This section gives you an overview of your rights to work in the UK after your studies if you are an international student in the UK. This includes information about working on your student visa after the end of the course and an overview of the main work visa routes, which you may be able to switch into or apply for after your studies.
The following information provides an overview of the main work visa routes. The Student Advice Centre can offer advice and support with post study work visas to current students and recent graduates (within 1 year of graduating). If you need further advice about your personal situation and options please email email@example.com.
Please note that major changes are being introduced to the UK Immigration system over the next few months. In July 2020 the Government published a further details statement on the new points based immigration system.
We are awaiting detailed guidance to be published and will update the website accordingly. Every effort is made to ensure that these pages are up to date but changes can be made with very little notice, so always check the latest UKVI guidance and ensure you have the most up to date information.
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic UKVI visa processes, waiting times and documentary requirements are subject to change. Please check the latest UKVI Covid 19 guidance for details.
What are key changes to look out for?
The Tier 4 Student visa has been replaced by the Student Route from 5th October 2020. (Any reference to Tier 4 in guidance etc should now state Student visa)
Tier 2(General) route for sponsored skilled work will be replaced from 09:00 on 1 December 2020 by the new Skilled Worker route for all non-UK, non-Irish nationals. There are some positive changes which could help students move more easily into this route after their studies.
31 December 2020 is the deadline for EEA and Swiss nationals to move to the UK under their right of free movement under EU law. They can secure their ongoing right to work by applying under the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline of 30 June 2021. Those who arrive on or after 1 January 2021 will be subject to immigration control and will need visas for study and work.
In summer 2021 (actual date yet to be confirmed) the new 2-year Graduate route is due to open. PhD graduates will get 3 years. Students who are due to graduate in 2021 and currently distance learning outside the UK will need to return to the UK for their last semester, deadline 6 April 2021, in order to be eligible under the Graduate route.
The current Doctorate Extension Scheme is expected to close and merge with the Graduate route, and PhD graduates will get 3 years leave to remain under the Graduate route.
Working on Student Visa after completion of study
Once you have completed your course and whilst your Tier 4/ Student visa remains valid, the Home Office allows you to work full-time, within the following limits.
You cannot fill a full-time permanent vacancy (other than on a recognised Foundation Programme).
You cannot be self-employed.
You cannot be employed as a professional sportsperson, coach or entertainer.
You are allowed to work unlimited hours once you are considered to have completed your course but not in a permanent graduate level role. Most students will be granted 4 months 'wrap up' time after the end of the course.
There are different definitions for when you are considered to have completed your course depending on your level of study.
For PhD students, course completion means receiving the official notification of degree award.
For Masters and Undergraduate students, course completion usually means the course end date as stated on your CAS as long as you have completed all required assessment by this date.
Please note if you complete your course early, the University has to report this to UKVI. This could result in your visa being curtailed to 4 months after the new end date. You should work for a maximum of 4 months after the completion of your course or until the end of your student visa, whichever comes soonest.
You must not take a permanent role unless alternative immigration status is obtained e.g. applied for Skilled worker visa and have completed your course.
See UKCISA for further detailed information on student work and what kinds of work you can and cannot do.
An Employers Guide to Right to Work Checks also confirms your right to work after the course end date until your visa expires and can be useful to refer to, if Employers are unsure about your right to work full time.
The Government has announced that it is to introduce a 2-year post-study (Graduate) work visa for international students studying in the UK. This is very welcome news and is the result of successful lobbying from your SU/University and wider Education Sector. Unfortunately, it will not be introduced until the summer of 2021.
We will update the website as soon as further detailed guidance is available from the Home Office. The following limited information is based on what we know so far and could still be subject to change.
The main points are:
The route is for students who will complete a degree in or after the summer of 2021 and who hold a Tier 4 or Student visa at the time they apply.
Study must be undertaken in the UK, with a concession only for people who have been distance learning outside the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to be eligible, such students must return to the UK for their last semester, by a deadline of 6 April 2021. For details of this concession see "Coronavirus (COVID-19): Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students", page 16.
Undergraduate and master's degree students will be able to apply to stay for two years.
PhD students will be able to apply to stay for three years.
You do not need to be sponsored by an employer or by your university, but the degree must be awarded by a Higher Education provider that is listed on the Register of Student Sponsors as a "Student Sponsor - Track Record"
Dependants will only be able to apply if they are currently in the UK with you as your dependant and will be applying at the same time as the main applicant.
The Government has now clarified that the route will be available to those students who will graduate from the summer of 2021.
Any international student who will successfully complete their course in or after the summer of 2021 will be eligible to apply for the new two year Graduate route.
Unfortunately the Graduate route will not be open to those who have completed their studies or are due to complete them and graduate before the summer of 2021.
The announcement states that, in order to apply, students will need to ‘have successfully completed a degree from a trusted UK university or higher education provider which has a proven track record in upholding immigration checks and other rules on studying in the UK.’
At the moment, only education providers that are:
Registered with the Office for Students,
Hold a Tier 4 sponsor licence.
Are able to establish that they have a track record of compliance.
The University of Sheffield would meet this requirement and so we would expect Sheffield University graduates to be able to apply for the visa as and when it is finally introduced.
We understand that students will need to make a new visa application to enter the two year route and that the Home Office intends that the criteria will be straightforward. It has been confirmed there will be a fee and Immigration Healthcare surcharge will be payable. We will provide further detailed information once available.
Doctorate extension scheme
From October 5th 2020 Tier 4 has been replaced by the Student Visa route. It is still possible to extend under the Doctorate Extension Scheme. However, DES will be phased out in 2021 as PhD graduates will be able to apply for the new Graduate Route and obtain a 3 year post study work visa, if they are awarded a degree from Summer 2021.
The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) is an extension of the student visa but it allows students who complete a PhD at a UK institution time to look for and undertake paid work at any skill level, set up as an entrepreneur, or to gain practical work experience in their field. It can provide an opportunity for PhD to find graduate full time employment under Tier 2 (Skilled Worker Route from December 2020).
To apply under this scheme you will need to be sponsored by the University with a new Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). You will also have to make a new Student visa application before you are awarded your PhD. You can only apply from within the UK.
Your dependants can apply at the same time as you or join you later. Student dependant guidance is now found within the Student Visa guidance.
The DES visa is granted for a period of 12 months from your expected completion date, as stated on the new CAS. (Completion means date you will be awarded your degree)
During the year, you will need to keep in contact with the University as your sponsor for the scheme. This will be via email.
To be eligible for this visa you must:
Hold a valid Tier 4 /Student visa at the time of application.
Be inside the UK and able to make your visa application from within the UK.
Be a current student within 60 days of completion (award).
Complete University declaration.
Receive a CAS, and make the visa application within the 60 day period prior to receiving final approval for your degree.
Meet all other requirements of the Student route application, including financial.
You will need to be able to show you have available £2030 for 28 days and £1360 per dependant.
If you have been wholly sponsored by a Government within the last 12 months, you will need a letter on headed paper giving the sponsor's unconditional consent to you remaining in the UK. This means receiving money for both fees and maintenance.
If you were required to apply for ATAS as a student, you will not normally need to apply for a fresh ATAS for your DES application unless you have extended your study by more than 3 months.
You and any dependants will each need to pay the Immigration Health surcharge, which should be £300 per person for the 12-month visa.
You must apply when you are within 60 days of completing your degree, this means within 60 days of being awarded a degree. At the University of Sheffield this is calculated in the following way:
After the Viva you can agree an E copy date with your Superviser (this means date all corrections are completed and have been checked by the internal examiner). This must be a realistic date but can be earlier than the official 3 or 6-month correction period. The predicted award date will be 28 days later.
Student has an E copy date of 1.9.2020. Predicted award date will be 28.9.19. Student can apply up to 60 days before this date, so anytime after 30.7.20 as long as they have a valid Student Visa. The CAS should also be issued within 60 days of award date.
This route is only open to PhD students who have not yet been awarded their PhD or doctorate level qualification. If you have been awarded your PhD, you will need to fit within one of the other worker routes such as Tier 2 or Tier 5.
If your current Student visa will expire shortly after your Viva, you may need to extend your student Visa in the first instance. This could also be the case if you get major corrections at Viva. You cannot apply for DES in order to complete major corrections. You should seek advice from International Student Support if this applies to you.
You may benefit from having an appointment with the International Student Adviser at the Student Advice centre to establish if this is the best option for you ideally before or around the time of your viva. This is because it is possible that you pass your PhD with no corrections and could be awarded your degree within days and also it is important to plan well ahead for this scheme. DES may also not be the best option for you (or not possible) depending on your personal situation. Our adviser can provide independant immigration advice to you to help you prepare for the application or identify alternative routes.
If you have already had your Viva then you should seek advice as soon as possible due to the tight deadlines of this scheme. Remember, you cannot apply after your degree is awarded. If you pass your Viva without any corrections we advise you not upload your final E thesis until you have sought advice and have made the Tier 4 DES online application, this will avoid you being awarded the degree before you have a chance to make the application.
If DES is the best option for you, you will need to request a DES CAS application form from International Student Support. Ideally, this would be after your VIVA and around one month before you intend to submit the final library copy of your thesis. You will then need to take this to your supervisor who will confirm an expected (and realistic) end date for you to have completed any corrections and be in a position to upload your final E-thesis. Find out more about applying for a DES CAS from the University.
You will then have an appointment with the International Student Support adviser who will check you meet the other requirements for the DES. Please bring your passport, BRP card and current bank statements to this appointment.
The University will then check and process your CAS request and where you are deemed eligible for a DES CAS your information will be submitted to the Home Office and you will be issued a CAS.
You will be offered a Visa Extension Scheme appointment where an adviser will check your application and supporting documents.
You may only start to work full time after you have submitted your DES application AND you have been awarded your PhD.
No, you will need to switch into a different immigration route such as Skilled worker route or return home.
Please note that DES visa holders will not be allowed to switch to the new Graduate route when it is introduced.
Skilled worker route (Formerly Tier 2)
Please note major changes to the work visa route will be introduced from December 2020. Detailed guidance is to follow and these pages will be updated shortly. Tier 2 will be replaced by the Skilled Worker route.
The Tier 2 (General) visa route is for people seeking permanent graduate level employment in the UK. The following advice is aimed at current students holding a Student Visa, who are considering working in the UK after their studies and looking to switch to Tier 2 in the UK.
Tier 2 visa points based system. In order to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa, any applicant needs to demonstrate that they have the following:
A Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer with a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence. This CoS will confirm the employee's details, dates of employment and details of the job.
Meet the English language requirements (e.g. degree taught in English, IELTS)
Have proof of £945 in savings, held for a minimum of 90 consecutive days. Alternatively, the employer can “certify your maintenance” on your CoS – this means that they agree to maintain and accommodate you up to the end of your first month of employment in the UK if required. Maintenance requirements will be rising to £1270 from December under the new skilled work route.
Yes - provided that you fulfil all of the following conditions:
You are applying for your Tier 2 visa from within the UK.
You have a valid Student leave leave which has not yet expired, (you can apply right up to your visa expiry date). This includes Tier 4 General student, student Visa and Doctorate Extension Scheme visas.
You must have an offer of a graduate-level job (at RQF Level 6 or above) with a registered Tier 2 sponsor. You can check whether a prospective employer is on the list, if not, it is possible for an employer to apply for a license if they wish to employ you but the process will take around 2 months.
You will need to be paid the appropriate salary for that job as per the relevant standard occupation code (SOC) code in Appendix J of the immigration rules. These SOC codes are grouped into PhD -level jobs, jobs above RQF Level 6 (i.e. "graduate-level" jobs) and jobs at RQF Level 4 and below. You will only be able to switch from Tier 4 into Tier 2 if your job is at RQF Level 6 or above.
Be within 3 months of completing a qualifying course at a registered institution – this can be a Bachelors or Masters degree, PGCE or PGDE or PhD. If you are a PhD student, you can also qualify if you have completed a minimum of 12 months’ study in the UK towards your PhD.
If you were wholly sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency during the last 12 months of your studies, you will need their formal, written permission to remain in the UK and this should be unconditional.
Meet the maintenance requirements (as outlined above).
Your employer will be exempt from conducting a Resident Labour Market Test. The Resident Labour Market Test is an obligation that the employer advertises the job in order to give workers who have settled status in the UK a chance to apply, and appoints a settled worker who meets all of the selection criteria for the job role, if such a candidate should apply (rather than someone who needs to a visa to work in the UK).
Your employer will be able to generate an unrestricted CoS for your Tier 2 application and it is not subject to the monthly cap. This means that as long as an employer has enough CoS in their annual allocation (and your job is at the appropriate level and salary), they can generate it for you and you can use it for your Tier 4 application. (This is different to a restricted CoS, where the employer has to apply to UKVI for the CoS before they can issue it to you. There is a monthly limit on how many restricted CoS applications the UKVI will approve and in recent months this limit has been reached and so it can be difficult for the employer to get a CoS.
Your employer will be exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge. For any Tier 2 (General) CoS assigned after 6 April 2017, an Immigration Skills Charge of £1000 per employee per year needs to be paid by the Tier 2 Sponsor at the time of assigning the CoS. This charge cannot be passed on from the Tier 2 Sponsor to the employee. A Tier 2 Sponsor issuing a CoS to someone switching from Tier 4 in the UK is exempt from this charge.
You will not need to provide an overseas criminal record certificate. From April 2017, anyone applying for Tier 2 (General) from outside the UK in order to work in the education, health and social care sectors is required to provide a criminal record certificate as part of their visa application. Applying from within the UK exempts you from this requirement. NB: Employers wishing to recruit someone who has to apply for Tier 2 from outside the UK are subject to undertaking all of the above. This makes recruiting you, an international graduate from a UK university, more attractive.
If you are switching from a Student Visa to a Tier 2 visa, you will be classified as a "new entrant" and can be paid at or above the new entrant rate as per Appendix J SOC Code. You can also be classified as a new entrant if you are applying from outside the UK if you are under 26 at the time of application. Minimum new entrant rate is £20 800. If you are classified as a new entrant, your first Tier 2 visa will only be valid for a maximum of 3 years. Otherwise you would have to meet the experienced worker rate and minimum experienced worker rate is £30 000.
You can apply:
Up to 3 months before expected completion date of your degree (PhD students can switch after 12 months of study)
Once you have your CoS from your employer.
No more than 3 months before the job's start date, as listed on your CoS
You will then be directed to UKVI commercial partner to book an appointment at Sopra Steria visa application centre to submit biometrics. There can be capacity issues at busy times and a wait of two to four weeks for free appointment is not uncommon. The nearest Core Centre is Manchester where you can book free appointments, there are paid appointments available at a VACS centre in Sheffield.
Upload digital documents to Sopra Steria website.
Attend biometric appointment appointment.
Please note due to Covid 19 closures and restrictions there may be a difficulty booking biometric appointments. In some cases UKVI are contacting applicants and asking you to complete an ID app and if you have submitted biometrics previously they may re-use them. It is difficult at this time to estimate application processing times and priority appointments may not be available.
Current application fees can be found at https://www.gov.uk/tier-2-general. A standard in UK Tier application for 3 years or less is currently £704. Some employers will cover the application fee.
The fee will depend on where you are applying and the length and type of Tier 2 visa. It is possible to pay additional fees for faster decision times.
CoS from your employer (You do not have to upload copy with application but it is needed to complete the form)
Bank statements in your name, showing the required maintenance for at least 90 consecutive days leading up to the date of your Tier 2 application.
Original degree certificate or Tier 2 letter (academic reference letter) from the University confirming you have completed the course or having sat all exams and presented all academic papers (or, where relevant, that you have studied more than 12 months of a PhD). You can collect this from SSiD.
Proof of English language (academic reference/degree certificate will also meet this requirement)
Letter of consent to remain in the UK, if you were wholly sponsored for your studies by an official financial sponsor within the last 12 months.
A dependant can also work unlimited hours in the UK and is not restricted from self employment. They cannot work as doctors or dentists in training, professional sports persons or entertainers.
The immigration rules say that students who apply after receiving their results, and all students with Tier 4 leave granted on or after 1 October 2019, can start their Tier 2 job as soon as they have applied.
Others may be able to start work on a temporary basis if their employer agrees.
However in both cases it is possible that an employer may prefer that you wait until the outcome of your Tier 2 application before starting work. Check directly with your employer when they expect you to start work, and on what basis.
Temporary worker route (Tier 5)
If you do not have a graduate job offer from a Tier 2 sponsor but have managed to find a short work placement or internship after your studies you may be able to stay to do this under your Student Visa. You can do a short work placement or internship full time after the end of your studies until the expiry of your Student visa. If you want to then stay on longer you may wish to consider a Temporary worker visa. Please note students who graduate from summer 2021 will be able to apply for the new Graduate route and that could be a better option for internships.
The temporary worker route (Tier 5) visa route enables you to do short term, temporary employment in the UK after you have finished your studies. There are several different Tier 5 schemes but the 2 most relevant to graduates are:
This is a 2 year year temporary work visa for people aged 18-31 to come to the UK to look for and undertake work. There is no requirement for a sponsor.
Places are limited and you must be a national of one of the the following countries:
Australia – 30,000 places
New Zealand – 13,000 places
Canada – 5,000 places
Japan – 1,000 places
Monaco – 1,000 places
Taiwan – 1,000 places
Hong Kong – 1,000 places
South Korea – 1,000 places
San Marino – 1,000 places (must have a Certificate of Sponsorship from home country)
This scheme is also open to British overseas citizens, a British overseas territories citizens or a British national (overseas). It is not possible to switch to this visa in the UK and applications must be made outside the UK from your home country.
There can be different allocation processes for the places, including lottery systems so check rules for the country you will be applying from.
From 1 December 2020, Youth Mobility requirements will be found at Appendix Youth Mobility Scheme: eligible nationals and Appendix T5 (Temporary Worker) Youth Mobility Scheme of the immigration rules.
From 1st December 2020 you will need to hold £ £2,530 maintenance funding (up from £1,890 under the rules in force before 1 December 2020), in a bank account for 28 days (down from 90 days).
"Funds may be held in any form of personal bank or building society account (including current, deposit, savings, pension from which the funds can be withdrawn or investment account) provided the account allows the funds to be accessed immediately."
The application fee is £244 application and the Immigration healthcare charge is £470 per year.
In terms of conditions the only restriction on work is as a professional sportsperson/coach or doctor or dentist in training. You can be self employed but only if:
You have no premises which you own, other than your home, from which you carry out your business;
The total value of any equipment used in the business does not exceed £5,000;
You have no employees.
It is possible to study on this visa as long as the course does not require ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate).
There is no recourse to public funds and the visa cannot be extended. It is not a route to settlement.
This scheme is made up of 4 separate programmes:
Work Experience Programme – for internships and job shadowing. 12 month visa.
Research Programme – for work on a specific scientific, academic, medical or government research project. 24 month visa.
Training Programme – to undertake a formal, practical training programme in Science and/or medicine. This would normally lead to a professional qualification. 24 month visa.
Overseas Government Language Programme – for language teachers sponsored by their overseas government to carry out teaching placements in the UK. 24 month visa.
Whichever programme you apply for, you will need to be sponsored by a ‘licensed overarching body’ (unless you are a sponsored researcher at a University – in this case, the University will be your sponsor). These bodies are responsible for the running of the programmes. A list of all of the ‘overarching bodies’ is available at Government Authorised Exchange (GAE).
You will need to find a work placement or internship. This should not be an advertised vacancy as these will require a Tier 2/Skilled worker visa. It must be related to your degree otherwise you will need to leave the UK and apply under Tier 5 from your home country.
You will need to find a Tier 5 sponsor. Your employer does not have to directly sponsor you and does not need a Tier 5 licence.
In addition to any fees payable to the Tier 5 sponsor you will need to show you have maintained a minimum balance of £945 for 90 days. (£1890 if applying from outside the UK)
You can only apply for Tier 5 after you have been awarded your degree.
At the end of this visa you will not be able to switch into Tier 2 but would need to return home.
You can have an appointment with one of our International Student Advisers if you need more guidance in this area. We also assist with the preparation of Tier 5 visa applications.
Start up Visa
This visa route is for international students/graduates who wish to start a business in the UK for the first time. You must have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea and be endorsed by the University.
The University of Sheffield can endorse up to 20 recent graduates per year under the scheme. See below for more details of the endorsement application process and visa requirements.
Global talent Visa
This visa was introduced on 20th February 2020 and replaces the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa.
It is not possible to switch into this visa from a Student Visa but graduates could apply from outside the UK.
You can switch to this visa if you hold any of the following visas Tier 1, Tier 2/Skilled worker, Start-up and Innovator and Tier 5 (Government-Authorised Exchange) sponsored researchers.
It is really applicable and most relevant to PHD graduates and researchers and the Immigration Rules state that:
"This category is for talented and promising individuals in the fields of science,engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology and arts and culture (including film and television, fashion design and architecture) wishing to work in the UK. Applicants will be leaders in their field, or have the potential to be leaders, as determined by an endorsing body. This category may lead to settlement in the UK"
See appendix W Global talent in Immigration Rules which sets out the requirements of Global Talent.
Before applying for the visa you must be endorsed by the relevant endorsing body for your field.
Eligibility criteria vary, and separate provisions are set out for:
Arts and culture.
Film and television.
Digital technology, assessed by Tech Nation.
Science, engineering, humanities and medicine, including fast-track and full peer review routes.
Eligible senior academic or research positions.
Applicants hosted or employed in a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-approved UK research organisation following receipt of a research grant or award from an endorsed funder.
As this is not a route targeted at Tier 4 students, the Student Advice centre cannot provide further information or help with applications for Global Talent leave.
Further information should be available from the relevant Endorsing body. The following organisations also have some useful information, see:
UKRI, which includes links to other organisations.