Tier 2 is the main immigration route for non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who wish to work in the UK. If you wish to stay in the UK to work after you have finished your studies, there are concessions for full time Tier 4 students, which make it easier to get a Tier 2 visa.
How do I get a Tier 2 visa?
You will need to obtain sponsorship from an employer who is listed on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Register of Sponsors and who can offer you skilled employment in the UK.
A Tier 2 visa is linked to a particular employer and job in the UK.
You must have an offer of employment from a Tier 2 sponsor
- Your employer will provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship
- The job must be at graduate level
- SCQF level 10/RQF level 6 or above
- The job must be matched against an applicable 'SOC Code'
- This is the method that the UKVI uses for classifying jobs according to their title
- You must prove your English language ability
- You can use your UK degree award as evidence, or see the UKVI guidance for other evidence you can provide
- You must prove that you have enough money to meet the maintenance requirements
- You can submit personal bank statements showing that you have held at least £945 over a period of 90 days, ending not more than one month before the date of your application, OR;
- Your sponsor may agree to certify your maintenance (this information will be included on the CoS)
- You must provide evidence that you have completed, or are applying no more than 3 months before the expected completion date for, a programme leading to a UK recognised Bachelors or Masters degree (not a qualification of equivalent which is not a degree); or
- You must provide evidence that you have completed at least 12 months of a PhD programme
- You must have written consent from your financial sponsor
- If you are currently sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency or have been sponsored within the 12-month period before you apply under Tier 2, then you must provide a letter from your financial sponsor confirming that you can remain in the UK to work
- UKVI guidance states the letter must confirm unconditional consent to remain in or re-enter the UK for an unlimited time
Once you meet these requirements, and have been issued a CoS by your employer, then you can make a Tier 2 visa application online.
You must make your application from inside the UK to rely on the Tier 4 concessions.
Tier 4 concessions
There are a number of concessions available to students who are switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 to make it easier to apply:
- Your employer does not have to carry out the Resident Labour Market Test (this is to do with advertising the position)
- Your employer does not have to pay the Immigration Skills levy of up to £1000 per year of your visa
- You can get 'unrestricted sponsorship', which makes it easier to issue a CoS
- The minimum salary (£20,800 or industry minimum) is lower than other categories applying for Tier 2
- You can start working for your employer once you have submitted a Tier 2 application if you have already successfully completed your programme; if you haven't yet successfully completed your programme, you can only start working for your employer once your Tier 2 visa has been granted. Your employer may have a specific policy on this so always check with them.
You cannot benefit from the Tier 4 concessions if you are a part-time student.
Applying from outside the UK
If you wish to apply for Tier 2 from outside the UK, you cannot rely on the Tier 4 concessions.
There will be additional requirements to be sponsored:
- Your employer will have to carry out the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) which requires the position to be advertised for a specific amount of time to the UK resident labour market (i.e. settled workers who do not have visa restrictions on their stay in the UK).
- There are some exceptions to this (for example, if it is a PhD role or the job is on the shortage occupation list) and you should discuss these with your employer.
- Your employer will have to obtain a restricted CoS
- This requires prior approval from the UKVI and increases the timescale for obtaining the CoS.
- The only exception is if your job has a salary of £159,600 or more.
Applying for jobs
You will need to have a job offer before you can apply for a Tier 2 visa. You may find it helpful to explain about the Tier 4 concessions when you are applying for a job. You may wish to include the following text in your cover letter:
I currently hold a Tier 4 visa which allows me to work 20 hours per week during term time, full time during vacation periods, and full time in a temporary position once I have finished my studies.
As a Tier 4 visa holder who would make a Tier 2 application inside the UK, I am exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test, and from restricted Certificate of Sponsorship, once I have successfully completed my studies. I am also exempt from the Migrant Skills Levy.
The Careers Service have very useful tools and advice about finding work in the UK.
Making your application
You can find full information about how to apply for a Tier 2 visa on the UKVI website:
We do not provide a checking service for Tier 2 applications. You’ll find full information about Tier 2 by reading the resources listed on this page. However, if there is anything you do not understand about this information, we are happy to answer general enquiries.
For more information on what happens at the end of your studies: