Working after studies

Last modified: 06 March 2021

This page is about the options for switching within the UK from a study visa 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 key dates for current 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 new Skilled Worker for sponsored skilled work route replaced Tier 2 (General) on 1 December 2020.  The changeover from Tier 2 (General) to Skilled Worker includes some changes, mostly beneficial and helpful for students who wish to work after studies. We have updated the information below about Skilled worker route (formerly Tier 2).
  • On 1 July 2021 the new 2-year Graduate immigration route will open. Students who are due to graduate in 2021 and who are currently distance learning outside the UK due to the pandemic will need to return to the UK in order to apply under the Graduate route. 
  • The current Doctorate Extension Scheme will close and merge with the Graduate route when it opens on 1 July 2021. PhD graduates will get 3 years' permission under the Graduate route, not two years. 
  • Separate from visa matters, the Coronavirus pandemic continues to affect all aspects of life in the UK including the economy, employment and recruitment. The most obvious impact is on applications under the Skilled worker route (formerly Tier 2) where eligibility depends on securing a job offer. Our guide the Skilled Worker route includes some guidance from careers advisers about job-hunting during the pandemic.

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 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.


  • 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: 06 March 2021

The new Graduate immigration route will open for applications at 0900 on 1 July 2021.

The Graduate route is for those who have a degree or other relevant qualification awarded by an approved UK Higher Education provider. It is an unsponsored route, so your application does not need sponsorship or any endorsement by an employer or by your university. It is similar to the old Tier 1 Post-Study Work route.

Most successful applicants can stay for two years under the Graduate route. PhD graduates can stay for three years.

The following detailed information on the Graduate route is based on information published by the Home Office on 4 March 2021:

Further guidance is expected, including guidance for caseworkers assessing applications. We will keep this page updated with any further announcements.

As expected, the Graduate route is only open to those who graduate from summer 2021 and beyond. In their fact sheet about the route, the Home Office says

Those who graduate and whose Tier 4 or Student visa leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible, however, most of these students will have had no expectation of benefitting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK. They will also be able to apply to a number of other routes, for example Skilled Worker, Start Up, Innovator or Global Talent, among others.

This page has information about all these other work routes.

Where and when to apply

Current immigration status ("visa")


Study in the UK, including Covid-19 concessions

Money and fees, knowledge of English

Studies sponsored by a government or scholarship agency

Applying in 2021: extra considerations


Travelling and re-entering the UK during the application period



Alternatives to the Graduate route

EEA and Swiss nationals, and family

Last modified: 05 March 2021

European Union nationals who come to study the UK after 1 January 2021 are subject to immigration control and need to apply for a Student route visa. If you wish to work in the UK after your studies you will need to qualify for one of the work schemes or routes listed on this page. 

EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who were already living in the UK by 31 December 2020 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.


Skilled worker route (formerly Tier 2)

Last modified: 06 March 2021

In order to apply under the Skilled Worker route you need sponsorship by a licensed employer to do a specific job that meets minimum levels of skill and salary. This overview of the route is specifically tailored to those who have studied in the UK with a Tier 4 or Student route visa and who now wish to apply under the Skilled Worker route, either in the UK or in their home country.

Most people who apply in the UK to switch from Tier 4, Student route or Graduate route permission to the Skilled Worker route, and many former UK students who apply later in their home country, are considered a "new entrant" under the Skilled Worker rules about "tradable points". This means they can meet a lower minimum salary than other applicants. (This guide does not cover the other ways non-student applicants can gain "tradable points" but you can read the full details in the Immigration Rules Appendix Skilled Worker, paragraph 4.2)

We cover the basics about eligible employers, jobs and salaries, but for the fine detail of whether your specific job, salary and situation make you eligible for sponsorship as a Skilled Worker, you will need to discuss it directly with your employer, usually the Human Resources department. The Skilled Worker route is new, having launched on 1 December 2020, so you may find that employers take some time to understand all aspects, especially the key differences from the old Tier 2 route that it has replaced. We explain these difference below.

The Home Office has a full guide to the Skilled Worker route for all types of applicant, including students and former students. There are also separate routes for some specialised areas of skilled work: see the Home Office guides to the Health and Care Worker visa, Intra-company visas, Minister of Religion visa and Sportsperson visa.

The international student adviser at your university or college specialises in student immigration applications and is probably unable to offer one-to-one advice on work-based immigration applications, but they may be able to refer you to someone who can.

Job-hunting in a pandemic


Employers and vacancies

Eligible jobs and salaries, "new entrants"

Maintenance, English language skills

Studies sponsored by a government or scholarship agency

Travelling and re-entering the UK

Starting work

Family, settlement

Immigration Skills Charge (ISC)

Criminal record certificate 


Doctorate Extension Scheme

Last modified: 06 March 2021

This Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) 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.

From 1 July 2021 DES will merge into the new Graduate route. Under this new route a PhD graduate can apply for 3 years' permission to stay in the UK to work. It will not be possible for a former DES participant to apply under the Graduate route. It will also not be possible for a current DES participant to apply for the balance of the 3 years' permission that they would have been granted under the new scheme. UKCISA asked the Home Office to allow this, but they did not. If you do have the option to delay your DES application until 1 July 2021, this would give you three years' permission, not one year. Your deadline for applying under DES is 60 days after your "expected end date". See the information below on When you can apply.

The following information is for those who must apply before 1 July 2021.

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 DES. 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.

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

When you can apply

Maintenance and other requirements


Working, contact with sponsor

Options afterwards, settlement

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Last modified: 10 December 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. 


Contact with endorsing body

Extending your stay, settlement


Start-up and innovator schemes

Last modified: 06 March 2021

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 Immigration Rules Appendix Start-up. 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 Immigration Rules Appendix Innovator. 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 or Doctorate Extension Scheme


Running your business, and other work 

Contact with endorsing body


Extending your stay

Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 06 March 2021

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. If you do intend to extend for a  second period of 12 months, you may be eligible to switch into the Graduate route instead.

The rules for the Graduate route allow Student Union sabbatical officers to apply based on a qualification they obtained during the period of Student route permission immediately before their current permission. There is no provision to apply based on a qualification you obtained further back, for example if you have had two consecutive periods of permission as a Student Union sabbatical officer. We have checked with the Home Office whether this was their intention, and whether there will be any concession for such applicants.

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: 06 March 2021

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:

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

If you need to apply for immigration permission to undertake teacher training under the non-salaried route, the college or university providing the PGCE will need to sponsor you for an application under 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.

If you need immigration permission to train under the salaried route, check your eligibility to switch to the new Graduate Immigration Route which opens on 1 July 2021. The "Get into Teaching" website advises on the page for Overseas graduates that Skilled Worker visa sponsorship may be available under the salaried route, but in our experience this is very rare.

Otherwise, if you are eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) 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 can also work and study with very few restrictions and can undertake teacher training and work as a teacher. 

After your teacher training, if you are offered a teaching job you can ask the employer to sponsor you under Skilled worker, if they hold the relevant sponsor license to do 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: 06 March 2021

If you are eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) 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 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.



The new Graduate route from 1 July 2021 will allow applications from those completing some law courses. You may also be eligible to apply under the Skilled worker route.

If you are eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) or UK ancestry scheme you can apply for that scheme in your home country then come back to the UK and train. Someone who is in the UK as a dependant can also train. 

Pupil barristers might be eligible to apply under Temporary Worker: Government Authorised Exchange (T5) as the Bar Council is a Tier 5 sponsor. This is not an option for trainee solicitors.



Check your eligibility for the Graduate route or the Skilled worker route.

If you are eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) or UK ancestry scheme you can apply for that scheme in your home country then come back to the UK and train. Someone who is in the UK as a dependant can also train. 

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: 06 March 2021

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 the Student route.

Having complete the Foundation programme, you can apply under the new Graduate route from 1 July 2021.

If you have leave as the dependant of someone with Tier 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 who wish to undertake pre-registration training can apply in the UK to switch from Tier 4 (General) or Student permission to the Temporary worker: Government Authorised Exchange (T5) scheme. See further information on provided by the College of Optometrists

From 1 July 2021 check your eligibility to apply under the new Graduate immigration route

If you are eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme via (T5)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.



Pharmacists are covered by the Skilled worker route. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society no longer offers sponsorship under Temporary worker: Government Authorised Exchange (T5) for the Pharmacy Professional Sponsorship Scheme (PPSS).

From 1 July 2021 check your eligibility to apply under the new Graduate immigration route

If you are eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) 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. 

Other options

Last modified: 06 March 2021

There are other work visa options for people in very specific situations. Some can be applied for in the UK:

  • Temporary worker - government authorised exchange: people who want to participate in an approved government authorised exchange scheme. The schemes are listed in Appendix N of the Immigration Rules.

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

  • 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. Applications 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. From 5 May 2021 endorsement is not needed if you are the holder of one of the prizes listed in Appendix Global Talent: Prestigious Prizes. The Global Talent visa replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa.

All other options must normally be applied for outside of the UK, in your home country:

  • Temporary Worker (T5) 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. The sponsor must issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS).  Sponsors are listed together with Skilled wokrer sponsors. In order to find sponsors with the type of sponsor licence you are interested in, open the full list of work visa sponsors and search for Creative & sporting, Voluntary workers, Religious workers, Exchange or International agreements.

  • Youth Mobility Scheme (T5): 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, San Marino, 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 Youth Mobility visa (T5) can be made in any country (outside of the UK) where you are legally present. It is not clear if this is a concession on the more strict provision of paragraph 28A of the immigration rules which says that an application will only be accepted in a country (outside of the UK) where you have permission to live for more than 6 months. The application form itself also appears to confirm this requirement.  

  • UK ancestry visa: Commonwealth citizens who intend to work in the UK. From 6 April 2021, this visa is also open to someone with one of the following passports: British Overseas Territories citizen, British National (Overseas), British Overseas citizen, British subject. 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)