Working after studies

Last modified: 15 March 2018

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 under a different immigration route. 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. If you hold Tier 4 immigration permission and you want further information on working after you have finished your studies, see Work with Tier 4 leave after study has ended.

Your application will in most cases include an immigration health surcharge. 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.

Within the information about each scheme described 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. 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. If you are an international PhD student, there is also an immigration toolkit available to read on the website.  

If you are want to discuss your eligibility or need further advice, an International Student Adviser or a Careers Adviser at your institution may be able to advise you further. 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. 


  • The immigration rules for the schemes differ, so you might have to return to your home country to apply for your visa from there.
  • For many of the schemes, you may be required to have successfully completed your course before applying for your visa.
  • To protect your immigration status you must make your application before your current immigration 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: 15 March 2018

There are different subgroups of Tier 2:

  1. Tier 2 (General), the provisions of which are summarised here
  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.


Eligible jobs

Some common problems

Maintenance, English language

Resident Labour Market Test, and exemptions

Applying outside the UK

Applying in the UK

Starting work

Family, settlement

Immigration Skills Charge (ISC)

Doctorate Extension Scheme

Last modified: 15 March 2018

This scheme is designed to give students who have almost finished their 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 can only apply in the UK under this scheme. You must be a doctoral candidate with current Tier 4 immigration permission. This means you must be studying for a PhD qualification for one of the doctorate qualifications identified in Annex 4 of the Tier 4 policy guidance as 'doctorates'. The research Master's degrees listed in the same annex are not acceptable for the doctorate extension scheme. From 11 January 2018, some students are eligible to study part-time postgraduate courses under Tier 4 (see Part-time postgraduate courses). However, such students cannot meet the requirements to make an application for the doctorate extension scheme from within the UK, preventing them from being eligible for the scheme.

If you do not currently have Tier 4 immigration permission, you may consider getting immigration permission as a Tier 4 student so that you can 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. Remember too that only people with certain types of immigration permission can make an application to change to the Tier 4 student category from inside the UK. 

When you can apply



Working, contact with sponsor

Options afterwards, settlement

Entrepreneurs, ‘high value migrants’

Last modified: 26 January 2018

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

In order to apply as an investor, you must have at least £2 million to invest in the UK.

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.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Last modified: 15 March 2018

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.

Sirius Programme

Endorsing body, business plan

Your UK qualification

Your immigration status



Contact with endorsing body

Extending your stay, settlement


Tier 1 Entrepreneur

Last modified: 15 March 2018

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.




Settlement, family

Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 15 November 2016

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 special 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: 15 March 2018

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. We present the most obvious routes for doing that here. 

However, remember that you may have other options. For example, you would normally want to check whether you can meet the requirements of Tier 2. Depending on your nationality, you might meet the requirements of an alternative scheme, for example, Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) or UK ancestry (although you cannot apply for these schemes in the UK). The schemes covered by Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) are regularly updated, so always check whether this might be a possible route for you, even if it is not mentioned in the box for your particular field.

If you are in the UK as a dependant, you might be able to work without restriction.

You can take most forms of employment if you have leave as a Tier 1 (Investor).

Some course providers might even make it possible for you to carry out the work element as part of your studies with Tier 4 student leave, and you should ask if this is possible.

Doctors and dentists





Postdoctoral research work

Tier 5 Youth Mobility

Last modified: 15 March 2018

Under the Tier 5 (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.

South Koreans

Taiwanese and Japanese

Hong Kong (SAR) passport holders


Work, study, settlement, family

Tier 5 Temporary Worker

Last modified: 26 January 2018
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 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 it will maintain and accommodate you up to the end of the first month of your employment. The Sponsor may limit the amount but it must be at least £945. 

Applying in the UK

In many cases, you cannot switch into this immigration category from within the UK. Instead, you need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance. As an exception to this rule, 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. See further information on provided by the College of Optometrists. 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.


This route does not lead to settlement in the UK and time spent under Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) cannot be combined with time under other work categories that do lead to settlement, for example, Tiers 1 and 2.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.


The following family members can join you or stay with you in the UK:

  • spouse or civil partner
  • unmarried partner or same sex partner who is not a civil partner
  • children aged under 18 if they are outside the UK or children of any age if they are applying in the UK and they are not leading an independent life. A child aged 18 or older must already have leave as your dependant.

The funds requirement for family members is £630 per person. The money must have been held at the correct level for 90 days before the date of the application. See the policy guidance for Points Based System dependants for more information.

UK ancestry

Last modified: 22 November 2016

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 (the Republic of Ireland will only count 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: 22 November 2016


Turkish nationals have the option of setting up in self-employment in the UK under an Association 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 your student immigration permission under the doctorate extension scheme).

Workers in employment

As a result of the same agreement, Turkish nationals who are working lawfully in the UK have a series of rights to renew their permission to work, that become more and more flexible over a four-year period. 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 might be a possibility as that allows settlement after 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.

Family members 

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.

Further information

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

Case studies

Last modified: 15 March 2018

Yang - Tier 2

Ashlesh - Tier 2

Shen - Tier 2

Julie - Tier 2

Nigerian graduate - Doctorate extension scheme

Ge Zheng - Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

Juli - Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)