Working after studies

Last modified: 09 March 2016

If you are coming to the end of your studies in the UK, you might be considering the possibility of staying on in the UK to work. This section of the website explains some of the schemes that are likely to be of particular relevance to students at the end of their studies.

Contrary to some reports, the latest changes to the Immigration Rules announced on 13 July 2015 did  not prevent all international students from applying in the UK to stay under a work category.

If you want to apply in the UK under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Tier 2 (General), Tier 5 (Temporary Worker), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Investor) on or after 12 November 2015, you must have or have last been sponsored by a UK recognised body or by an institution in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution (HEI), or by an overseas HEI at which you were studying a short-term study abroad programme. For Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Investor) applications you can also be or have last been sponsored by an embedded college offering pathway courses or if you have Tier 4 (Child) Student leave. Check with your sponsor if it falls within one of these groups but it includes universities. If you meet all other relevant requirements, explained in this area of the website, you will continue to be able to make your application in the UK. If you have studied at a different type of institution, you can make your application but it will need to be an entry clearance application made outside the UK.

Your application will in most cases include an immigration health surcharge. See our detailed information about this surcharge and whether you will have to pay it. We also provide information about how to deal with some current problems with the surcharge calculator, particularly if you are applying for the doctorate extension scheme.

The details of the schemes change frequently, and this section does not provide a list of all schemes. For full details of all the options that could be available to you, see the Home Office website.

Within each category in this area of the website, you will also find links to the relevant Immigration Rules, guidance for applicants and Home Office caseworkers and the appropriate application forms.

If you are thinking about making an application under any of these schemes, and you want advice about the application, make an appointment with either an International Student Adviser or a Careers Adviser if they can offer such help. Some law centres, and other advice centres, have immigration specialists who will provide some basic advice free of charge. Some private solicitors also specialise in immigration law, although they will charge you a fee for their advice. 

Under many of the schemes, your spouse or civil partner, unmarried or same sex partner and children can apply to stay in the UK with you, or join you here.

Remember

  • For some of the schemes, you might have to return to your home country to apply from there. This is because most of the schemes have strict rules about who is allowed to 'switch' from Tier 4 or from another immigration category into the scheme
  • For many of the schemes, you must have successfully completed your course before you can apply to 'switch' into the scheme.
  • If you want to stay in the UK under one of these schemes, you must make your application before your current permission to be here as a student expires.
  • If you have been sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency for your studies, most of the schemes require that you obtain their written consent before you apply.

Employment (Tier 2)

Last modified: 19 January 2016

There are different subgroups of Tier 2:

  1. Tier 2 (General), the provisions of which are summarised in this Information Sheet
  2. Intra-company transfers which could apply to you if you are employed by a multi-national company outside the UK which has a UK branch
  3. Sportspersons
  4. Ministers of Religion.

For full details of each of these subcategories, see the Home Office's information.

Doctorate Extension Scheme

Last modified: 13 November 2015

This scheme is designed to give students who have almost finished their UK PhD or other doctorate qualification an additional 12 months of Tier 4 (General) immigration permission in which to look for and start work in the UK.

Information about this scheme is available in the Tier 4 policy guidance.

The university or college where you are studying for your doctorate must be a Tier 4 sponsor. It must also be a recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution.  If in doubt, ask your college or university if it meets this requirement.

You must be a doctoral candidate. This means you must be studying for a PhD qualification or for one of the doctorate qualifications listed in Annex 5 of the Tier 4 policy guidance as acceptable postgraduate research qualifications. The research Master's degrees listed in the same annex are not acceptable for the doctorate extension scheme.

You can apply only in the UK under this scheme. You must have current Tier 4 immigration permission in order to be eligible. Before 3 August 2015, it was possible to apply with pre-Tier 4 student immigration permission.

If you can apply under Tier 4 as a student before you reach the point of applying under the doctorate extension scheme, you might want to consider doing this if it fits your other plans and your university or college is willing to sponsor you under Tier 4. In this way, you will be eligible to apply later under the doctorate extension scheme. You should seek advice about all your options before doing this, as it will not always be in your best interests to change to Tier 4 leave, particularly if your current immigration status can lead to settlement.

 If your immigration permission does not allow you to apply in the UK under Tier 4, you cannot apply under this scheme. You might perhaps qualify instead under a different work scheme.

Entrepreneurs, ‘high value migrants’

Last modified: 11 January 2016

Tier 1 of the Points Based System offers several routes for working in the UK as what the Home Office terms a "high-value migrant".

It is for

  • entrepreneurs, including recent graduates from UK institutions
  • investors
  • those who are internationally recognised or likely to become world leaders arts, humanities, science, engineering or digital technology (exceptional talent).

Those granted leave under the Exceptional Talent and Investor routes are not required to set up a business in the UK.They are not required to show evidence of funds for their own maintenance.

In order to apply as an investor, you must have at least £1 million to invest in the UK, or you must have £2 million in personal assets and a £1 million pound loan to invest in the UK. Your investment funds must be held in specific ways. From 6 November 2014, the minimum sum increased to £2 million.

In order to apply under the Exceptional Talent scheme, you must be endorsed by a designated body as being internationally recognised as a world leader or potential world-leading talent in arts and culture, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and medical science research, engineering or digital technology.  

Research Councils UK can work with the designated bodies to help you apply under this scheme if you are in receipt of a relevant Research Council fellowship.

In most cases, if you are already have permission to be in the UK as a Tier 4 student you can only start working on a self-employed basis once your application for leave in a new category - for example Tier 1 Entrepreneur - has been granted by the Home Office. There is a limited exception to this rule for applications made under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route (see here for details of this)

For tips on preparing to start a business in the UK while studying and advice on what you can do within the Tier 4 regulations, see the British Council website item on 'Ten Golden Rules on starting a business in the UK'

 

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Last modified: 13 November 2015

The Graduate Entrepreneur scheme is aimed at recent graduates, and postdoctoral researchers who have Tier 2 immigration permission, who have "genuine and credible business ideas and entrepreneurial skills" and whose UK college or university is prepared to endorse them under this scheme to help them develop these ideas.  You can be endorsed by an institution other than the one at which you have studied.

If you are a Tier 2 postdoctoral researcher, the relevant college or university (your endorsing body) must be your employer, but need not be the same institution that awarded your UK degree.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur

Last modified: 04 September 2015

Unlike Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) requires funds that you must invest in a business in the UK. However, you do not need a sponsor or an endorsing body.

Students' union Sabbatical Officers

Last modified: 24 September 2015

You can stay in the UK under Tier 4 if you have been elected to a full-time post as a Students' Union sabbatical officer at an education establishment where you are registered as a student. Tier 4 also covers you if you are elected to a post with the National Union of Students.

You will have to meet the requirements for Tier 4 (General) Students, including the maintenance requirements. However, the Home Office does not expect you to study during this period. The Home Office should give you permission to be in the UK for 12 months which you can apply to extend up to a two year maximum if you are re-elected.

You can find detailed information for you, the Students' Union where you are going to work as a sabbatical officer and your Tier 4 sponsor in Student Union Sabbatical Officers.

Work experience, post-doc positions

Last modified: 16 September 2015

After having studied certain subjects in the UK, you might still need to obtain relevant work experience in order to qualify in your chosen profession. This applies, for example, to medical professionals, some allied health professionals, architects and lawyers.

Tier 5 Youth Mobility

Last modified: 13 November 2015

Under the Youth Mobility Scheme, you can work in the UK for up to two years. This scheme is available to nationals of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Taiwan, and to British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas).

Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) replaced a number of different schemes, including the Working Holidaymakers scheme for Commonwealth citizens. If you have already spent time in the UK as a Working Holidaymaker, you cannot apply under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme). You can apply only once under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme).

You cannot switch into this immigration category from within the UK. Instead, you need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance.

To apply under Tier 5 (Youth Mobility), you must be aged between 18 and 30, and you must have £1,890 in your personal bank account on the date on which you apply for entry clearance.

Tier 5 Temporary Worker

Last modified: 13 November 2015
Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) replaced a number of provisions with five sub-categories:

 

These schemes allow you to undertake specific types of work in the UK for a period of one year or for two years, depending on the scheme. You must have a Tier 5 sponsor under the scheme of relevance to you. Your Tier 5 sponsor must issue a certificate of sponsorship to you before you can make your immigration application.

In order to find out more about any scheme that you are interested in, you should contact the Tier 5 sponsor to ask for full details of eligibility and how to apply. Tier 5 sponsors are listed together with Tier 2 sponsors. In order to find sponsors with the type of sponsor licence you are interested in, open the full list of Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors and search (using Ctrl F) for Creative & sporting, Voluntary workers, Religious workers, Exchange or International agreements. There is a separate list of Tier 5 (Government authorised exchange) sponsors.

You must be able to show that you have held funds of £945 in an account that is acceptable to the Home Office for a period of 90 consecutive days. Alternatively, you do not have to provide any evidence of funds if your Tier 5 sponsor is A-rated and is willing to confirm on your certificate of sponsorship that you will not claim public funds during your stay in the UK with Tier 5 immigration permission.

In most cases, you cannot switch into this immigration category from within the UK. Instead, you need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance. The only, very limited, exception is for those who apply under Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) in order to undertake professional training or, since 1 October 2013, an internship.

As an exception to the usual rules for this category, you can make an application to stay in the UK under Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) if you meet all the following requirements:

  • you have student leave (Tier 4 (General) leave or leave under one of the student-related categories that preceded the introduction of Tier 4)
  • you have obtained a UK recognised degree during your most recent grant of leave
  • you are being sponsored under Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) either to undertake a period of postgraduate professional training or work experience which is required to obtain a professional qualification or professional registration in the same field as your UK qualification or you are being sponsored for up to 12 months to undertake an internship which directly relates to your UK qualification
  • your employer does not intend to employ you in the UK once your training or work experience for which you are being sponsored has ended.

The only professional training schemes to which this provision currently applies are for pre-registration optometrists and pharmacists. The scheme for pharmacists is very limited and covers only those who graduate with an MPharm qualification between 2012 and 2015 and whose pre-registration training post is not in the National Health Service.

Tier 5 information provided by the College of Optometrists.

Tier 5 information provided by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

In order to find out which Tier 5 sponsors can offer internships, see the list of Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) schemes and contact relevant sponsors to obtain full details of their internship programme.

UK ancestry

Last modified: 04 September 2015

The UK ancestry route allows you to take employment and to set up a business. It can lead to settlement after five years.

You cannot switch into this immigration category from within the UK. You can return to your home country to apply to the British diplomatic post there for entry clearance on the basis of your UK ancestry if:

  • you are a Commonwealth citizen and
  • you are aged 17 or over and
  • you can prove that you have a grandparent who was born in
    • the UK, or
    • the Channel Islands, or
    • the Isle of Man, or
    • on a British-registered ship or aircraft, or
    • the Republic of Ireland but only if your grandparent was born there before 31 March 1922.

You must intend to take or seek employment in the UK, and you will be granted up to five years' permission to be in the UK if you are eligible. You can bring family members with you or they can join you in the UK. Eligible family members are: spouse or unmarried partner; civil partner or other same sex partner; children.

The Home Office provides detailed information in its guidance for caseworkers.

Turkish workers

Last modified: 24 September 2015

Turkish nationals have the option of setting up in self-employment in the UK under an Agreement between Turkey and the European Union. Applications to switch into this category can be made from within the UK if you are in the UK on some other basis (for example, as a student, but note that you must not be self-employed whilst you are in the UK with student immigration permission, unless you have been granted leave under the doctorate extension scheme).

In addition Turkish nationals who are working lawfully in the UK have a series of rights over a four-year period entitling them to a renewal of their permission to work. Lawful work includes work within the student restrictions.

If you have worked lawfully in the UK for a period of at least one year, you can apply to stay for an extra two years in order to continue working for the same employer. When you have worked lawfully for three years with the same employer, you can apply for an extra year and you can change employers as long as you stay in the same occupation. After four years you can apply for an extra three years' leave and you can work in any type of job with any employer.

This route does not lead to settlement in the UK and time spent under it cannot be combined with time under other work categories that do lead to settlement, for example, Tiers 1 and 2.

However, settlement under the long residence rule requires 10 years of continuous lawful residence in the UK with any type of immigration permission. For information about applying under the long residence rule, see the guidance for Home Office caseworkers.

You can bring family members with you or they can join you in the UK. Eligible family members are: spouse or unmarried partner; civil partner or other same sex partner; children.

The Home Office provides information for Turkish workers and for Turkish business people. It has detailed guidance on workers and on business people for its caseworkers.

Case studies

Last modified: 30 September 2015

Yang - Tier 2

Yang had a good experience, applying for Tier 2 leave in order to take up a postdoctoral research position at the University of Birmingham.

He also has helpful information about misunderstandings amongst his fellow students about the doctorate extension scheme.

 

Ashlesh - Tier 2

Ashlesh undertook a work placement in the finance department of a sports company, which then offered a permanent role as an information officer. The application process for Tier 2 leave took six weeks in total.

Shen - Tier 2

Shen completed a BEng degree and was granted Tier 2 leave to undertake a graduate trainee position.

Julie - Tier 2

Julie's experience was more stressful. She raises issues about the documents issued by her university, delays by her Tier 2 employer and difficulties in getting a Home Office appointment. She was granted her Tier 2 leave but had to start her graduate engineer post two weeks later than planned.

Nigerian graduate - Doctorate extension scheme

A Nigerian graduate with a PhD in Welding Engineering explains the importance of having a viva date and seeking advice before making the application, as well as tips on looking for jobs. Leave for him and his family was granted one week after they gave their biometrics.

Ge Zheng - Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

Once an endorsing body has agreed to endorse a particular student, the immigration application is straightforward, as confirmed by Ge Zheng, an MBA graduate of the University of Bath. Her application took three weeks to process. Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) applicants cannot make applications in person, but they can often start their business before they receive a decision.

 

Juli - Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) can be a particularly useful work route for artists and designers, as Juli who studied a Master of Fine Art in Glass at Edinburgh College of Art has discovered.


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