Working after studies

Last modified: 25 January 2020

This page is about the options for switching from Tier 4 to a work visa. We also have separate information for those who want to work between the end of their studies and the end of their Tier 4 visa: see Work with Tier 4 leave when you are no longer studying.

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 page focusses on the schemes that a Tier 4 student can switch into within the UK. 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.


  • These are only the options which allow you to apply in the UK. There are also Other Options.
  • 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.


Tier 2: sponsored skilled work

Last modified: 29 November 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).

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. Your employer will have checked and confirmed your eligibility for Tier 2 sponsorship before issuing the Certificate of Sponsorship, but you need to check for yourself that you meet all the requirements. The information below will be helpful, and you can also get advice from the employer and/or from an immigration lawyer who specialises in Tier 2 immigration applications. The international student adviser at your higher education provider specialises in student immigration applications and is highly unlikely to offer one-to-one advice on Tier 2 applications.

Our September 2019 blog post Tier 4 to Tier 2: no more tears? looks at some recent changes that have made the logistics of switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 more straightforward.

You can also switch into Tier 2 without leaving the UK if you have or were last granted leave under be in the UK under as the partner of a Tier 4 migrant. Tier 1 migrants, those under the Startup or Innovator scheme, and people with some other work-related immigration statuses can also apply in the UK to switch into Tier 2. If in doubt, speak to your employer. If you have immigration permission in a different category, you will need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance to come to the UK under Tier 2.

For Tier 4 dependant partners and for anyone applying from outside the UK there are some extra issues or 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 matters 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.

Employers and vacancies

Skill level

Wage level

Maintenance, English language skills

Studies sponsored by a government or scholarship agency

Your course and your Tier 4 sponsor

Travelling and re-entering 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: 30 July 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

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Last modified: 03 September 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


Start-up and innovator schemes

Last modified: 11 November 2019

The Start-up scheme is aimed at people, including those with Tier 4 leave, 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. 

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

The separate Innovator scheme is for those who have already established their business and wish to develop it further. You cannot switch from Tier 4 straight to the Innovator scheme within the UK. For details of the Innovator scheme, see the guide to the Innovator scheme on the Home Office website.


Endorsing body, business plan

Qualification, knowledge of English

Switching from Tier 4

Switching from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur 


Running your business, and other work 

Contact with endorsing body


Extending your stay

Graduate route ("post-study work")

Last modified: 25 January 2020

The government announced on 11 September 2019 that there will be a new 2-year Graduate Immigration Route from summer 2021, similar to the previous Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) scheme which ended in April 2012.

Any international student who will complete their degree-level course in or after the summer of 2021 will be eligible to apply. 

See our detailed news story from 24 January 2020, "Graduate route: what's happening?".  The Home Office has also prepared a Graduate Immigration Route factsheet with key points, statistics and frequently asked questions.

See also our original news story from 16 September 2019 "Graduate route: post-study work" and our Chief Executive's blog post about the return of a post-study work route. 


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.

Lawyers, architects, teachers

Last modified: 27 November 2019

If you are eligible for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility or UK ancestry schemes you can ​apply in your home country for this scheme and come to the UK and work with very few restrictions.

This includes all work as a lawyer or an architect, and for teacher training and working as a teacher.

Someone who is in the UK as a dependant can also work with very few restrictions.




Doctors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists

Last modified: 27 November 2019

Doctors and dentists

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.


Optometrists who wish to undertake pre-registration training can apply in the UK to switch from Tier 4 (General) to the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) scheme. See further information on provided by the College of Optometrists

This is currently the only exception to the rule that applications under all parts of the Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) tier must be made outside the UK. 

If you are eligible for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility or UK ancestry schemes, or you are in the UK as someone's dependant, you can work with very few restrictions, and you may work as an optometrist.



Pharmacists are covered by Tier 2.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society no longer offers sponsorship under Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) for the Pharmacy Professional Sponsorship Scheme (PPSS).

If you are eligible for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility or UK ancestry scheme, or you are in the UK as someone's dependant, you can work a pharmacist.

Other options

Last modified: 15 January 2020

There are other visa options for people in very specific situations. Most of them can only be applied for in your home country. There are two exceptions, which can be applied for in the UK:

  • Turkish workers: Turkish nationals who have been employed in the UK. Those who have been lawfully self-employed while studying in the UK (for example under the Doctorate Extension Scheme) can also apply.

  • Investors:  people with at least £2 million to invest in the UK

All other options must be applied for in your home country:

  • 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.
  • Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme): A 2-year visa that allows both work and study, after which you must leave the UK. You must be aged between 18 and 30 and a passport holder of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea or Taiwan. It is also available to British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas).

    The Home Office's guidance on where to apply for a visa says that "Tier 5" applications can be made in any country where you are lawfully present, but this appears to be an over-simplification of some more specific provisions in paragraph 28A of the immigration rules. Paragraph 28A and the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) application form both say that a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) application will only be accepted in a country where you have permission to live for more than 6 months.

  • UK ancestry visa: Commonwealth citizens who intend to work in the UK. You must be aged 17 or over and prove that a grandparent was born in the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or on a British-registered ship or aircraft. You are also eligible if a grandparent was born in the Republic of Ireland before 31 March 1922.

  • 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.

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)