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  1. Working in the UK
  2. Tier 2 Graduates
International students

Tier 2 (General) Graduates

If you have been offered a skilled job in the UK or if you are from outside the outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, you can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa for international graduates.

Requirements in order to apply:

  • Your employer must have a Tier 2 sponsor licence
  • Your job must have a particular skills level (defined as being at level 6, which is degree-level - Appendix J of the immigration rules determines the level at which the job is considered to be.)
  • There is a minimum wage level of £20,800, though this depends on the job and can be higher - you can find the minimum salary level for each job can be found in Appendix J of the immigration rules
  • Usually the job must have been advertised as required by the Home Office, but Tier 4 students who have graduated recently and are switching to Tier 2 in the UK are exempt from this advertising requirement (Resident Labour Market Test - see below)
  • You have to prove that you have English language skills, which you meet if you have a UK degree
  • You have to meet the maintenance requirement
  • If you want to, or must, apply outside the UK, or if you apply in the UK and you have immigration permission as a Tier 4 partner, your job must score a minimum number of points.
  • A Guide for Employers to recruit international graduates can be a useful resource for employers, although please note this has not been amended since 2013 so some of the figures are a little out of date. UKCISA also provide useful information.

Changing your Tier 4 into a Tier 2 visa

You can only switch from a Tier 4 into Tier 2 from within the UK if you meet all the following criteria:

  • You have a valid Tier 4 visa which has not expired
  • You have completed a UK recognised bachelor or postgraduate degree e.g. Bachelors or Masters. (Postgraduate diploma or certificates are not eligible) or have completed at least one year of a PhD. (In the past it was a requirement to have "successfully completed" a course, but this changed in January 2018. Read the guidance carefully for the evidence you are required to provide to show completion of the course.) Please note that although the rules have changed, the policy guidance for sponsors (i.e. your employer) currently suggests that, unless you have actually received your results, you will need to meet the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) in order to switch to Tier 2. This is not the case, and the immigration rules make it clear that, if you have completed your course and are switching in the UK, you are exempt from this requirement. If you have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer and will be applying after you have completed the course but before you have your results you will need to ask your course office for a letter for Tier 2 visa purposes confirming you have completed your course.
  • You studied your degree at a UK institution which holds a licence to sponsor Tier 4 students (City does)
  • You have a Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer who is on the list of registered sponsors with the Home Office.
  • You must be able to show that you have held funds of £945 in an account that is acceptable to the Home Office for the latest 90 consecutive days before you apply. Alternatively, you do not have to provide any evidence of funds if your Tier 2 sponsor is willing to confirm on your certificate of sponsorship that you will not claim public funds during your stay in the UK with Tier 2 immigration permission.
  • If you received official financial sponsorship within the last 12 months of your studies you will need permission from your official sponsor in order to extend your leave in the UK.

You can work full time after the official end date of your course (as stated in your CAS) as this is considered to be vacation period. However, you are still tied to all your Tier 4 conditions, so cannot take up a full time permanent role, be self-employed or work as a professional sportsperson or entertainer. If you have been offered a job but are waiting for results before you can apply for Tier 2, your employer may be able to employ you on a temporary contract during this period. You can commence a permanent job with your new sponsor once you have successfully completed your course (i.e. obtained results) AND submitted your Tier 2 application, otherwise you will still be limited to a temporary contract until the Tier 2 visa is actually granted; if you are still studying for a PhD and have not yet completed your course you cannot work full time for your new employer until your Tier 2 leave has been granted, since you are still tied to your Tier 4 conditions and considered to be in "term time". UKCISA provides further guidance on this.

Benefits for you and your employer

Many employers are anxious about employing overseas nationals as they are not aware of the concessions in place for international graduates, and think the process of sponsoring you will be complicated. If you qualify to switch to a Tier 2 visa from the UK then you and your employer will benefit from the following:

  • You will qualify for the "new entrant" wage for your job - there are two salaries given in the codes of practice, and your employer will be allowed to employ you on the lower rate and sponsor you on this wage
  • You will not be subject to the Resident Labour Market Test (see above)
  • If an employer recruits someone from outside the UK they are required to pay an Immigration Skills Charge, but are exempt from paying this for Tier 4 students switching in the UK
  • The number of people employers are able to bring in from outside the UK is capped, but there is not a cap on the numbers who can apply from within the UK

UKCISA provides extensive guidance on Tier 2 and issues relating to applications to switch into this category, as well as guidance on other options for staying in the UK after study.

Extending your Tier 2 visa

You can usually apply a Tier 2 visa for an initial 3 years and then extend it for another 2 years. However, you can also apply for a Tier 2 visa for up to 5 years in first instance by paying a higher application fee. Details of current fees can be found here.

Please note that, as we are primarily Student Advisers, we are unable to offer detailed advice on Tier 2 applications.