Tier 4 to Tier 2: no more tears?


Blog for students
10 September 2019
68     8
  • First published 5 September 2019
  • Last updated 10 September 2019: section 3 added about the 1 October 2019 change to when a Tier 2 applicant can start work.

Securing your first graduate job can be difficult and stressful, especially if staying in the UK depends on it. Andrew Humphrey is feeling your pain, but he explains that recent changes mean that applying for the visa is getting easier for students.

It may not feel like it, but switching from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 work visa in the UK is easier and more straightforward now than it has ever been. 

Please do not misunderstand me. I know very well that applying for jobs, being interviewed and then being offered and accepting a job is a difficult process for any new graduate. It is especially stressful if your plan to stay and work in the UK depends on you getting that job and the attached visa sponsorship, and I blogged recently for UKCISA about some of the common problems with Tier 2 jobs and employers. I take my hat off to all students who can secure a graduate job with a Tier 2 sponsor, and I salute all the university Careers Advisers who support and guide you through the transition from student to worker.

But I am not a Careers Adviser. My area of expertise is the immigration side: your eligibility and opportunity to switch from your Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 visa for sponsored skilled work. And it is with this part of the process that there have been positive and welcome changes recently.

This blog post is just an update on these recent changes. For the full picture on switching to Tier 2, including eligible jobs, minimum salary and skill levels, see UKCISA's detailed guide to Tier 2.

There have always been some useful concessions for students switching to Tier 2 in the UK, compared to someone switching from another type of visa, or someone applying in their home country:

  • The minimum salary is £20,800 for those switching from Tier 4, £30,000 for everyone else.
  • The employer does not need to run the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) before issuing your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). This is the test of whether there is a local worker who can do the job which is required for most Tier 2 applications from outside the UK, and for some applications from inside the UK, but not for someone switching from Tier 4. As it happens, a recent government news story calls the RLMT "outdated" and says it will be soon abolished completely.
  • The employer does not pay the £1000/year Immigration Skills Charge which is needed when someone applies outside the UK
  • Your CoS is over and above the employer's restricted allocation of CoS.

This year there have been three further changes which will make switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 easier for many people. 

1. How soon you can apply

First, your window of opportunity for applying. PhD students have always been able to switch into Tier 2 after 12 months of study, but for other students until recently the earliest an employer could issue a CoS was the day your results were published. This often left students with only weeks or even days before their Tier 4 visa expired. So if the CoS was delayed or the job offer not yet finalised, they would lose their chance to apply in the UK with all the above advantages.

In January 2018 a change to the immigration rules moved this earliest date for issuing the CoS back in time from results day to the formal end date of the course, which was good. Then in March this year another change to the rules moved it back even further to 3 months before the formal end date of the course, which is even better. Most Tier 4 visas have an extra 4 months after the formal course end date -- what the Home Office calls the "post-study period" -- so this gives most people 7 months to obtain a CoS and make a Tier 2 application.

There is one scenario in which this change does not benefit you. If your job offer is conditional on your qualification, or on a specific result, your Tier 2 employer will probably still want to wait until your results are published before issuing the CoS. But that is about the requirements of the job, not the requirements of the Tier 2 visa.

2. Travelling before you apply

The second change is quite major, and not just for Tier 2 applications, but it has been slightly under the radar. It is not a change to the immigration rules but to the Tier 4 Policy Guidance which explains and interprets the rules.

For many years, people switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 could not safely and confidently use their visa's 4-month (or 2-month or 6-month) post-study period to travel and re-enter the UK before making their Tier 2 application. Of course those who have already made a Tier 2 application cannot leave the Common Travel Area anyway while the application is pending, because that will withdraw their application, but even those who had not yet applied and who were in the post-study period could not safely travel and re-enter the UK either.

This is because a Border Force Officer could in theory not allow you to re-enter the UK using a Tier 4 visa for a course that was now finished. In practice it was often fine, but sometimes it wasn't. It was always very difficult to advise students in this situation, and depending who you asked there was a spectrum of advice from "don't risk it" to "it will be fine" via "it might be fine before graduation, but not after". UKCISA's advice was always the most cautious: if you were planning a Tier 2 application during the post-study period, do not try to travel and re-enter the UK.

And it wasn't just a problem of being refused entry. Even if you were admitted back into the UK, but as a Standard Visitor, that wouldn't help because visitors cannot switch to Tier 2. As a sidebar, the government's white paper on the proposed new post-Brexit immigration system for the UK from 1 January 2021 does include a proposal to allow some visitors to switch into skilled work but that's for the future.

So I am very happy to confirm that this annoying trap, which has been a thorn in the side of many generations of students and advisers, is now dead and gone. A welcome new section in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance called "After you have finished your studies" (pages 67-68 of the August 2019 update) confirms that

Once your sponsor has confirmed that your studies are complete, and you are therefore in your post-study period, you may do the following:

  • Enter and leave the UK
  • Work full-time in the UK, if your conditions of leave permit you to work
  • Study in the UK
  • Visit areas in the UK
  • Apply to remain in the UK under an appropriate alternative route (e.g. Tier 1 and Tier 2).

So now you can travel without worry during the post-study period and come back to the UK to make your Tier 2 application. I am not sure anyone needed the Home Office's permission to "visit areas of the UK" during the post-study period, but let's not be ungrateful for this welcome change.

When you re-enter on your Tier 4 visa during the post-study period, the Border Force Officer does still need to be satisfied that either you will be leaving the UK before your visa expires or "that you will submit an in-time application to extend your leave in the UK." It will be wise to carry in your hand luggage some evidence that you will be soon be making the Tier 2 application.

So when you get your dream job, and the employer agrees to sponsor you for a Tier 2 visa, maybe treat yourself to a holiday or a trip home.  As long as you come back on or before the end date of your Tier 4 visa, it really will be fine.

3. Starting work

Those who apply for Tier 2 after getting their results can start their Tier 2 job immediately. This is because Tier 4 leave that was granted before 1 October 2019 includes a work condition that allows you to start a permanent job if you applied for Tier 2 having "successfully completed" your course. 

While the Tier 2 rules were amended in January 2018 and April 2019 to allow someone who has not yet "successfully completed" their course to apply for Tier 2 (see section 1 above), the Tier 4 work rules about taking a permanent job were never adjusted accordingly. It means that someone who applies for Tier 2 before getting their results can only work on a temporary basis until their Tier 2 leave is granted. This adds an unfortunate complication to hiring people under Tier 2.

Following some lobbying by international student advisers and UKCISA, the offending Tier 4 work condition will finally be changed from 1 October 2019. If your Tier 4 visa is issued on or after that date, at the end of your course its work conditions will allow you to start a Tier 2 job as soon as you have made the Tier 2 application.

Unfortunately, this change in the Rules from 1 October 2019 will not retro-fit the new work condition for people who already have their Tier 4 leave. Eventually, all those switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 will have the new condition, but meanwhile it perfectly fine to ask your Tier 2 employer if you can start on a  temporary contract, and then become permanent when your Tier 2 leave is granted. They may well suggest this solution anyway.

 

What has been your experience with the visa aspects of switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2? What else could the UK government do to improve the transition from Tier 4 to Tier 2? Leave a Comment below. 

Please do not post a Comment asking for advice about your individual situation or about any types of work visa other than Tier 2.  For advice queries, please see UKCISA's detailed guide to Working after Studies or contact the International Student Adviser at your institution or UKCISA's students' advice line.

 


Andrew Humphrey
 is a freelance student adviser and trainer. He tweets at @andrew_humphrey.

 

 

 

 


Name: * required
Your Comment: * required
Dolapo
05 September 2019
Hi Andrew,
Thanks for the post, it is really insightful.
My query is regarding another topic though:
Can an international student receive bursary for PGCE students?
Thanks.
Andrew
06 September 2019
Thanks Dolapo, I am glad you found it useful. See Info & Advice > Working> Working after studies > Lawyers, architects, teachers
Robin Singh
05 September 2019
Are you sure, you can start your job soon after Tier 2 Visa Application ? I am assuming you should have visa stamped before i start !!
Andrew
06 September 2019
I say you can *usually* start work after you apply, Robin. See Info & Advice > Working > Working after studies > Employment (Tier 2) > Starting work
Hamad Omar
05 September 2019
This is great news may be it will provide more opportunities for International students to study in UK. I am among the students who my visa application was refused in 2010.I got unconditional letter to study in UK.
Andrew
06 September 2019
I hope so, Hamad. There is a perception that the UK does not want students to stay and work, and I understand why people may feel that way since Tier 1 Post Study Work was abolished in 2012. But I think the current position is more positive than people may think. Hence this blog post.
Kam
11 September 2019
Hi Andrew,
Thanks for the post! Regards the latest news about PSW coming back next year, I'm not sure if you know whether a PGCE course is also applicable under the new visa? It is at the same level as a master degree. But the government announcement says that students need to complete a 'degree' at UG level or above. Thank you!

Andrew
11 September 2019
This blog post is specifically about switching to a Tier 2 visa. For other types of visa, see Info & Advice > Working > Working after studies.
John
11 September 2019
Hello am a bit confused here . currently on a student visa to expire next year can i apply for a Tier 2 without a CoS sponsor and those the 2 year visa apply to to students on such visa or just for students coming in in 2020
Andrew
11 September 2019
You may be conflating several different types of work visa. See Working > Working after Studies for the different schemes.
Ivone
11 September 2019
Hello Andrew,

it is very useful information thank you very much. The official Tier 2 document is very complicated. Can you please answer a question about the minimum permit salary for applying to this type of visa with my conditions? I am about finish my PhD and I am applying to jobs now ( I am in the UK with TIER 4 visa) the minimum salary requirement for me will be £20.300? also, it has to be a full-time job?

thanks

Ivone
Andrew
11 September 2019
Thank you Ivone, I am glad you found it useful. This website has a detailed guide to Tier 2 including about minimum salary. See Working > Working after studies > Tier 2 for sponsored skilled work .
Ade
11 September 2019
Thanks for explaining this tricky process. My question is: will PhD students coming to the end of their studies be allowed to take up the 2 years post study process?
Andrew
11 September 2019
You are welcome. See my reply to Kam's question above.
Camilla Alfaro
11 September 2019
hi i recently graduated on August 2019 and I was wondering if the 2 post year study time also applies for me? Its been a hard time for me to find a job, most of them do not sponsor visas.. Do you think i could apply for a tier 2 visa without a sponsor

Thank you
Andrew
11 September 2019
See my previous reply to Kam.
Aerica
11 September 2019
Hi, this article was really helpful. I have to extend my tier 4 visa. I was supposed to graduate in 2020 but coz of a module I’ll be graduating in 2021. Since I’ll be applying for extension for 2020-2021, will I be able to get the benefit of the new rule ??
Andrew
12 September 2019
Thanks Aerica, that's great that it was helpful to you. If you need individual advice, please contact your international student adviser.
ALI
12 September 2019
I am international student and i want to know
Will students who are applying for september intake 2019 will be eligible for two year psw?
Because i will graduate in 2020 so can i get benefit from it?
Andrew
16 September 2019
See my previous reply to Kam above.
Rinka
14 September 2019
Hello Andrew,

Thank you for the update. I just have a quick question. I am currently on tier 4 visa from January 2019 till January 2021 ,two years masters so do I am eligible for this 2 years work visa
Please advise
Andrew
16 September 2019
The blog post is not about that, Rinka. It is about switching into Tier 2. See my previous reply to Kam above.
HUSSAIN
17 September 2019
Hi. How are you.
Andrew
18 September 2019
Fine, thank you Hussain, and very happy that you have not posted a question about the Graduate route!
Mart
19 September 2019
Hi Andrew this is Mary, a postgraduate student at the university of glasgow. Your article is really helpful thank you.

I have an inquiry for you if you would kindly advice me on the following situation:

My tier 4 visa expires march 2020, I’m currently applying for some graduate schemes and other jobs that have a starting date of say July or June. Should I pass would my employers be able to issue me a tier 2 then wait till the start date, and if so can I travel back and forth with a tier 2 issued but without my work starting?

Would really appreciate your reply. Thanks
Andrew
19 September 2019
Mary, please see the request above: "Please do not post a Comment asking for advice about your individual situation.... For advice queries, please see UKCISA's detailed guide to Working after Studies or contact the International Student Adviser at your institution or UKCISA's students' advice line."
Annie Jenkins
20 September 2019
This has got to be the best explained, most useful, helpful and insightful article I have seen on this topic. (And I feel like I have read them all) My tier 4 visa expires in 2 months, however I have a training contract secured for 2021 with a salary 2k below 30k the Resident labor test threshold and have been scouring the internet for how to overcome this obstacle.
Andrew
21 September 2019
Thank you for the compliment, Annie. I am delighted you found it useful.
Samira Suleman Gadim
23 September 2019
My Msc course ends in January 2020 and tier 4 viza expires in May 2020. Can I apply to any graduate program starting after May, or lets say June or July? Is it possible that I can start job after May if I get tier 2 before tier 4 expires?
Please advice.
Andrew
24 September 2019
These are questions for the employer who is issuing the CoS, Samira.
Stephanie G
03 October 2019
I completed my UK Masters in September.
I had an unconditional offer for a one year contract (due to start on Monday) withdrawn yesterday because the employer “can only sponsor particular roles, unfortunately the role you have applied for is not covered.”

Jenisha
05 October 2019
Hi

My current visa is Tier 4 student visa and I am looking to apply to tier 2 visa.
I am working for a company full-time, is it possible to extend my visa to work here?

Please let me know.
Thanks
Jeni
Andrew Ngunjiri
07 October 2019
I am on tier 4 visa expiring march 2020 just completed taught masters(msc accounting) and expecting dissertation results in november 2019 and graduation January 2020. I am working on zero contract jobs like housekeeping,cleaning and food operative in different companies.It has not been easy getting a tier 2 sponsor. If temporary jobs pay a salary equivalent to £20800 prorata during my leave to remain on tier 4, would I be able to sucessfully apply for tier 2 ?
Saddia Siddika
08 October 2019
Hi, is there any age limit for tier-4 students who want to switch into tier-2 with £20,800 pa salary? Because from a government website I've found, "the new entrant pay threshold also applies if the migrant is under the age of 26 on the date of their application for Tier 2 leave."
Andrew
09 October 2019
Saddia, I think you must have misread "also" as"only". The new entrant rate is for all those switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 in the UK and *also* for those other people.
Joseph
15 October 2019
Hello Andrew. Thank you for writing this. Very helpful to be aware of the update. My understanding is the switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 can take up to 8 weeks unless you pay for premium services. Correct? If yes, does that mean I have to give in my passport for all that time period or can they scan it and give it back so I can fly during that time? (I think this is what they do when you apply for settlement/Indefinite Leave to Remain)
Andrew
16 October 2019
Joseph, on this website see Info & Advice > Making a Tier 4 General application in the UK > Submitting your application > Travel outside the UK before you receive a decision. The same principle applies to Tier 2 applications.
Taher
16 October 2019
There is a lot more to moving from Tier 4 to Tier 2 visa. For the majority of the employers, it is a no-go.
As highlighted in the blog it has four main items to achieve those 70 points for a smooth transition.
1.30 points:- job offered = certificate of sponsorship. The job offer should meet the criteria as per the applicable job code in appendix J of the RQF. From my experience, this is the most important aspect as sometimes even the employers are not aware of this.
2. 20 points:- salary
3. 10 points:- maintenance amount of £945 in savings for 90 consecutive days or statement from the employer that they will take care of it.
4. 10 points:- English language. By virtue of studying a UK bachelor, masters or PhD the candidates become eligible by default.

It is highly likely that Brexit will change scenarios come January 2020.
Sen
16 October 2019
Hi Andrew,
You had mentioned that PhD students can switch into Tier 2 from Tier 4 after 12 months of PhD study. But since usually PhD programs are 3-4 years long, does that mean that a PhD student can essentially drop out of the program after the first year as long as he/she finds a Tier 2 sponsor ? I assume he/she has a UK-recognised Bachelors or Masters degree on the basis of which he/she secures a Tier 2 sponsor.
Andrew
18 October 2019
In theory they could abandon the PhD programme if they wish, but it seems a shame to do so. Their eligibility to switch into Tier 2 is based on having studied 12 months of a PhD, not on any previous UK qualifications. See Info & Advice > Working > Working after studies > Tier 2: sponsored skilled work > Applying in the UK.
A A Ameri
18 October 2019
Hi;
Thank you for the info provided above. I am currently doing my PhD and expecting to finish in 6 months from now, I am holding a tier 4 visa and working part-time at the moment. My employer agrees to give me a job offer of more than £21,000 annually when I complete my study, to do a full-time job with them. My question is, how about if my employer doesn't have a Tier 2 Sponsorship license since I am not an EEU citizen. please advise???
Many thanks in advance.
A A
Andrew
18 October 2019
A A, please see my other blog post "Switching to Tier 2: some common problems".
Ahmed
19 October 2019
Hello. I am a PhD student currently holding Tier 4 visa. I've submitted my thesis already (but haven't done the viva yet). I've got a suitable job offer and I am about to apply to swtich to Tier 2. My question is when can I start working full time for my new job? Is it immediately after submitting the visa or need to wait until the visa is issued? I am very confused, could you please advise me about this? Thanks a lot
Andrew
19 October 2019
Ahmed, it is covered in this website's detailed guide to switching to Tier 2. See the section "Starting work".
Shobhin Gupta
23 October 2019
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the post. It is a life saver. I only have one question:
I'm an international student who came to UK in 2017 for Masters which was a 2 year program graduating in Jan 2020.
I've finished my Masters and expecting results in a few weeks. Meanwhile, I have got a job offer from an employer who is willing to sponsor me. I'll be starting work from next month. Meanwhile I'm planning to go home in December. My concern is that can I safely come back to UK in January before graduation and then apply for my tier 2 visa? I'm ready to do the fast process if required.

Thanks.
Andrew
24 October 2019
It is covered in the post, Shobhin. See point 2, Travelling before you apply.
Tiger
24 October 2019
Hey Andrew, thanks for the post. Quick question. My student visa lasts until 31st of Jan 2021. If I apply in December 2020 and get a job offer for a role starting in September of 2021. Can I still swap from a tier 4 to a tier 2?
Andrew
24 October 2019
Tiger, see the Tier 2 policy guidance, "When to apply", paragraph 192.
Sylvia
24 October 2019
Dear Andrew,
thanks for taking the time to write this article. I am a tier 4 visa student who came to the UK in January 2019 for my MBA studies, does the new tier 4 visa a rule for a two years post-graduation period to find a job, apply to myself who shall be graduating in April 2020?
Andrew
26 October 2019
Sylvia, this blog post is about switching to Tier 2 not about the future Graduate route. For information about that see Info & Advice > Working > Working after studies > Graduate route ("Post-study work")
Shobhin
24 October 2019
Hi Andrew,

Thanks for input. I was just concerned if existing students will be eligible for the travelling. Eg I got my visa for Sep 2017 to Jan 2020. So am I still eligible?

Thanks
Andrew
26 October 2019
It is not a change to the work conditions, Shobhin but to the Tier 4 policy guidance. Hence it applies to everyone whenever they applied for or obtained their Tier 4 leave.
Faisal
28 October 2019
Hi Andrew,
Thanks for sharing such useful information, I really appreciate if you may provide information about the 2 years post study work permit, is it implemented already? or if not, than when it will be implemented, and which year students will get benefit from this rule.
Once again thanks.
Andrew
29 October 2019
There is already information about the Graduate route on this website, Faisal. See Info & Advice > Working > Working after Studies > Graduate route
Skye
28 October 2019
Thx for such an informative site.
Im from the commonwealth, currently on General Tier4 Study visa completing my Btec/A levels at Sixth Form college. My visa expires end July 2020 and I would like to start work or apprenticeship, will I be able to switch from Tier4 to Tier2 ?
Thanks in advance.
Andrew
29 October 2019
Skye, see this website's detailed guide to switching to Tier 4: Info & Advice > Working > Working after Studies > Tier 2 (sponsored skilled work).
Aaron Finn
31 October 2019
I am very fascinated after reading this article it was heart touching like
Islam Abdelmonem
06 November 2019
thank you for the useful info here, I was lucky to find a company who can offer CoS as I am on Tier4 visa, but they want my to start next week, which mean I will not have my tier2 visa issued yet, can I start the job while applying and waiting for the tier2?
Andrew
07 November 2019
Islam, on this website see Info & Advice > Working > Working after Studies > Tier 2 (Sponsored skilled work) > Starting work
Vinay
08 November 2019
Hi Andrew,

This is by far the best explanation I found on switching from Tier4 to Tier2 thanks for explaining it in detail.

I have one general question. It says you can apply 3 months before you complete your degree. So for example consider the final submission of dissertation is May 10 2020. So we can apply for a tier 2 switch from Feb 10 2020 ( 3 months before). If the start date of job is in around sometime in Feb 2020 and an priority or super priority tier 2 application is made on Feb 11th and got approved. Will the applicant have to wait till he/she completes the course or can start working full time please?
Andrew
10 November 2019
Thank you for the compliment Vinay, although you appear to have missed section 3 of the blog post which answers your question. See also my reply to Islam above.
KWAME
08 November 2019
I wish to inquire what the immigration rules say regards travelling to my home country (outside EU) and return to the UK when I have 30 days left on my TIER 2 general Visa. Please contact me via [name removed]@cardiff.ac.uk
Andrew
10 November 2019
This blog post is specifically about some aspects of switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, not about the general rules or conditions of being a Tier 2 visa holder. For immigration advice, I suggest you speak to your Tier 2 sponsor.
Fadi
16 November 2019
So if you get Tier2 for 3 years on the concession conditions so salary is above 20800 only and then what happens next...
Can you extend your visa on that salary with that job and after 5 years of overall tier2 visa then you can apply for ILR or what happens after the first 3 years? Please advice as no one has mentioned that anywhere
Andrew
16 November 2019
Fadi, it's not mentioned here because this blog post and the information on this website are specifically about students switching to Tier 2. For guidance on a Tier 2 extension application, speak to your Tier 2 employer.
Obinna
16 November 2019
Hi Andrew.
Thank you for this piece. It was really a well loaded information. Please I have a question. I am a Civil Engineer and currently running a Master's On Project Management. Am about to undertake my internship in a construction firm by January 2020 and probably have the company sponsor my Tier 2, but the companies I have called to apply to are willing to accept my application but I was asked to provide UTR number as one of the criteria to work in a construction company. I have called HMRC to request for the number and it has been posted to me last week.
Please dose having a UTR number as a student going to have any effect on my switching to Tier 2 after my studies? Am I permitted to have a UTR number to work with?
Andrew
17 November 2019
As I say above Obinna, "please do not post a Comment asking for advice about your individual situation." Whether a specific employer is willing to sponsor you for a switch to Tier 2 is a question to ask them directly.

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