Working after studies

Last modified: 16 June 2021

This page is about the options for switching within the UK from a Student 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 Student visa: see Work when you are no longer studying.

Latest updates for students who want to work in the UK after their studies:

  • The Skilled Worker route for sponsored skilled work 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 because of the pandemic will need to return to the UK in order to apply under the Graduate route. You need to check your personal deadline for returning which depends on the length of your course and on whether you are coming to the UK for the first time under your Student permission or returning. Full details below, in the section "Study in the UK, including Covid-19 concessions".
  • 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. 
  • On 3 March 2021 the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced in the 2021 budget and in a tweet that he was drafting proposals for the UK to launch "a new unsponsored points-based visa to attract the best and most promising international talent in science, research and tech." 
  • 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 to the Skilled Worker route below includes some guidance from careers advisers about job-hunting during the pandemic.

Within the information about each route, 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 at £624 per year. 

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 usually 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 immigration route. For example, while some routes 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: 12 June 2021

The Graduate route is a new work route for those who have a degree or other relevant qualification from an approved UK Higher Education provider. 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 that ended in 2012.

Applications will open at 0900 on Thursday 1 July 2021. The key requirement is that when you apply you have a UK degree or other relevant qualification that you received during your current period of Tier 4 or Student permission. See below for full details.

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:

We expect further guidance for caseworkers assessing applications, but this is likely to be published only shortly before the route starts in July. We will keep this page updated with any further announcements.

As expected, the Graduate route is only open to those who have successfully completed their course and who have valid Student or Tier 4 permission when they apply on or after 1 July 2021. In their fact sheet about the route, the Home Office says that other students will not be eligible and that

[Most ineligible] 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 detailed information about the Skilled Worker route, the Start Up and Innovator routes and about Other Options.

On 25 March 2021 we ran a student webinar on the Graduate route. You can stream the webinar here, but please note these important updates on return deadlines, which were announced after we recorded the webinar. 

  • 11 June 2021: The deadline for entering the UK for the first time for a 2020 start course of 12 months or less is now extended. The deadline is now 27 September, or the end date of your Student visa, whichever is sooner. See the updated information below on Study in the UK, including COVID-19 concessions.
  • 24 May 2021: The deadline for returning to the UK after distance learning at home on a course of 12 months or less has been extended. In the webinar at 37'49" and 38'48" we say you must return by the end date of your course: this has now been extended to the end date of your Student permission (visa). See the updated information below on Study in the UK, including COVID-19 concessions.

To clarify what we say at 50'55" about the problem switching from the Graduate route into the Start-up route, the issue is that part of the eligibility for the Start-up route is that you have not previously started a business in the UK. This means that someone who starts a business under the Graduate route cannot switch into Start-up. For further details, and for a possible workaround, see our detailed guide to the Start-up route on this page.

Qualification

Current immigration status ("visa")

Study in the UK, including Covid-19 concessions

Where and when to apply

Money and fees, knowledge of English

Studies sponsored by a government or scholarship agency

Applying in 2021: extra considerations

Dependants

Travelling and re-entering the UK during the application period

Work

Study

Alternatives to the Graduate route

Extending your stay

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: 25 May 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

Deadlines

Employers and vacancies

Eligible jobs and salaries, "new entrants"

ATAS security clearance

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: 16 June 2021

The 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 0900 on 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.

Some students completing PhDs in 2021 may in theory be eligible to apply either under the DES before it ends on 1 July 2021, or later under the Graduate route if they still have Student permission. Many people with this choice will choose the Graduate route, simply because it gives 3 years' permission, while the DES gives only one year. However the DES may be a better option for some people, for example:

  • a PhD graduate who only intends to work for a maximum twelve months anyway before either leaving the UK or switching to Skilled worker or another work route
  • a PhD graduate who intends to start a business in the next 12 months and switch into the Start-up route to start a business

The following information is for those who are applying under the DES not the Graduate route. This is likely to be limited to those whose current Student permission ends before 1 July 2021.

It will not be possible for a former or current DES participant to apply under the Graduate route. UKCISA asked the Home Office to consider allowing those who obtained their PhD during their current DES permission to apply for the balance of 3 years' permission under the Graduate route, but this was not accepted.

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

Family

Working, contact with sponsor

Options afterwards, settlement

Start-up and innovator schemes

Last modified: 12 June 2021

The Start-up route is aimed at people, including those with Tier 4, Student and Graduate route 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, Student or Graduate route 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 route 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 or Student permission 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 the Graduate route

Switching from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Doctorate Extension Scheme

Maintenance 

Running your business, and other work 

Contact with endorsing body

Family

Extending your stay

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. 

Working

Contact with endorsing body

Extending your stay, settlement

Family

Students' union sabbatical officers

Last modified: 06 April 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.

You can still switch to the Graduate route after a year working as a sabbatical officer, but not after a second year in post. This is because 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, but not if it was obtained in a previous period before that. Someone who is re-elected to a sabbatical post may therefore prefer to apply under the Graduate route for 2 or 3 years' permission, not under the Student route for one year's permission.

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: 28 April 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 from Student permission to the new Graduate Immigration Route which opens on 1 July 2021. The UK government's guidance on teacher training for international applicants suggests that Skilled worker visa sponsorship may be available on the salaried route, but in our experience this is 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, and if the job is eligible. Otherwise, if you have succesfully completed a PGCE qualification, from 1 July 2021 you can apply to stay in the UK initially for 2 years under the new Graduate route, during which you can switch to the Skilled worker route.

Tuition fees, funding, bursaries, scholarships

This is general information. For detailed information and figures, see the UK government's guide to Funding: initial teacher training (ITT).

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:

The eligibility for bursaries and scholarships on the non-salaried route is the same as for student support. 

 

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.

 

Lawyers

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.

 

Architects

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

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

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: 04 June 2021

There are other less common work route options, usually limited to people in quite specific situations. Current and former students may be eligible. We have included links to detailed information about these routes on the Home Office website.

Other work routes that can be applied for 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.

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

All other options must normally be applied for outside of the UK, in your home country. There is no provision to apply in the UK, including under COVID-19 concessions. The guidance COVID-19: advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents specifically says that while some applications can be made in the UK which must normally be made overseas, "[you] will not be able to apply for a route for which there is no provision in the Immigration Rules for making an in-country application".

  • 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)


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