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Can I Study In The UK On A Skilled Worker Visa?

If you are planning to come to the UK on a Skilled Worker visa in 2021, or if you are already here, it is important to ensure that you keep within the conditions of your stay. All too often, we hear of cases where the visa holder inadvertently breaches the terms of their visa, putting them at significant risk of having their immigration leave cancelled or revoked and being required to leave the country. And unfortunately, having a visa revoked can jeopardise future immigration applications. For this reason, we always recommend checking with the Home Office or an immigration Solicitor before making a change, whether it is varying your hours at work, changing roles, working a second job, or starting part-time study. In this article, we will explain the immigration rules for Skilled Worker visa holders who wish to study while working in the UK.

Can I Study While Working In The UK On A Skilled Worker Visa?

Yes, the Home Office is quite flexible when it comes to allowing Skilled Worker visa holders to study. The rules state that Skilled Worker visa holders can:

  • work in an eligible job
  • study
  • bring their partner and children as ‘dependants’
  • take on additional work in certain circumstances
  • do voluntary work
  • travel abroad and return to the UK
  • apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) after living in the UK for five years

They cannot, however, apply to access public funds, benefits, or a state pension.

Are There Any Limits On The Study Which Can Be Undertaken By A Skilled Worker Visa Holder?

The guidance states, Skilled Worker visa holders can “study (with no limit on the number of study hours if it doesn’t interfere with the job they have been sponsored to do)”. Hence, if the hours of study conflict with your working hours, or if your study impacts your work, this may breach your Skilled Worker conditions. The only real provision beyond this is that if you are planning to study in certain subjects, you will need an ATAS certificate before starting. The Home Office guidance on this matter states, “The Skilled Worker is allowed to study, but they must obtain an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate for the course or research they intend to undertake and present it to their education provider before they start their study if:

  • they are not a national of the countries listed in Appendix ATAS 3.1
  • their course is in a subject listed in Appendix ATAS 4.1, and it either:
    • leads to a master’s degree
    • leads to a PhD
    • leads to another postgraduate qualification
    • is a period of study or research which is part of an overseas postgraduate qualification”.

What Is An ATAS Certificate?

ATAS stands for Academic Technology Approval Scheme. The scheme is intended to provide approval for all international students who are planning to study specific ‘sensitive subjects’. As the Home Office explains, “the subjects are those where students’ knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. These students must apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before they can study in the UK”. The immigration rules (specifically section ATAS4.1) states that any international students planning to study some subjects in the following areas need an ATAS certificate:

Doctorates or master’s by research

  • Subjects allied to Medicine (including pharmacology and toxicology)
  • Biological sciences (including biotechnology, biology, genetics, and biosciences)
  • Veterinary sciences, Agriculture and related subjects (including agricultural sciences)
  • Physical sciences (including chemistry, materials science, physics, and astronomy)
  • Mathematical and computer sciences (including mathematics, IT, information systems, and artificial intelligence)
  • Engineering (including civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and electronic engineering
  • Technology (including polymers and textiles, minerals, materials, and maritime technology

Taught master’s

  • Materials Science
  • Physics (including Nuclear Physics)
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Chemical, Process and Energy Engineering
  • Minerals Technology
  • Materials Technology

It is clear from this list that an ATAS certificate is required for a wide range of subjects, not just those one might automatically consider to be ‘sensitive’.

The immigration rules also state that if the student’s course of study is delayed or postponed for more than three months (calendar months), or there are changes to the course content, they need to apply for a new ATAS certificate “within 28 calendar days and must provide a printout of the new certificate to their education provider promptly”.

How Can I Apply For An ATAS Certificate?

The application for an ATAS certificate is completed online on the ATAS website. You will be asked to complete ten sections during the application process; it is advisable to provide as much detail as possible when doing so. You will be asked about your proposed course of study, including the CAH3 code (all of this information will be provided by your education provider), your personal details, your spouse, your contact details, previous graduate or undergraduate studies, other studies you have completed, any published papers you have authored, your employment history, details of your referees, and details of any financial sponsors where applicable. All of this information will be used to assess whether to grant you an ATAS certificate. The process typically takes up to three weeks from the date of application to receiving a decision.

Wrapping Up

The Home Office is relatively generous when it comes to allowing Skilled Worker visa holders to study while in the UK. This can be highly advantageous whether you want to learn new skills for your existing career or move into a new field altogether. Or it might be that you simply wish to study for a hobby or area of personal interest. Whatever your reasons, we wish you all the very best with your study while working in the UK.

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