Troubles of an international student: Why my visa is holding me back

An insight is given into the world of an international student and student visas

Castor Chan
26th May 2022
Image: Chris Thomson on Flickr
When I came overseas for my university degree, I was hoping that my new, potentially permanent, place of residence would offer me opportunities that would have been unreachable back in Hong Kong. A student visa was my way in, a £380 way in, to a new range of experiences. My subject choices - media and classics - themselves would be considered out of the norm at home, and coming here, I found so many people that were passionate about the same things as I was. 

Having found my comfort zone, I started looking at things I could do here. The first and closest thing was student media, which I’ve clearly fallen in love with, judging by how it's going. But as we approached the end of second year, more and more focus went into working towards the future. I very quickly realised that I was nowhere near on equal footing with my peers, and this was not because of a lack of progress. My visa was stopping me from being self-employed. While I have no plans on owning a business as of yet, this simple restriction meant that I couldn’t freelance for any publications. 

My visa was stopping me from being self-employed

I’ve attended a decent amount of media talks, and more often than not, the speakers have referenced freelancing. Whether it was a recommendation to make use of our student experiences, a way to take advantage of connections, or an account of their own career path, freelancing popped up in some way, however briefly. On my Tier 4 visa, there are many more things that I cannot do. I am legally not allowed to be employed as a musician, artist or sportsperson. And if I were to be employed, I am capped at 20 hours per week during term time. The quota does not apply during the holidays, but it is still something that I have to be wary of when taking any part-time work or internships. 

While it is a decent trade-off for the ability to get education in this country - and I’ll happily accept this deal again in hindsight - it is most certainly frustrating to see my peers have incredible opportunities and connections. Don’t get me wrong I’m genuinely thrilled for them, but it is the fact that I cannot change my situation (lest I risk being evicted) that makes me jealous of their freedom. Tempting as it may be to send off an email and take my chances, I’ll just have to wait a little longer for my plans til this visa runs out.

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