Discover Studying Abroad

Your visa options after graduating from a university in the UK

Plan to study in the UK and stay on to gain work experience there? Our quick guide outlines your options to ease your transition from international student to UK resident.
BY Hannah Shepperd |   12-09-2017
Photo by Shane Global Language Centre
Photo by Shane Global Language Centre, used under CC license

Making up a fifth of the student population in England, international students flock to the UK for the prestige of its educational establishments. In pursuit of remaining securely in the UK, many graduates who decide to stay in the country after their studies are faced with the arduous task of sifting through visa requirements. This has proven to be an increasingly stressful time, certainly for those who are also focused on attaining their final stages of their degree – in fact, lawyers at the Immigration Advice Service, a UK law firm, say they have noticed a decided increase in students seeking advice on how to remain in the UK after their student visa expires.

Given the current complex circumstances surrounding international students in the UK, here is a quick guide to help smoothen the transition from student to UK resident.



Tier 2 - General Visa

If you’d like to stay in the UK to work then you should look towards switching to a Tier-2 visa. This is a highly beneficial visa to switch from Tier-4 to Tier-2, as it is relatively less time-intensive.

Maximum duration: Five years. After being in the UK for 5 years, this can be extended and ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)’ – permanent residency.

Eligibility: Similar to the initial application for a Tier-4 application: proof of financial sustainability, payment the healthcare surcharge and an assured place on your new course.

Photo by Colleen Morgan
Photo by Colleen Morgan, used under CC license


Tier 4 - Doctorate Extension Scheme

In the process of completing a PhD? After you’ve completed your degree, you can remain for another 12 months, whether it’s to work or start up a business.

Maximum duration: Your university will be able to sponsor you for a 12-month period as long as you are still in the UK, after that you may be able to move to either an Entrepreneur or Tier 2 visa.

Eligibility: As well as a CAS (confirmation of acceptance for studies) issued by your University, you must submit a visa application at the point of holding a valid Tier 4 visa and in the 60 days prior to receiving final approval for your degree.


Tier 1 - Graduate Entrepreneur

This visa is for the budding entrepreneurs out there who can prove themselves with a credible business idea.

Maximum duration: 12 months with the possibility of renewal for a further 12 months.

Eligibility: Individuals of certain nationalities, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, aged between the ages of 18-30. You must also be endorsed by the University, have at least a BA degree or equivalent, and meet various other requirements including maintenance.



Tier 5 - Youth Mobility Visa

This is for students wanting to pursue work experience or an unpaid internship following graduation. You cannot switch from Tier 4 to Tier 5 in the UK.

Maximum duration: 24 months.

Eligibility: Individuals of certain nationalities, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand, aged between the ages of 18-30. A certificate of sponsorship is required for nationals of Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan.


Spouse Visa

If you’re in a relationship with a British national, or someone who possesses settled status, then you may be able to obtain a spouse visa to join them in the country after graduation.

Maximum duration: 30 months.

Eligibility: For this visa, you have to leave the UK and reapply. There are other restrictions to this visa, as you will need to have evidence of the relationship, and your spouse will need to be earning more than £18,600 a year in order to sponsor your stay.


Go-to checklist:

  1. If Tier 2, 5 or 4, the institution where you study or work must have a sponsorship visa, so ensure that the business has this before you finalise.
  2. You must prove your English proficiency
  3. You must prove your financial stability
  4. You must meet savings requirements

Hannah Shepperd is an international communications specialist and content creator for Immigration Advice Services, a law firm registered with and regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner, the independent body responsible for maintaining professional standards across UK service providers.

Find out more about UK visas by clicking on the links below!
UK Prime Minister Theresa May urged to ease visa rules for Indians
We created a shady agent for a fraud awareness campaign and some students sought his advice
Tips for applying for a student visa
How to beat the UK student visa queue


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