Good news for doctoral students switching to Tier 2

15 November 2019

Tier 4 students can apply in the UK to 'switch' into Tier 2 (employment) after 12 months of study towards a PhD.

Recently, this has caused difficulties for students who are studying a qualification at the same level as a PhD, but with a different title, for example, DLitt, DMus. The Home Office has been interpreting the Immigration Rules very strictly. Policy staff informed us and others that students studying any doctorate-level qualification which is not called a PhD would not benefit from the chance to apply under Tier 2 after 12 months' study. This also caused problems for people who had completed their non-PhD doctorate, had Tier 4 doctorate extension scheme leave, and who then wanted to apply in the UK for Tier 2 immigration permission.

We and other organisations expressed our dismay at the wording and interpretation of this provision. On 25 July 2019, we asked the Home Office to amend its guidance and Immigration Rules so that anyone studying at a higher education provider for one of the many doctorate-level qualifications which are eligible for doctorate extension scheme leave could apply for Tier 2 leave in the UK.

The Tier 2 modernised guidance, which is used by Home Office caseworkers processing Tier 2 applications, was updated today (though it is dated 1 November 2019). It now states that students can apply under Tier 2 in the UK if they have "completed a minimum of 12 months study in the UK towards a UK PhD or equivalent level, academic course delivered by a UK Higher Education Provider" (our highlighting).

This is good news, and we are pleased that the Home Office has responded to our request for change. However, it is disappointing that this concession was not added earlier in the year and that it is not yet included in the Tier 2 policy guidance for applicants or the Tier 2 sponsor guidance for employers.

We have updated our information for students about Tier 2, and explained the action you might need to take if employers are not aware of this important change: Tier 2: sponsored skilled work.