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Next month my boyfriend is coming to work in the UK on a Tier 5 sportsperson visa sponsored by his employer. However he wants to come as a tourist before his work visa starts. From Argentina, he is a non-visa national so can stay up to six months as a tourist without a visa.

Can he enter the UK and get his visa stamped at the border and then have his work visa processed whilst still in the UK, or does he have to go back to Argentina to re-enter on his work visa?

Also, does he have to have his return ticket booked? Because he is technically allowed to stay 6 months as a visitor but his work visa is for 1 year, if possible he won't book a return journey yet since for more than a year’s time.

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    Beware the visa you use to enter is very important. After he gets his work visa, he would need to re-enter UK with it. He cannot stay back saying he has a work visa now. But no need to go to Argentina, all the way, check any country near to UK which doesn't ask an Argentine for a visa. – DumbCoder Dec 23 '14 at 12:35
  • The question involves switching out of a tourist visa and hence that part falls within topic. Also there is a viable part about RETURN FLIGHT for visitors! – Gayot Fow Dec 23 '14 at 16:31
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Your boyfriend is an Argentine national (non-visa national) who contemplates spending 18 continuous months in the UK by combining VISITOR and T5 Sportsperson visas.

For your first question: is it possible to switch out of visitor into a T5 Sportsperson visa? Briefly, the answer is no. It is not possible to switch out of visitor into ANY category. Otherwise there would be a conflict in Paragraph 41 (ii) of the rules, which says in part...

intends to leave the United Kingdom at the end of the period of the visit as stated by him;

Moreover, since a T5 visa requires entry clearance from all nationalities, Paragraph 28 says in part...

An applicant for an entry clearance must be outside the United Kingdom and Islands at the time of the application.

And in the current era, the government views even an attempt by a non-visa national to switch in-country as abuse. They don't like it and tend to get upset.

For your second question: does a visitor have to show a return flight? Technically, the answer is no, it is not required. However, we have to return to Paragraph 41 of the rules, sub paragraph (vii), which says...

can meet the cost of the return or onward journey;

So the Immigration Officer is entitled to a high level of comfort that the person's financial standing is sufficient to make arrangements for departure. In practice, a person who can demonstrate that they are a High Net Worth Individual (HNWI) or otherwise independently wealthy can meet this requirement. Others will need to show something tangible.

Overall, the strategy of combining the VISITOR category with another category to obtain more time in the UK is seen as abuse of the system, and they would be within reasonable parameters to refuse a T5 application if the applicant had just spent time as a visitor.

Finally, it's always a good idea to discuss these things with the T5 sponsor beforehand. Doing so will avoid the possible embarrassment of jeopardising their Sponsorship License by violating the code of practice. Sponsorship Licenses are hard to get and companies cherish them. Get your sponsor's agreement beforehand.

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