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.

If you need help finding a job, please contact our Careers Service for information, advice and guidance for our students and graduates on building skills, experience and contacts to improve employability.

Graduate Route

The Graduate Route is a new work route for those who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a UK Higher Education Provider (with a track record of compliance) from 1 July onwards. Your application does not need sponsorship or any endorsement by an employer or by your university.

Applications open on 1 July 2021.

Full details of the scheme have not yet been released but you can find the most up to date information here: the Home Office.  

The UKCISA Working after Studies webpage is also an excellent source to refer to.

To find out more, please come to one of our live Zoom sessions during the following times and dates:

If you can’t make one of our Zoom sessions, you can watch this excellent video from the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).

Here is the information we know so far as at March 2021:

When do I need to arrive in the UK if I want to apply for the Graduate Route?

The usual expectation of the Graduate Route is that you study your course fully in the UK. However, the government has recognised that some students have needed to study remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are studying remotely in the 2020/21 academic year, you need to arrive in the UK, with a valid Tier 4 / Student visa by the dates listed below:

  • Masters courses started in Sep/Oct 2020: 21 June 2021 (previously 6 April)
  • Masters courses started Jan 2021: 27 September 2021
  • Undergraduate and PhD students completing in summer 2021: before visa expires
  • Longer courses finishing after Summer 2021: Remote study during 2020/21 should be disregarded when considering your GIR application as long as you return and complete your course in the UK.

Make sure you understand the full implications of travelling to the UK under the restrictions of the current pandemic by reading the government webpage: Entering the UK


  • Must be on a Tier 4 or Student visa.
  • You must have successfully completed your degree programme. The University will need to confirm this directly to the Home Office (details of this system have not been confirmed yet by the Home Office).
  • Must apply from within the UK before Tier 4 / Student visa expires. It is not possible to apply for the Graduate visa outside the UK.
  • You will need the CAS number that you used for your most recent Tier 4 / Student visa application.

Please refer to the UKCISA webpage for further information: Working after Studies

How much will it cost me?

You will need to make the following payments at the point of application, likely by debit or credit card:

  • Application fee: £700 per applicant.
  • Immigration Health Surcharge: £624 per year. Undergraduate and masters graduates will pay £1248 for a two year visa, PhD graduate will pay £1872 for a three year visa.

There is no requirement to show you have a certain amount of money (known as the 'maintenance requirement') in a bank account. However, you will of course still need money to pay your living costs. Do you have enough money to support yourself until you find work? What is your back up plan if you do not find work? As with your Tier 4 or Student permission you will not have access to public funds, including any welfare benefits aimed at those who are not working or on a low income.

How feasible is it for you to find a job in the UK under the current circumstances? Seek advice from our Careers Service.

How can I apply?

Applications open at 09:00 on 1 July 2021. You can only apply in the UK. There is no provision to apply in your home country or in any other country other than the UK. If you are currently outside the UK with valid Tier 4 or Student permission, you will need to travel to the UK before it expires and refer to the question above ‘When do I need to arrive in the UK if I want to apply for the Graduate Route?’.

Can dependants join me on this Graduate Route?

Your partner and/or child under 18 who is already in the UK as your Tier 4 or Student dependant can apply to extend their stay as your Graduate Route dependant.

A partner or child who is outside the UK cannot apply for a visa as your Graduate Route dependant. They would need to apply as your Student dependant, if eligible, and come to the UK on that basis then apply for permission to stay on as your Graduate Route dependant.

You will likely need to pay the same application and Immigration Health Surcharge fees for each dependant.

What type of work can I do?

While your Graduate Route application is pending, you can continue to work under the conditions of your Student or Tier 4 permission. See Student work.

When your Graduate Route permission is issued you can do any work, either employed or self-employed, except working as a professional sportsperson or coach. You can take work at any level of salary or skill, but if your plan is to find a job for which you can eventually be sponsored under the Skilled Worker route, you should check which jobs are eligible for that.

Employers should know about the new Graduate Route, and they should understand that with this permission you can take any work you wish without sponsorship and without any special actions for the employer. However you may be their first employee with Graduate Route permission, and they may not fully understand the route at first. You can refer their HR to this very basic guidance from the Home Office for employers.

If you want to set up as self-employed, see the detailed guidance from the UK government about all the steps and requirements. If you want to continue your business when your Graduate Route permission expires, you will need to meet the requirements of an extension under the Start-up and innovator schemes.

Can I study on the Graduate Route?

Study is restricted under the Graduate Route. The study condition states that you cannot study any course which could in theory be sponsored under the Student route.

Examples of permitted study therefore include:

  • Part-time undergraduate course
  • English language courses
  • Some professional courses
  • Any study at a college or university that is not a Student route visa sponsor
  • Online study
  • Evening classes
  • Recreational courses

Graduate Route dependants do not have this study restriction.

Can I speak to an advisor?

To find out more and to see if you qualify, please come to one of our live Zoom sessions during the following times and dates:

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)

If you have been offered employment at the University of Plymouth, please contact our Human Resources team who will assist you with the Skilled Worker process.

If you have been offered a job elsewhere or currently looking, although we cannot offer specific advice on this visa category, the following guidance may help.

What is the Skilled Worker visa?

A Skilled Worker visa allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer. This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa. Applicants must score 70 points under the UK points-based immigration system.

Do I qualify?

Detailed information can be found on the GOV UK website but here is a brief summary to see if you qualify for a Skilled Worker visa:

  • You must have a job offer from an approved UK employer before you apply for a Skilled Worker visa. Approved employers are also known as sponsors, because they are sponsoring you to come to – or stay in – the UK. View the list of approved UK employers.
  • Check if the job is eligible. You need to know its 4-digit occupation code, which can be found using the ONS occupation coding tool. When you know your occupation code, view the table of eligible jobs to see if it’s included.
  • Check the minimum salary requirements. You’ll usually need to be paid at least £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour, whichever is higher. Each occupation code has its own annual going rate. Check the going rate for your job in the going rates table. There are different salary rules if you work in some healthcare or education jobs. If you do not meet the usual salary requirements and do not work in healthcare or education, you might still be eligible, so check when you can be paid less.
  • To apply for the visa, you will need a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ (COS) from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK.
  • You must speak English to the required standard.

How long can I stay?

Your visa can last for up to 5 years before you need to extend it. You’ll need to apply to extend or update your visa when it expires or if you change jobs or employer. You can apply to extend your visa as many times as you like as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements. After 5 years, you may be able to apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.

How and when can you apply?

How you apply depends on whether you’re:

If you want to change your job or employer, you must apply to update your visa.

You can include your partner and children in your application to stay in the UK if they are eligible.

You must have completed (or be applying no more than 3 months before they are expected to complete) the course. An exception applies to PhDs and other doctoral qualifications, where the applicant must have completed at least 12 months’ study in the UK towards the qualification.

How long does it take?

You can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day you are due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on your certificate of sponsorship.

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within:

  • 3 weeks if you’re outside the UK
  • 8 weeks if you’re inside the UK.
If you need to go to an appointment, you may be able to pay for a faster decision. How you do this depends on whether you’re outside the UK or inside the UK.

What money do I need?

When you apply for a Skilled Worker visa, you’ll need to have enough money to: 

  • pay the application fee – the standard fee ranges from £610 to £1,408 depending on your circumstances
  • pay the healthcare surcharge – this is usually £624 per year
  • support yourself when you arrive in the UK – you’ll usually need to have at least £1,270 available (unless you’re exempt).
More details on how much money you need.

What can I do? What can I not do?

With a Skilled Worker visa you can:

  • work in an eligible job
  • study (but your main reason for being in the UK must be for work)
  • bring your partner and children with you as your ‘dependants’ if they’re eligible
  • 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’) if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years and meet the other eligibility requirements.

You cannot:

  • apply for most benefits (public funds) or the State Pension
  • change jobs or employer unless you apply to update your visa.

If your application is successful, you’ll get a full list of what you can and cannot do with a Skilled Worker visa. 

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) provides further details on the Skilled Worker route plus other working visa options when working after your studies.  

EEA and Swiss nationals, and family

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.