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UK life  Working after study

Working after study    

Working UK

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UK student visas  

UK life

Upon graduation in the UK, there are a number of visa categories available to you if you want to stay on to work.

EEA/Swiss students

Most nationals of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland can work unrestricted in the UK. See the article about studying and working in the UK for European students for more information.

Non-EEA international students

If you are from outside the EEA, at the end of your course you may be able to stay and work in the UK through one of the following routes:

Tier 2 (General)

Fast facts

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The main visa option for international students from outside of the EEA who want to work in the UK after study is now applying to enter or remain in the UK as a skilled worker under Tier 2 (General) of the UK’s points-based system.

The Tier 2 (General) category is for non-EEA nationals who have been offered a skilled job to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker.under the new points-based system.

You can apply for an employer sponsored work visa under Tier 2 if you have a job offer from an employer that is on the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA’s) Register of Sponsors and has been issued with a valid certificate of sponsorship.

You have to apply for the visa with the certificate of sponsorship and you need to pass the points-based assessment, which requires the post to have a minimum annual salary of £20,000. (See the codes of practice for sponsored workers on the UKBA website for more information.)

For the year from 6 April 2012 to 5 April 2013, a maximum of 20,700 skilled workers can come to the UK under Tier 2 (General) to do jobs with an annual salary below £150,000. (There is no limit on the number of workers coming to the UK to do jobs with an annual salary of £150,000 or above.)

You do not need to apply under the points-based system if:

  • you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland
  • you are a British overseas territories citizen (unless you are from one of the sovereign base areas in Cyprus)
  • you are a Commonwealth citizen with permission to enter or stay in the UK because at least one of your grandparents was born here (the UK ancestry section of the UKBA website explains how you can apply)
  • your partner or, if you are under 18, one of your parents has permission to stay in the UK under Tier 2 of the points-based system – you should apply as their dependant
  • you have no conditions or time limit attached to your stay.

Find out more about the Tier 2 (General) of the UK’s points-based system from the UKBA website.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category allows you entry to the UK if you are internationally recognised as a world leader in the arts and sciences or possess potential world-leading talent in the arts or sciences to live and work in the UK. The visa will be overseen by world-renowned ’competent bodies’, which will advise the UKBA on these ’exceptionally talented’ migrants to ensure that they are the brightest and best in their field. There is a limit of 1,000 places in the first year of operation.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) 

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category is for non-European migrants who want to invest in the UK by setting up or taking over, and being actively involved in the running of, a business or businesses in the UK.

Special Visitor: Prospective Entrepreneurs

A new Special Visitor: Prospective Entrepreneurs category has been created to enable individuals to come to secure funding in order to set up or run a business in the UK with a view to meeting the financial criteria under Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route within six months. If they meet the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) requirements they may apply to switch into this category within six months, otherwise they will have to leave the UK.

Tier 5 (Temporary worker – government authorised exchange)

The government authorised exchange category is for people coming to the UK through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice, and to experience the social and cultural life of the UK. This category must not be used to fill job vacancies or to bring unskilled labour to the UK.

Visas no longer available

Under the points-based immigration system, you used to be able to remain in the UK as a post-study worker (Tier 1 Post-study Work). However, since April 2012, the Tier 1 Post-study Work Route has been closed, which means that international students graduating after this date will have to return to their country of origin after unless they hold take one of the routes outlined above.

The UK Border Agency website has more information and application forms. See also the UKCISA Information Sheet Working in the UK after your studies.


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