The basics
THE UK: Visa Guides

Post-study visa options in the UK

Learn about your post-study visa options once you have graduated in the UK...

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It’s no secret that immigration laws in the UK are tough. But, the good news is that if you follow protocol and meet requirements, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to stay on in the UK to work after you’ve completed your studies. Whilst EU students do not need a visa to work or study in the UK, there are still plenty of options for those not from the EU to remain in the country and get their career started. Let our guide to your post-study options as an international student in the UK help illuminate your possibilities.

 

 

I AM an EU student...

As an EU student, you do not need a visa to remain in the UK to work after your studies.

Check if you are an EU student

 

 

I am NOT an EU student...

Unless you are from an EU country, when you complete your studies in the UK you will need to apply for a work visa if you would like to stay on. There are a number of different types of work visas that generally fall into two categories: Tier 1 and Tier 2. Which visa you will need depends on whether or not you have already been offered a job, or whether you meet specific skill or investment requirements. 

 

 

Tier 1

This visa category replaces the previous Tier 1(Post-Study) visa, and has a number of sub-categories that apply to graduates with particular skill sets and investment plans. If you are an exceptional entrepreneur, investor, or manage to be counted beneath the ‘Exceptional Talent’ bracket, you will need to apply for a Tier 1 visa to remain in the UK and work.

 

 

Graduate Entrepreneur

Graduates with outstanding entrepreneurial skills may be nominated by their university for this visa. Selection is incredibly competitive: there are only 1,000 of these visas available every year, with 20 allocated to each institution. Within each institution, 10 are for student or Postdoctorate researchers, whilst the other 10 are for MBA students.

 

On this visa, you may remain in the UK for up to one year after graduation to develop your idea. You will need a letter of endorsement from either your host or UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). You will also need to prove you have £900 (US$1,509) in savings (which will increase to £945 from July 1) if applying from inside the UK, and £1,800 (US$3,017) (£1,890 from July 1) if applying from another country. This money needs to have been held in a bank account in your name for at least 90 days before you apply.

 

You will need to apply for this visa online, and will need a letter of endorsement, other supporting documents and relevant fees ready to do so. You’ll also need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre.

 

You can pursue specific application details and criteria on the Immigration UK website.

 

 

Entrepreneur

This visa is for graduates looking to start up or run a business in the UK who have access to at least £50,000 (US$83,810) in investment funds. How much you will need depends on your specific circumstances: for example, whether you are switching from another visa (which will be the case for international students,) or whether your funds have been granted from an approved external source. You can check the specific requirements on the visa section of the Immigration UK website.

 

This visa enables you to remain in the UK for up to 3 years and 4 months. Under the new points-based immigration system in the UK, you will need to score a total of 95 points in order to obtain it. You can check your points score before applying using the Government Points-Based Calculator.

 

 You will need to apply online for this visa, and have all required information and documents handy when you do so. You’ll also need to pay an application fee that will vary depending on your circumstances. Applicants will also need to have their fingerprints and photographs taken at an approved visa application centre. 

 

 

Exceptional Talent

Only 500 of these awards are given out between April 6 and October 1 per year. To qualify, you must be considered an ‘exceptionally talented migrant’ in either a field of Science, Arts, Engineering, Medicine, Digital Technology or Humanities, and be endorsed by either your host institution or another recognised body. You will need to pay two sets of fees at different stages of the application process that in most cases will be £437 (US$733) each.

 

Under this visa you may stay in the UK for up to 3 years and 4 months, and 3 years if you switch from a student visa whilst in the UK. Eligibility and selection criteria are incredibly strict, and you must be endorsed as an emerging leader in your field by one of five national bodies: Arts Council England, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society or Tech City UK.

 

To get endorsed, you will need to download and complete the application for endorsement form, as well as an additional form for your specific field. You will need to send your complete forms to the UK Visa and Immigration Home Office, and will receive a decision within 6 weeks. After you’ve received your endorsement, you will need to apply for the visa online. You should check specific application deadlines and information on the visa page of the Immigration UK website.

 

 

Investors

If you have £1,000,000 (US$1,676,200) or more handy that you’d like to invest in the UK then you may be eligible for this visa. You will need to pay relevant application fees and meet other specific eligibility requirements, and be allowed to remain in the UK for a maximum of 3 years and 4 months. In some cases, you will be allowed to apply to extend the visa for an additional two years when it expires.

 

There are very specific investment and employment rules tied to graduates on this visa that you should be sure to check thoroughly on the official visa page.  You will also need to provide additional documentation if you are being financed by a sponsor, i.e. a government or an international scholarship agency.

 

You will need to apply for this visa online, and have all relevant documents and application fees on hand when you do so. You can check what’s required on the Immigration UK website.

 

 

Tier 2 (General)

Whilst there are a few other types of Tier 2 visas, it’s unlikely you’ll be eligible for them as an international student: unless you are offered a religious job in a faith community such as a priest, or are a professional sportsperson. You may remain in the UK on this visa for up to 5 years and 14 days.

 

To be eligible for this visa you will need to have been already offered a job from a UK employer, and be able to produce a certificate of sponsorship from them to prove it. If your employer is NOT classed as ‘A-rated’ then you’ll need to demonstrate that you have at least £900 (US$1,509) in savings (which will increase to £945 effective July 1, 2014). You will also need to prove that this money has been held in a bank account in your name for at least 90 days before you apply.  Your job must also be considered of a certain skill level, and offer you a salary of at least £20,500 (US$34,362).

 

As an international student, you will be switching to the Tier 2 visa from a Tier 4 visa. To do so, you will need to have completed at least the first year of your degree (Bachelors and Masters students), and your full programme if completing a PhD. You’ll also need to meet specific English language requirements if it is not your native tongue. You MUST apply for a Tier 2 visa BEFORE your Tier 4 visa expires, and no more than three months before you start work.

 

If you are applying from outside the UK then your employer will need to pass the Resident Labour Market test. This test proves that there is no local UK candidate who is as qualified, or more qualified, then you for the position. As you should be applying for a Tier 2 visa whilst still in the UK on your student visa, this should not pose a problem for you.

 

You will need to apply online for a Tier 2 (General) visa, as well as have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre as part of the application process. In line with the UK’s new points-based immigration system, to be awarded this visa you will need to score 70 points across different requirement fields: particulars of your employment and salary, your English language proficiency and access to backup funds. You can check the specifics of these requirements on the Immigration UK website.

 

Check if your employer is ‘A-Rated’

 

 

Now that you know your options after graduation, why not browse courses in the UK now and get your plans to study abroad on the move?

 

 

Read more:

'Working as a student in the UK'

'Finding a graduate career in the UK'

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About Author

Liverpool St Station

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.

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