Visas for working after study

This page is about the options for switching within the UK from a Student Visa (Tier 4) to a work visa. There are some upcoming changes and key dates for students who want to work in the UK after their studies. We will incorporate the changes into the information on this page as the full details become available.

Graduate Route (Post study work visa)

The government announced on 11 September 2019 that there will be a new Graduate immigration route from summer 2021. This route will provide international students with the opportunity to stay in the UK to live and work, or to look for work after they graduate.

The Home Office released a more detailed fact sheet about their plans for the Graduate immigration route on 14 October 2019. This and the "UK points-based immigration system: further details statement", released on 13 July 2020, include everything that is currently known about how the Graduate route will work.

The specific start date for the scheme has not been announced, only that it will be in summer 2021.

The main points are:

  • The route is for students who will complete a degree in or after the summer of 2021 and who hold a Tier 4 or Student visa at the time they apply.
  • Study must be undertaken in the UK, with a concession only for people who have been distance learning outside the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to be eligible, such students must return to the UK for their last semester, by a deadline of 6 April 2021. For details of this concession see "Coronavirus (COVID-19): Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students", page 16.
  • Undergraduate and master's degree students will be able to apply to stay for two years.
  • PhD students will be able to apply to stay for three years.
  • You do not need to be sponsored by an employer or by your university, but the degree must be awarded by a Higher Education provider that is listed on the Register of Student Sponsors as a "Student Sponsor - Track Record".
  • It will not be possible to extend this type of immigration permission but it will be possible to switch to another route if you meet the requirements.
  • There will not be a requirement to show you have a certain amount of money (known as the 'maintenance requirement').
  • There will be an application fee and you will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

We are still waiting for full information on the scheme, and the start date, and we will update this page as soon as there are further details.

Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)

This scheme is designed to give students who have almost finished their PhD studies or other doctorate qualification with the University of Plymouth an additional 12 months of immigration permission in which to look for and start work in the UK.

From summer 2021, the Doctorate Extension Scheme will merge into the new Post Study Work Visa Graduate route under which PhD graduates can apply for 3 years' permission in the UK to work. It is not yet clear whether there will be provision for current Doctorate Extension Scheme participants to switch into the Graduate route for the balance of the 3 years' permission.

  • You can only apply in the UK under this scheme.
  • You must be a doctoral candidate with current Tier 4 or Student immigration permission. This means you must be studying for a PhD qualification or one of the doctorate qualifications identified on page 69 of the Student route guidance as 'Doctorate qualifications'.

You can only apply for the DES in the 60 days before the expected end date of your PhD. If you upload your thesis then you would no longer be eligible to apply under the DES.

You will need to wait for your corrections to be approved, then make an appointment with ISA to submit the DES application before you upload your final thesis to Pearl.

Please contact ISA for more details.

Skilled Worker Visa (formerly Tier 2)

The Tier 2 (General) route for sponsored skilled work will be replaced from 09:00 on 1 December 2020 by the new Skilled Worker route for all non-UK, non-Irish nationals. The changeover from Tier 2 (General) to Skilled Worker includes some changes, mostly beneficial and helpful for students who wish to work after studi1es. We recommend you look at the UKCISA webpage working after studies.

You will need to also check the Tier 2 sponsors to find a potential employer:

Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4) leave who are eligible to switch to the Skilled Worker visa (formerly Tier 2) can apply up to three months before the expected completion date of their course. ISA can provide general information in relation to this visa, for Advice and how to apply we recommend contacting the UKCISA Student Advice Line on +4420 7788 9214.

EEA and Swiss nationals, and family

The UK has left the European Union but for now the rights of European Economic Area and Swiss nationals and their family members to work in the UK continue. For full details, see the Basic residence rights.

EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who are living in the UK should apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. Settled status and pre-settled status allows you to work in the UK without restrictions. 

European Union nationals who come to the UK after 1 January 2021 will be subject to immigration control. Please visit EU Settlement Scheme or contact ISA for further details

Start-Up and Innovator Schemes (formerly Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur)

The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route is now closed to new applicants. See the Start-up scheme on the UKCISA website which has replaced it.

For information and advice, we recommend contacting the UKCISA’s Student Advice Line on +4420 7788 9214.

If you want to discuss your eligibility for a specific scheme we hold International Student Advice Zoom sessions Monday to Friday from 09:30–10:30 (UK time) where you can speak with a member of our team to ask about anything you need help with.

To join a session and speak to an advisor, please open this Zoom link at the times stated above.

However, please be aware that our advisors are only trained to give immigration advice for studying in the UK and cannot offer advice on working visas.

We will offer guidance where we can but will advise you to seek independent immigration employment advice if we feel your needs are beyond our area of expertise.