now and the thought of leaving makes me ill. As much as I love Canada, my life nowadays is here the UK (as crazy as that sounds to some), so it’s a bit of a no brainer that “B” would be the next step. I would still be in the same position of having to find a work visa sponsor at the end of the Doctoral Extension Scheme but at least I’d have a bit more time to sort this out. So now I’ve got a whole new schedule to organise that needs to take into account all the paper work involved in applying for submission pending as well as getting the necessary documentation to apply for a student visa extension. Ironically my thesis has been the most straightforward matter in all this, which is strangely comforting, and the thought of having a bit more time to complete makes me feel a lot better!