Working after studies

Last modified: 10 July 2019

If you are coming to the end of your studies, you might be thinking about staying on in the UK to work, or looking at your options for returning in the future. This section of the website explains the current schemes. 

We also have information for those who want to work between the end of their studies and the end of their Tier 4 leave: see Work with Tier 4 leave after study has ended.

Within the information about each scheme, you will find links to the relevant Immigration Rules, guidance for applicants and for 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.  

Under many of the work 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. All immigration applications normally include an immigration health surcharge

If you want to discuss your eligibility for a specific scheme or if you need further advice, an International Student Adviser or a Careers Adviser at your institution may be able to advise you further, if they have expertise in immigration schemes for workers. For schemes sponsored by an employer or other body, the sponsor itself will normally be the best source of advice. 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. We have further information on seeking advice here.

The UK government has proposed a new immigration system that will operate from 1 January 2021. In December 2018 they published a white paper called The UK's future skills-based immigration system. This document explains the government's proposals for a revised immigration system after the UK leaves the European Union. Chapter 6 covers some proposes some new work schemes and some changes to existing schemes.  Where the implementation of such changes would affect existing schemes, we have included them in the detail of that scheme on this page. We will continue to update this page if any further announcements are made.


  • The immigration rules for the schemes differ. For some schemes you might have to return to your home country to apply for your visa from there.
  • Check the requirements of the specific work or job, as well as the requirements of the scheme. For example, while some schemes in theory allow you to apply before you have completed your course and obtained your qualification, the employer's job specification may require the qualification.
  • To protect your immigration status, if you are applying in the UK 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.

EEA and Swiss nationals, and family

Last modified: 17 June 2019

The UK is currently a member state of the European Union. As such the rights of European Economic Area and Swiss nationals and their family members to work in the UK continue. For full details, see our guide to your Basic residence rights.

EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who are living in the UK can apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. Settled status and pre-settled status allows you to work in the UK without restrictions. See Brexit - EU Settlement Scheme.

The UK government has published a white paper called The UK's future skills-based immigration system which explains in Chapter 6 the proposed arrangements for EEA and Swiss nationals who wish to come to the UK and work from 1 January 2021.


Employment (Tier 2)

Last modified: 10 July 2019

This section summarises the Tier 2 (General) route for skilled employment. It is primarily aimed at those who are applying in the UK to ‘switch’ from Tier 4 (General) to Tier 2 (General).

For Tier 4 dependant partners and for anyone applying from outside the UK there are some extra issues and requirements for both the applicant and the employer. These can include a restricted certificate of sponsorship (CoS), the Resident Labour Market Test, the Immigration Skills Charge, and whether the job is considered a PhD level job or a shortage occupation. We have explained all these extra issues at the end of this section. The Home Office website has details of how to apply outside the UK.  You can access the online application form here.

Tier 2 also includes routes for Intra-company transfers (those who are employed by a multi-national company outside the UK which has a UK branch), Sportspersons, and Ministers of Religion. For full details of these routes, see the Home Office's information.

It is important to read the Tier 2 policy guidance before you apply. If you are not sure whether you meet all the requirements for Tier 2, talk to the employer who has offered you the job and/or an immigration lawyer who specialises in Tier 2 immigration applications. Most international student advisers specialise in student immigration applications and do not offer one-to-one advice on Tier 2 applications.


Skill levels

Wage level

Some common problems with jobs and employers

Maintenance, English language skills

Studies sponsored by a government or scholarship agency

Applying in the UK

Starting work

Family, settlement

Restricted certificate of sponsorship

Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)

Shortage occupations, PhD level jobs

Immigration Skills Charge (ISC)

Criminal record certificate 





Doctorate Extension Scheme

Last modified: 17 June 2019

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 3 of the Tier 4 policy guidance as 'doctorates'. Some students may be studying part-time doctorate courses under Tier 4 (see Part-time postgraduate courses). As of 10 January 2019, such students are also eligible to make an application for the doctorate extension scheme from within the UK if they can meet the requirements. Unfortunately, students studying research Master's degrees listed in Annex 3 of the Tier 4 policy guidance are not eligible to apply under this 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. 

In the government's December 2018 white paper The UK's future skills-based immigration system it is proposed (paragraph 7.11) that from 1 January 2021 Tier 4 leave for a PhD will have the 12-month period automatically built in to the duration of the visa.  There are no further details on this yet.

When you can apply



Working, contact with sponsor

Options afterwards, settlement

Start-up scheme

Last modified: 08 July 2019

The Start-up scheme is aimed at people who wish to establish a business in the UK, and who have a business plan endorsed by a Home Office-approved endorsing body. It has replaced Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur. If you already have an endorsement for a Graduate Entrepreneur application, your deadline for applying is 5 July 2019.

The Start-up scheme has a broader remit than the Graduate Entrepreneur scheme. Our information here is aimed at those with Tier 4 leave who wish to switch into the Start-up scheme, and those switching in from the Graduate Entrepreneur scheme. You can also apply if you have Tier 2 leave or if you are in the UK as a visitor undertaking permitted prospective entrepreneur activities.

The full rules and eligibility for this scheme are contained in Appendix W of the immigration rules. The Home Office website has a guide to applying for the Startup scheme and they have published guidance for Home Office staff assessing applications


Endorsing body, business plan

Qualification, knowledge of English

Switching from Tier 4

Switching from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur 



Contact with endorsing body


Extending your stay

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Last modified: 05 July 2019

The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route is now closed to new applicants. See the similar Start-up scheme which has replaced it.

The information below is for people who already have immigration permission under Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, or who have a pending application. 


Contact with endorsing body

Extending your stay, settlement


"Post-study work"

Last modified: 17 June 2019

The Doctorate Extension Scheme for PhD graduates is the only dedicated immigration route for international students who wish to stay on after studies and work in the UK without employer sponsorship. Previously, there was a series of work schemes for graduates beginning in October 2004 with the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme and ending in April 2012 when the Tier 1 (Post-study work) scheme closed. Since then most graduates have been limited to Tier 2 for sponsored skilled work

On 7 June 2019 it was announced that Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called for a lifting of post-study work restrictions for international students. He accepted Jo Johnson’s proposal that students at recognised universities should have an automatic right to stay on to work for two years on their Tier 4 student visa.

Our Chief Executive Anne Marie Graham commented: 

“This is a tremendous step forward for international students in the UK, and will contribute to the successful delivery of the International Education Strategy. I’m very grateful to Jo Johnson and Paul Blomfield for their work to achieve cross party support for this important amendment."  

There is no further information yet on whether or when there will be any specific changes to the Immigration Rules to implement this change. We will keep this information updated but meanwhile this 7 June 2019 article in The Guardian has details about the background to the lifting of the restriction.


Innovators, ‘high value migrants’

Last modified: 17 June 2019

The Innovator scheme is for people who have access to £50,000 to invest in their business idea, and an endorsement from an authorised body. This route has replaced Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) for most new applicants.

Those with current Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) leave can still apply by 5 July 2021, can then extend their stay by 5 July 2025, and can apply for settlement by 5 July 2027. 

You cannot apply in the UK to switch from Tier 4 to the Innovator scheme. Graduates with a business idea can switch within the UK to the Start-up scheme instead, then into the Innovator scheme later.

See also

  • Investors:  people with at least £2 million to invest in the UK
  • Exceptional talent:  those who are internationally recognised or likely to become world leaders in arts and culture, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and medical science research, engineering or digital technology. Applicants must be endorsed by a designated body. Research Councils UK can work with the designated bodies to help you apply under this scheme if you are receiving a relevant Research Council fellowship.

Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 26 October 2018

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. 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: 07 May 2019

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.

If you are studying and hold immigration permission as a Tier 4 student, it might be possible for you to do a work element as part of your course.  You can seek advice from your institution and see our information on working during your studies





Postdoctoral research work

Teacher training

Last modified: 14 June 2019

The detailed information below is about teacher training in England. For information about teacher training in other parts of the UK, see these external websites:

The UK government's Department for Education has a dedicated and detailed "Get into Teaching" website about teacher training in England.

There are two routes: a non-salaried route where you study at a specific college or university for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), or a salaried route where you work at a school, called School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). The "Get into Teaching" website has detailed guidance on both routes.

Immigration and visas

Tuition fees, funding, bursaries, scholarships


Doctors and Dentists

Last modified: 11 April 2019

If you have Tier 4 leave, you can only work as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in training if your Tier 4 leave is sponsored by the Foundation Programme. 

To join the Foundation Programme you need a valid confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) from Health Education England. You must also have a recognised UK degree in medicine or dentistry from a UK institution and you must have had Tier 4 (General) student leave for the final academic year and at least one other academic year of those studies. For more information, see our guide to applying under Tier 4 (General).

If you have leave as the dependant of someone with leave under Tier 4, Tier 2, Tier 1 or Tier 5, paragraph 319D(b)(iii) of the immigration rules confirms that you can undertake work as a doctor or dentist in training under some circumstances. For further advice, speak directly to the Postgraduate Deanery or NHS Trust offering the position.


Tier 5 Youth Mobility

Last modified: 09 April 2019

Under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme), you can work in the UK for up to two years. This scheme is available to holders of specific passports:  Australia, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan. It is also available to British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas).

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.

You cannot switch from Tier 4 (General) into Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) within the UK. You can apply in the country where you normally live, where you have nationality, or in any other country where you have permission to be for more than six months. 

You can only apply once.  You cannot apply at all if you previously spent time in the UK under the old Working Holidaymaker scheme for Commonwealth nationals. 

South Koreans

Taiwanese and Japanese


Work, study, settlement, family

Tier 5 Temporary Worker

Last modified: 26 January 2018
Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) has five sub-categories:

These schemes allow you to undertake specific types of work in the UK for a period of one or 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 (CoS) 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 your 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 in Appendix N of the Immigration Rules 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 one of the exceptions 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 bachelor or postgraduate 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: 29 October 2018

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: 29 October 2018


Under the European Communities Association Agreement (ECAA) between Turkey and the European Union, Turkish nationals have the option of applying as a Turkish business person in order to set up in self-employment in the UK. 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). There is further applicant guidance for Turkish business people, as well as guidance on business people for the Home Office's caseworkers.

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 as a Turkish worker 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.

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


As of 6 July 2018, Turkish ECAA business persons and workers, as well as their family members are eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). This is as a result of Appendix EECA to the Immigration Rules which outlines the requirements that need to be met.

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)