Working after studies

Last modified: 22 October 2020

This page is about the options for switching within the UK 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 when you are no longer studying.

There are some upcoming changes and key dates for students who want to work in the UK after their studies. We will incorporate the changes into the information on this page as the full details become available, but the headlines are:

  • The Tier 2 (General) route for sponsored skilled work will be replaced from 09:00 on 1 December 2020 by the new Skilled Worker route for all non-UK, non-Irish nationals. The changeover from Tier 2 (General) to Skilled Worker includes some changes, mostly beneficial and helpful for students who wish to work after studies
  • 31 December 2020 is the deadline for EEA and Swiss nationals to move to the UK under their right of free movement under EU law. They can secure their ongoing right to work by applying under the Brexit - EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline of 30 June 2021. Those who arrive on or after 1 January 2021 will be subject to immigration control and will need visas for study and work
  • In summer 2021 (actual date yet to be confirmed) the new 2-year Graduate immigration route is due to open. Students who are due to graduate in 2021 and currently distance learning outside the UK due to the pandemic will need to return to the UK for their last semester, deadline 6 April 2021, in order to be eligible under the Graduate route. 
  • The current Doctorate Extension Scheme is expected to close and merge with the Graduate route, and  PhD graduates will get 3 years' permission under the Graduate route, not two years. 
  • Separate from visa matters, the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic continues to affecting the UK economy, including employment and recruitment. The situation has been widely covered in the British media, and a panel of current international students was interviewed about work prospects on the BBC World Service podcast "The Covid Generation", broadcast on 31 May 2020

See also the Home Office publications "New immigration system: what you need to know" and the "UK point-based immigration system: further details statement", published on 13 July 2020.  There was also guidance aimed at employers, published on 24 September 2020.

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. If you are an international PhD student, there is also an immigration toolkit available to read on the jobs.ac.uk 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, if they have expertise in this area. For schemes sponsored by an employer or endorsed by your university or another body, the sponsor or endorsing body itself is normally 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.

Remember

  • On this page we cover the options which allow you to apply in the UK to switch to permission to work. There are also Other Options for which you will need to apply in the country where you normally live.
  • 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, you must apply before your current immigration permission expires. 
  • If your fees and living costs have been 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.

Graduate route ("post-study work")

Last modified: 20 October 2020

The government announced on 11 September 2019 that there will be a new Graduate immigration route from summer 2021, similar to the previous Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) scheme which ended in April 2012. This route will provide international students with the opportunity to stay in the UK to live and work, or to look for work, after they graduate.

The Home Office released a more detailed fact sheet about their plans for the Graduate immigration route on 14 October 2019. This and the "UK points-based immigration system: further details statement", released on 13 July 2020, include everything that is currently known about how the Graduate route will work.

The specific start date for the scheme has not been announced, only that it will be in summer 2021.

The main points are:

  • The route is for students who will complete a degree in or after the summer of 2021 and who hold a Tier 4 or Student visa at the time they apply.
  • Study must be undertaken in the UK, with a concession only for people who have been distance learning outside the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to be eligible, such students must return to the UK for their last semester, by a deadline of 6 April 2021. For details of this concession see "Coronavirus (COVID-19): Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students", page 16.
  • Undergraduate and master's degree students will be able to apply to stay for two years.
  • PhD students will be able to apply to stay for three years.
  • You do not need to be sponsored by an employer or by your university, but the degree must be awarded by a Higher Education provider that is listed on the Register of Student Sponsors as a "Student Sponsor - Track Record".
  • It will not be possible to extend this type of immigration permission but it will be possible to switch into another route, if you meet the requirements.
  • There will not be a requirement to show you have a certain amount of money (known as the 'maintenance requirement').
  • There will be an application fee and you will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

We are still waiting for full information on the scheme, and the start date, and we will update this page as soon as there are further full details. In the meantime, you can also read our news items that cover what we know so far:

EEA and Swiss nationals, and family

Last modified: 02 October 2020

The UK has left the European Union but for now 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 should 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.

European Union nationals who come to the UK after 1 January 2021 will be subject to immigration control. See The UK's points-based immigration system: policy statement published on 19 February 2020.

 

Tier 2 / Skilled worker route

Last modified: 22 October 2020

This section summarises switching to the Tier 2 (General) route for skilled employment.

The government confirmed in a Statement of Changes to the immigration rules on 22 October 2020 that the Tier 2 (General) route will be replaced by a very similar new Skilled Worker route from 09:00 on 1 December 2020. Related guidance for applicants, sponsors and Home Office staff will be published later. The Home Office has previously published several documents with details of its plans for the Skilled Worker route, itemising the planned key changes from the Tier 2 route. We have included in this guide the most significant proposed changes, drawn from those Home Office publications.  When the guidances are published, we will analyse both the Rules and the guidances and update this information accordingly.

This information is for those who are applying in the UK to ‘switch’ to a General work visa (Tier 2). Tier 2 also includes specific routes for Intra-company transfers (those who are employed by a multi-national company outside the UK which has a UK branch), Health and Care workers, Sportspersons and Ministers of Religion. For full details of the additional eligibility for these specific routes and any differences in the application or fees, get advice from your employer and see the Home Office's information.  

The job market in the UK is already competitive, and the ongoing effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the UK economy are severely affecting recruitment. It is a challenging time to search for a job, and you will probably need to have a "Plan B" in place, just in case you do not find a job with Tier 2 or Skilled worker sponsorship by the end of your current permission. If that happens, you will need to leave the UK. There is no time limit for applying in your home country for a Tier 2 or Skilled worker visa for returning to the UK for work. Any application made on or after 1 January 2021 will be under the new Skilled worker route, not under Tier 2. For more information, see these recent guides aimed at 2020 graduates:

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 here 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 unlikely to be able 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 Student 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: 21 October 2020

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

Information about this scheme is available in the Student route guidance

The university or college where you are studying for your doctorate must be on the Register of licensed sponsors: students. It must also be on the list of recognised bodies or be a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution.  If in doubt, ask your college or university if it meets these requirements.

You can only apply in the UK under this scheme. You must be a doctoral candidate with current Tier 4 or Student immigration permission. This means you must be studying for a PhD qualification or one of the doctorate qualifications identified on page 69 of the Student route guidance as 'Doctorate qualifications'. Students studying part-time doctorate courses under Tier 4 or the Student route (see Part-time postgraduate courses) are eligible to apply from within the UK if they can meet the requirements.

If you do not currently have Tier 4 or Student permission, you may consider applying under the Student route 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, and some people with short-term permission for the UK cannot switch into the Student route anyway.

From summer 2021, the Doctorate Extension Scheme will merge into the new Graduate route under which PhD graduates can apply for 3 years' permission in the UK to work. It is not yet clear whether there will be provision for current Doctorate Extension Scheme participants to switch into the Graduate route for the balance of the 3 years' permission.

For more information on the application, see Making a Student route application in the UK.

When you can apply

Maintenance and other requirements

Family

Working, contact with sponsor

Options afterwards, settlement

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Last modified: 20 October 2020

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. 

Working

Contact with endorsing body

Extending your stay, settlement

Family

Start-up and innovator schemes

Last modified: 20 October 2020

The Start-up route is aimed at people, including those with Tier 4 and Student permission, who wish to establish a business in the UK, and who have a business plan endorsed by a Home Office-approved endorsing body. It replaced the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route. 

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

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

The separate Innovator scheme replaced the old Tier 1 Entrepreneur route and is aimed at experienced businesspeople seeking to establish an innovative business in the UK. You cannot switch from Tier 4 straight to the Innovator scheme within the UK, but you can switch if you hold leave as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur. Applicants must meet investment fund criteria, require endorsement from an independent endorsing body and must  meet other eligibility requirements which are contained in full in Part W6 of Appendix W to the Immigration Rules. For details of the Innovator scheme, see the guide to the Innovator scheme on the Home Office website.

The below information is specific for the Start-up route.

Endorsing body, business plan

Qualification, knowledge of English

Switching from Tier 4 or Student route

Switching from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur 

Maintenance 

Running your business, and other work 

Contact with endorsing body

Family

Extending your stay

Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 20 October 2020

You can stay in the UK under the Student route 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. The Student route also covers you if you are elected to a post with the National Union of Students.

You will have to meet the requirements for a Student route application. 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.

Teacher training

Last modified: 22 October 2020

The UK government's Department for Education has a dedicated and detailed "Get into Teaching" website about teacher training in England. The information in this section is taken from that website. 

For information about teacher training in other parts of the UK, see these websites:

For teacher training in all four countries, if you are eligible for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility or the UK ancestry route you can apply (in your home country only) for a visa under that route then come back to the UK and work as you wish, including training to be a teacher. Someone who is in the UK as a dependant or (from summer 2021) under the proposed new 2-year Graduate Immigration Route can also work with very few restrictions and can undertake teacher training and work as a teacher. 

In England there are two separate training routes:

  • non-salaried route where you study at a specific college or university for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), or
  • 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, and on visas, tuition fees and funding. We do not offer individual advice about the Get Into Teaching programme, but the following guidance is based on their website, with some commentary.


Immigration and visas

The Department for Education and the "Get into Teaching" initiative do not sponsor work or study visas for teacher training.  If you need to apply for immigration permission to undertake teacher training, you are currently restricted to the non-salaried route, and only if the college or university providing the PGCE agrees to sponsor you under the Student route. See our detailed guide to eligibility for the Student route. The college or university providing the course can advise on enrolment issues, including what evidence of your immigration status they will need to see at enrolment.

The "Get into Teaching" website advises on the page for Overseas graduates that Tier 2 work visa sponsorship may be available for the salaried route. If you currently have Tier 4 or Student permission, you would need to speak directly with the school to check whether they have a Tier 2 / Skilled worker sponsor license, and whether they would sponsor you to switch into that route from Tier 4. If not, you will be limited to the non-salaried route under the Student visa route.

From summer 2021, those who join the proposed new 2-year Graduate Immigration Route can train as a teacher under either the salaried or the non-salaried route. Meanwhile if you are eligible to apply under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility or UK ancestry schemes, or if you are in the UK as someone's dependant, you can work with very few restrictions, including training and working as a teacher under either the salaried or non-salaried route. 

After your teacher training, if you are offered a teaching job you can ask the employer to sponsor you under Tier 2 / Skilled worker, if they hold the relevant sponsor license to do that. Someone with Tier 4 or Student permission can normally switch to Tier 2 / Skilled worker within the UK, but under current rules someone doing teacher training with Tier 5 Youth Mobility permission must apply in their home country to switch into Tier 2. Some secondary school teacher positions are listed as "shortage occupations" in Appendix K of the immigration rules. This means that the employer does not need to run the Resident Labour Market Test before sponsoring someone for this position, but it does not mean that you can apply in the UK if your current permission doesn't normally allow that.

 

Tuition fees, funding, bursaries, scholarships

A trainee on the salaried route is not eligible for any bursary or scholarship.  Grants are only available for the school providing your training. 

On the non-salaried route, a trainee studying a PGCE with Tier 4 or Student permission is likely to pay tuition fees at the "overseas" rate but you can check your personal eligibility for the "home" fee rate in our detailed guide to home or overseas fees.

Similarly, someone with Tier 4 or Student permission is unlikely to be eligible for a tuition fee loan or maintenance loan but you can check your personal eligibility using our guides to student support eligibility depending on the part of the UK where you normally live:

Eligibility for bursaries and scholarships for trainees on the non-salaried route is the same as for student support. The Get into Teaching website advises on the Bursaries and Scholarships page (footnote 1) that

To receive a bursary or scholarship you must be entitled to support under the Student Finance England criteria. Residents of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will need to be entitled for support as set out by your country’s student finance body (Student Finance Wales, Student Awards Agency Scotland or Student Finance NI). Both elements will be assessed by your teacher training provider.

 

Lawyers, architects

Last modified: 20 October 2020

If you are eligible for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility or UK ancestry scheme you can apply for that scheme in your home country then come back to the UK and work. Someone who is in the UK as a dependant or (from summer 2021) under the proposed new 2-year Graduate Immigration Route can also work.

These types of work visa have very few restrictions on the work you can do. You can work as a lawyer or an architect, 

Lawyers

If you do not meet any of the schemes or statuses mentioned in the introduction, you will need to apply under Tier 2. However, pupil barristers might be eligible to apply under Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) as the Bar Council is a Tier 5 sponsor. This is not an option for trainee solicitors.
 

Architects

If you do not meet any of the schemes or statuses mentioned in the introduction, you will need to apply under Tier 2, Your course provider should be able to explain whether you can undertake work between Parts 1 and 2 of your course with Tier 4 leave.

Doctors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists

Last modified: 16 October 2020

Doctors and dentists

If you have Tier 4 or Student permission, you can only work as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in training if your permission 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) or Student permission 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 lTier 4, Tier 2, Tier 1 or Tier 5 permission, 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

Optometrists who wish to undertake pre-registration training can apply in the UK to switch from Tier 4 (General) or Student permission 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 scheme, or you are in the UK as someone's dependant, you can work with very few restrictions, including work as an optometrist. From summer 2021 this will also apply to those who are in the UK under the proposed new 2-year Graduate Immigration Route.

 

Pharmacists

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 with very few restrictions, including work as an optometrist. From summer 2021 this will also apply to those who are in the UK under the proposed new 2-year Graduate Immigration Route.

Other options

Last modified: 09 July 2020

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

  • Global Talent visa for 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. The Global Talent visa replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa is February 2020.
  • 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 applications for Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) can be made in any country (outside of the UK) where you are legally present. However, 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 (outside of the UK) 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)


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