The Government have announced that they will introduce a new work visa for international students who graduate from a UK university. Unfortunately, these will not be introduced until summer 2021. So what are the post study work options for those who graduate before then?
Tier 2 (General) Visa
This is a ‘work visa’ that allows the graduate to take up a highly skilled role. In order to apply for this type of visa, you must be sponsored by a licenced employer. Getting a licence can take a number of weeks, so it is important for the employer to start work on this well in advance of your Tier 4 visa expiring.
There are a number of concessions for employers who are sponsoring applicants who are switching from Tier 4 (General) into Tier 2 (General). They do not have to do the ‘resident labour market test’, they can pay the ‘new entrant’ rate of pay and they do not have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge.
This is an option for budding entrepreneurs with a great business idea. In order to apply for this type of visa, you must get endorsement from an approved ‘endorsing body’. A large number of universities are endorsing bodies. Many run annual competitions or have specific schemes for international students interested in this route.
The endorsing body must consider whether the business idea is ‘innovative’, ‘viable’, and ‘scalable’. These are defined in Appendix W of the Immigration Rules.
Tier 1 (Exceptional Promise)
This is a visa for applicants who are ‘emerging leaders’ in the field of science and medicine, engineering, humanities, the arts and culture and digital technology.
There is a two stage process to apply for this visa. The first stage is to apply for endorsement from an endorsing body, who will decide if you are ‘exceptionally promising’. Each endorsing body has its own criteria, which are quite stringent.
If you are endorsed, then you can apply to the Home Office for a visa.
Applicants cannot switch directly from Tier 4 (General) into this visa in country, although you can switch from Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange). However, we know of individuals who have switch from a post doctoral fellowship, for example.
Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension)
This is a great option for those coming to the end of a PhD or Doctorate. Applicants still need to be sponsored by their Tier 4 sponsor. However, this visa allows holders to work with only very limited restrictions, to be self employed or to undertake further study. They are free from the minimum salary requirements of Tier 2. The visa is typically granted for 1 year.
Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange)
This route allows for applicants to undertake a period of work experience or an internship in the UK. It can be used in some circumstances for those who need to complete a ‘pre-reg’ year, such as optometrists. Applicants must be doing a job that is ‘RQF Level 3’ or above, and must be supernumerary.
It can also be used for applicants undertaking research at a licenced university.
Tier 5 (Youth Mobility)
This is a visa for applicants aged between 18 and 30 and a passport holder of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea or Taiwan. It is also available to British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas).
The visa will be granted for 2 years and applicants will be able to work, with minimal restrictions. It is therefore an attractive options for those who are eligible and who want to build up some work experience in the UK.
Each of these options has its pros and cons, and many of them require planning and preparation in order to comply with requirements. It is vitally important that students start considering their options early. By the time exams are over, it is often difficult to get everything done in time. However they can offer great benefits for those who want to gain work experience in the UK.
If you would like further advice and assistance on any of these routes, please contact 0808 168 5550.