Working after your studies
Find out what work visas are available for Tier 4 students after you graduate.
Tier 2 (General) visa
The Tier 2 (General) visa is the main visa for working in the UK. To apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa you will need a graduate level job offer with an employer registered as a Tier 2 sponsor. The job must meet the Tier 2 minimum wage threshold of £30,000 or the appropriate graduate rate for the job you have been offered as published in the Codes of Practice.
If you are currently a Tier 4 visa holder, you can apply in the UK or overseas from three months before you are due to start work. There are some differences in the application process depending on where you apply.
If you are applying for a Tier 2 visa from overseas, and your job is not on the shortage occupation list, your employer must complete the Resident Labour Market Test before they can offer you the job. The Resident Labour Market Test requires an employer to advertise a job in an appropriate way to be able to show that there is no suitable settled worker for the job. Your employer may also need to pay a skills charge of £1,000 a year if you apply from overseas. There is also a cap on the number of Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) that can be assigned for overseas applications. If this cap has been reached, your employer may not be able to assign a CoS to you.
Applying in the UK
Some students are able to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa in the UK. If your Tier 4 visa is still valid when you apply for your Tier 2 visa, this is known as 'switching' to a Tier 2 visa. The earliest you can apply to switch to a Tier 2 visa is no more than three months before your course completion date, or after you have completed at least 12 months of study if you are a PhD student. Your employer will not need to conduct the Resident Labour Market Test or pay the skills charge if you apply to switch to a Tier 2 visa in the UK. You will also qualify as a 'new entrant' in terms of your wage.
Documents you must provide
You will need to provide the following documents with your Tier 2 visa application:
- financial evidence showing £945 held in your account for a consecutive 90-day period
- Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your employer
- degree certificate or expected course completion letter (if you are applying in the UK)
- if you are currently financially sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency or, if you have been sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency within the 12-month period before you apply for a Tier 2 visa, you must provide a letter from your financial sponsor consenting to this application
You will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of your application. Please see the information on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) web pages for a full list of documents you must provide.
Expected course completion letter
If you want to apply for a Tier 2 visa three months before your course completion, you will need to provide an expected course completion letter as part of your application. You can request this through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and collect it from 4 West Student Services a couple of days later. The letter will confirm your course title and award, the course duration, and the date you are expected to complete the course. The expected course completion date will be the official course end date according to SAMIS, not the last day you sit exams or submit coursework.
If you are a PhD student, you can apply to switch to the Tier 2 visa after you have completed 12 months of study for your PhD. Instead of an expected course completion letter, you can provide the standard student status letter.
If you want to apply for a Tier 2 visa after you have received your results, you do not need to request a letter as you can provide your academic transcript or degree certificate.
Tier 2 (General) visa conditions
After your Tier 2 visa is granted, the Tier 2 work conditions will apply. You will be able to do:
- the job described in your CoS, working for your Tier 2 sponsor
- a supplementary job in the same sector and at the same level, for up to 20 hours per week
- voluntary work
Your Tier 2 visa can be granted for up to five years depending on the length of your work contract. You can apply to extend your Tier 2 visa for up to another five years, as long as your total stay is not more than 6 years.
If your Tier 2 visa is granted before you receive your degree results, you can start work as long as your employer allows it. Your employer may prefer for you to wait for your degree results before allowing you to start work.
If you apply for your Tier 2 visa after receiving your degree results you can start work as soon as you have made the application. But, your employer may prefer for you to wait for the outcome of your visa application before allowing you to start work.
If you have not had a decision on your Tier 2 visa application, and you have not received your degree results, you cannot start work until either your Tier 2 visa is granted, or you receive your degree results.
The Home Office has announced its intention to introduce a new 'Graduate route' to be launched in the summer of 2021. This proposed new immigration route will enable international graduates who have completed an undergraduate degree or postgraduate taught degree to apply for a two year post-study work visa. International Doctoral graduates will be able to apply for a three year post-study work visa. Full details have not yet been confirmed but the below outlines the information currently available.
A Fact Sheet, including Frequently-Asked-Questions, has been published on the new route.
In addition to this, the Home Office have now confirmed that if you are required to either continue your current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, you will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if you spent some time studying outside the UK. To be eligible for this, you must enter the UK before 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of your studies in the UK.
- the visa will enable international graduates to stay in the UK for two years to work, or look for work, in any sector and at any level
- students on a valid Tier 4 visa who successfully complete a course at undergraduate level or above from the summer of 2021 will be able to apply for the route. Students who graduate before summer 2021 and students whose Tier 4 visa expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible
- a new visa application will need to be made but the process will be simple. A sponsor will not be required, there will be an application fee and applicants will pay the Immigration Health Surcharge
- it will be possible to switch from the Graduate visa into the skilled work route subject to meeting the requirements
- the period of leave granted will be two years and will be non-extendable (unless a different visa is acquired) and settlement rights will not be accrued
We will update this page as soon as more information is released.
If you would like to set up your own business in the UK, you may be able to apply for a Start-up visa.
The SETsquared Bath supports this visa scheme. To apply for the Start-up visa, you need to be endorsed by SETsquared Bath. You will need to go through a detailed application process to get endorsed. SETsquared Bath will apply the SETSquared criteria when assessing your business plan and whether to endorse you. If you are successful, you will need to pay for membership with SETsquared Bath. You will receive mentoring, training and introductions to investors. You will also have access to office space to help you build your business from Bath. If you are interested in this scheme, you should contact SETsquared Bath to discuss your business idea. Once SETsquared Bath have agreed to endorse you, you will need to apply for your visa.
To apply for this visa you will need:
- an 'innovative, viable and scalable' business idea that has been endorsed by SETsquared Bath
- an endorsement letter from the University
- financial evidence demonstrating £945 for a consecutive 90-day period
- your current passport
- police registration certificate (if you are required to register)
You can apply for this visa from overseas or in the UK. Your visa will be granted for two years. If you have already completed one year on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, your Start-up visa will only be granted for one year. If you would like to discuss the visa application process, please attend a drop-in session.
Starting work on your business for Tier 4 visa holders
If you currently have a Tier 4 visa and want to switch to the Start-up you cannot work as self-employed or engage in business activity until you apply for your Start-up visa or it is granted, depending on when your Tier 4 visa was granted (see below for details). This includes registering your business with Companies House. Please speak to an adviser in a drop-in session if you would like to discuss your working conditions with your Tier 4 visa.
If your Tier 4 visa was granted before 01/10/2019 and you want to switch to this visa you cannot start working as self-employed, or engaging in business activity until their Start-up visa is granted.
If your Tier 4 visa was granted on or after 01/10/2019 and you want to switch to this visa you cannot start working as self-employed, or engaging in business activity until you have applied for their Start-up visa.
Tier 5 (Youth Mobility)
If you are between 18 and 30 years old and a national of one of the following countries, you can apply for a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea (certificate of sponsorship required)
You can also apply if you’re 18 to 30 years old and a:
- British overseas citizen
- British overseas territories citizen
- British national (overseas)
You must have £1,890 in your bank account on the date of your application. You must apply from overseas. Your visa will be granted for two years. After your visa is granted, you can work full time in the UK in most jobs. You can also be self-employed and set up your own business.
You cannot extend a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa or switch to a different visa category in the UK.
Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange)
You may be able to apply for a Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) visa if you want to do any of the following:
- gain work experience or training in the UK
- take part in an Overseas Government Language Programme
- take part in research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme
You can apply for this visa from the UK or from overseas. Your visa will be issued for up to 12 or 24 months depending on the scheme you are applying for. To apply for this visa you must have the following documents:
- a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a Tier 5 sponsor
- your degree certificate from a UK institution (if you are applying in the UK)
- £945 for a consecutive 90-day period if you apply in the UK
You may need to provide additional documents as part of your visa application. Please see the information on the UKVI web pages for a full list of the documents you must provide.
Tier 1 (Investor)
If you are planning on investing a significant amount of funds into the UK, you may be able to apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa.
To apply for this visa you will need:
- access to at least £2,000,000 of funds available to invest in the UK
- you must not be investing in property
Your visa will be granted for up to three years and four months. You can then apply to extend it for an additional two years.
Global Talent Visa
You can apply for a Global Talent visa if you work in a qualifying field and have been endorsed:
- as a recognised leader (exceptional talent)
- as an emerging leader (exceptional promise)
- under the UK Research and Innovation endorsed funder option
To apply for this visa, you will first need to apply to be endorsed by the relevant body according your field. The Global Talent visa has 6 endorsing bodies:
- The Royal Society, for science and medicine
- The Royal Academy of Engineering, for engineering
- The British Academy, for humanities
- Tech Nation, for digital technology
- Arts Council England, for arts and culture
- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), for research applicants
If endorsement is granted, you can then apply for the Global Talent visa. Most applications cost £456 for the endorsement application and then £152 for the visa application. The visa is granted for between one and five years and you can bring dependants with you to the UK.
Please see the information on the gov.uk web pages for full details about the application process.
Permanent settlement in the UK is often referred to as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). You may be able to apply for ILR if you meet the following criteria:
- you have worked in the UK for five years on a Tier 2 visa and meet the minimum wage requirements (between April 2019 and April 2020 you will need to have a salary of £35,800 or the appropriate professional salary on the code of practice)
- you have been in the UK for ten years on some types of visa (including Tier 4)
Please note, time spent on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa does not count towards the five year settlement route.
If you're considering applying for ILR now or in the future, please be aware that the Immigration Rules change frequently. You must meet all the requirements of the Immigration Rules at the time when you make your application. As we are not trained in this area of immigration, we recommend getting specialist legal advice for settlement applications.
Working with your Tier 4 visa
If you would like to know what work you can do on your Tier 4 visa after your course has finished, please see our guide on work you are allowed to do on your full-time Tier 4 Visa.
For a full list of UK work visas, please see the gov.uk web pages.