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Making the Switch from a UK Tier 4 Study Visa to a Tier 2 Work Visa

Are you currently in the UK on a Tier 4 study visa? And are you planning to stay and work in the UK once your studies are completed? If so, then you will be joining many thousands of students each year who, having worked hard to build up their skills, knowledge, and qualifications, have made the ultimate decision to start their new career in the UK. It is easy to see why. In the current global landscape, the UK is still a big hitter, providing boundless opportunities for anyone with the skills and willingness to work hard. At present, as measured by GDP, the UK is the world’s sixth richest country, ahead of major players such as Russia, Canada, and Brazil. We have some of the world's leading universities, research institutions, and corporations, and the UK is known for the size and strength of its financial sector; with London being the second largest financial hub in the world.

What is the Tier 2 visa?

The Tier 2 visa route allows skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area with a job offer to work in the UK on a long-term basis. Tier 2 is divided into a number of subcategories, including the:

For students wishing to switch from a tier 4 to a tier 2 visa, the tier 2 (general) visa will be the most appropriate route. In order to be eligible for a tier 2 visa, you will need to have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a licensed sponsor employer. Normally, an employer who wishes to employ a member of staff from outside of the EEA on tier 2 (general) work visa first needs to ensure that no settled person in the UK can undertake the job (this is referred to as a Resident Labour Market Test), unless the position is on the UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL). One of the many benefits of switching from tier 4 to tier 2 is that the employer does not need to complete this step. In addition, they are not required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge, and because the CoS being issued is not subject to a cap (known as the national annual limit), the certificate can be issued without seeking approval from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). These are highly advantageous benefits for the employer who can reduce their administrative burden and costs, and in addition, the employee will receive their CoS sooner given that no permission is required. As such, students switching from tier 4 to tier 2 are highly desirable to UK employers.

Can I switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2?

We are approached by many students each year who are coming to the end of their studies and have made the decision to find a job in the UK. Whether you are planning to remain for the rest of your life or a few years, the Tier 2 route will most likely be the most appropriate for your needs. If you currently hold a tier 4 visa, you can switch to a tier 2 (general) visa if you have an eligible qualification, will complete your course in three months, or you’ve done at least 12 months of a Ph.D. In addition, dependant partners of those with a tier 4 visas can also apply. Importantly, if you do have a tier 4 visa, you will not need to leave the country in order to apply for a tier 2 (general) visa; this can be done within the UK as long as the application is made prior to the expiry of your current visa.

The qualifications required to switch from tier 4 to a tier 2 (general) visa include:

  • a UK bachelor’s degree
  • a UK master’s degree

a professional graduate diploma of education

Ph.D. students must also have been sponsored by a higher education provider listed on the Tier 4 register of sponsors as ‘Tier 4 sponsor - track record’ or an overseas higher education institution if you completed a short-term ‘study abroad’ programme in the UK.

All applicants for a tier 2 (general) visa, whether switching from tier 4 or not must provide the following to the Home Office:

  • a valid CoS for the job – in order to acquire a CoS, you will need to be employed by a sponsor who is licensed by the UK Home Office.
  • an appropriate salary is being paid for the job – this depends on the role, but under current guidelines, this is typically at least £30,000.
  • proof of sufficient knowledge of English – this is a relatively straightforward process if you have a degree taught in English or you are from a majority English speaking country. Otherwise, you will need to pass an approved English language test.
  • proof of sufficient savings - £945 in your bank account for the past 90 days, or a promise by an A-rated sponsor to give you at least £945 if you require help with your living costs.
  • evidence of your travel history over the last five years
  • tuberculosis test results if from a listed country
  • provide a criminal record certificate from any country you’ve lived in for 12 months or more in the last ten years if you’ll be working with vulnerable people

As part of the application process, you will also need to arrange and attend an appointment to provide your photograph and fingerprints (referred to as your biometric information) to the UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS).

How long does it take to switch from tier 4 to tier 2?

By using the standard service, applicants can expect to hear back regarding their application within eight weeks. The priority service will provide a response within five working days, and the super-priority service will give a decision by the end of the next working day (or two working days if your UKVCAS appointment is at a weekend). It should be noted that the priority and super-priority services do incur an additional charge.

Wrapping up

If you are now ready to kick-start your career having studied in the UK, you now have a wealth of options available in this country. The ability to switch from a tier 4 study visa to a tier 2 visa means that you can make the transition from student to a worker with relative ease. We wish you all the best with your new career in the UK.

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Reiss Edwards Reviews


"Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing, as a lawyer myself I can categorically say tha...

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Kiran Sardar

"I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this profes...

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Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

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Isaac .T

"Professional service. I was very impressed with the fact that my ILR applicatio...

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