This is a summary of the main options for international students who want to remain in the UK to work after studies, or who want to return to the UK in future for work.
Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)
The DES gives students who have almost finished their PhD or other doctorate qualification an additional 12 months in which to look for and start work in the UK. You can only apply in the UK, and you must have current Tier 4 immigration permission.
When do I apply?
You need to advise the Research Degrees Office (RDO) of your expected date is for submitting the bound copy of your thesis. The RDO can then confirm your expected award date. You can apply for the DES anytime within the 60 days immediately before your award date.
Then you will need a CAS from the Academic Registry. This cannot be assigned until you are within 60 days of the expected award date of your course, which is the date the PhD is expected to be formally confirmed, by the university, as completed to the standard required for the award of a PhD. This date might be different from the one that was stated in your original CAS, as the completion date for a PhD is often difficult to determine far in advance. The CAS cannot be assigned after the university has confirmed that your doctorate has been awarded.
With your CAS, you must apply for the DES before your current Tier 4 immigration permission expires. You cannot make an Entry Clearance application (outside of the UK) for Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme.
If your current Tier 4 permission finishes too early for you to make a DES application, you will need to make a regular Tier 4 application first, then make a DES application later when you are within 60 days of your expected award date. There is some helpful guidance about potential problem situations in the UKCISA web pages 'Working after your studies' in the doctorate extension section under 'When you can apply.' If you are unsure, email a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service or call the UKCISA advice line.
How do I apply?
The DES comes under Tier 4. The application you will make is very similar to the Tier 4 (General) Student application you made for your studies. The information in your CAS will be different, but you will complete the same application form.
When you are completing the online Tier 4 (General) Student immigration application form, in the "Course details" section, you should select NQF8 as the level of qualification. You will then be asked to confirm if you are applying under the scheme.
Warning: as the university cannot assign you a CAS after your doctorate has been awarded, you are likely to have just one opportunity to apply under the DES. It is, therefore, very important that you make sure that your immigration application is completed correctly and your supporting documents meet the requirements. You will not get a chance to correct any mistakes after you have applied. For more information read/watch our comprehensive guidance on making a Tier 4 (General) Student immigration application.
Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
As part of your Tier 4 DES application, you will normally need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge
Unfortunately, the system that calculates the charge doesn't understand the difference between a standard Tier 4 (General) Student immigration application and Tier 4 DES application. If you submit an immigration application and have paid too little, this may delay your application as the Home Office caseworker will then have to write to you to ask you to pay the outstanding fee. If you pay too much, the caseworker should refund any over-payment when your immigration application is decided.
When completing the immigration application form, we recommend that you do not use the expected end date on your CAS statement. Instead, we recommend that you state that your expected end date is 7 months after the start date on your CAS statement. This should make the system calculate the correct charge (£150). The Home Office is aware of the problems with the IHS system and entering a different end date should not cause any issues.
English language assessment
We are aware that there is an issue with the way CAS Statements are generated for some students applying for Tier 4 DES. Some students have found that their CAS statements do not say how the university has assessed their English language ability. If this has happened, please contact the Academic Registry's CAS team and ask them how they have assessed your English language ability. In most cases your CAS will state "Higher Education Institution (HEI) sponsor has made assessment". If this is the case, when answering the question "If you are studying at a higher education institution, have they assessed that you meet the English language requirement, or that you are a 'gifted student'?" (if asked), you should select "Yes".
What happens if my actual completion date is later than my expected end date?
If, after your CAS has been assigned, you find out that you are likely to receive confirmation of your award later than the expected end date on the CAS, you can still apply under the scheme as long as you do this before the expected end date and before your current Tier 4 leave expires. However, you will not be able to work without restriction until your award is confirmed. As your Tier 4 sponsor, Queen Mary is required to report your actual completion date to the Home Office. You will not be able to apply to extend your immigration permission under this scheme, so you will not be able to spend the full 12-month period working without restriction. Depending on the length of delay before your award is confirmed, you might instead consider applying under Tier 4 as a student, and, after that, make an application under the doctorate extension scheme. You cannot apply after the expected end date, so you will probably need a new CAS. You should discuss this as early as possible with the Research Degrees Office to check if they are able to assign a new CAS.
What happens if I apply under this scheme but my doctorate is not awarded?
As your Tier 4 sponsor, Queen Mary is required to let the Home Office know when you complete your course. It is also obliged to notify the Home Office if you fail your course, do not complete it or if you are awarded a qualification that is lower than a doctorate.
If you fail your course or do not complete it, or if you are awarded a lower qualification, your application will be refused if you are still awaiting a decision. You might want to consider withdrawing the application first. If you have already been granted immigration permission under the scheme, the Home Office will cut your immigration permission short (curtail it). You should seek advice from the Advice and Counselling Service if you think this will happen to you.
Do I have to show any funds?
When you make the Tier 4 DES application, you must show that you have held maintenance funds of £2,530. You must show that you have held the required funds for a consecutive 28 day period (finishing on the date of the closing balance of the statement you provide). The closing balance must be on or before the date you make your on-line immigration application, and must not be more than 31 days before you make your on-line immigration application.
You need to plan ahead and make sure that the level of your funds does not go below the minimum required level at any time during this 28-day period.
You must show the required funds in the ways specified in the Home Office Policy Guidance for Tier 4 Students.
If you have been financially supported by a government or international scholarship agency during your studies, or within 12 months of making this application if the sponsorship has now stopped, you must provide the unconditional written consent of your financial sponsor for you to apply under Tier 4 DES. The Tier 4 policy guidance states that this requirement applies to you only if the sponsorship covers all your tuition fees and living costs. This applies to all Tier 4 applications.
Do I need an ATAS certificate?
No. However, if your course end date has been extended by three calendar months or more, you will need to apply for a new ATAS certificate to comply with the conditions of your current immigration permission (you must do this irrespective of any DES application you might make). More information can be found on our page about changes to your studies.
What type of work can I do under this scheme, and when can I start working?
If your Tier 4 DES application is successful, you will be granted Tier 4 immigration permission for 12 months from the expected end date on your CAS. When you are granted Tier 4 leave under this scheme and you have received confirmation of your award (this can be before or after your expected end date on the CAS), you can work almost without restriction. The only restrictions are that you cannot work as a doctor or dentist in training, or as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. You are allowed to be self-employed or run a business - if you plan to do this, also check if you meet the requirements of the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme.
The Immigration Rules provide that if you applied for your Tier 4 student leave on or after 6 April 2013, and you have now applied under the doctorate extension scheme but have not yet received a decision on that application, you can start working without the usual Tier 4 restrictions as soon as your award is confirmed. The Tier 4 policy guidance does not restrict eligibility to those who applied for their Tier 4 student leave on or after 6 April 2013 so it appears to be operating a concession that allows all applicants to start work in this way before they receive a decision, as long as their award has been confirmed.
What are my obligations to my Tier 4 sponsor?
As the university is sponsoring you under Tier 4 by providing you with a CAS, they are required to contact you at least twice during the 12 month period, which could be in person, by phone or email. If you fail to respond to contact from the university, they will be required to report you to the Home Office, who can cut short your immigration permission. The contact arrangements will be explained to you when you are issued with a CAS.
Can my family members stay with me in the UK under this scheme?
This is explained in the UKCISA web page under 'Family' in the Doctorate Extension Scheme section of 'Working after your studies' web page.
Where can I get more information?
You can read more about the scheme in the UKCISA guidance on Working in the UK after your studies and in the Home Office Policy Guidance for Tier 4 Students
You can get detailed written guidance and video guidance on making a Tier 4 application on the Advice and Counselling Service website.
To find out if QM can issue you a CAS for a Tier 4 DES application, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org in the Research Degrees Office
Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) is an immigration category that allows graduates with innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills to stay in the UK to develop their business under the supervision of their academic institution. If you are a student, you must be in the final year of your studies at Queen Mary, or have recently graduated. You may also be eligible to apply to the scheme if you have been awarded a degree by any UK Higher Education Institution and you have Tier 2 immigration permission to work at Queen Mary as a postdoctoral researcher.
For details on who can apply, and what the requirements are, read the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Policy Guidance document, on the UK Government website: https://www.gov.uk/tier-1-graduate-entrepreneur-visa
What is the Queen Mary Endorsement Scheme?
To apply under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), you need an Endorsement Letter from Queen Mary. To obtain this letter, you must pass the Queen Mary Endorsement Scheme selection process. The university will use this process to identify viable business ideas and to establish the extent of your commitment and ability to run your own business in the UK.
When should I apply to the Queen Mary Endorsement Scheme?
There are six deadlines each year for applications to the Endorsement Scheme: 1st Feb, 1st April, 1st June, 1st Aug, 1st Oct, and 1st Dec.
Choose your deadline carefully. You MUST allow three months or more between deadline and the expiry of your current Tier 4 immigration permission (or Tier 2 immigration permission if you are working at Queen Mary as a postdoctoral researcher. If you miss this deadline, Queen Mary may not be able to decide your application in time for you to be able to make an immigration application in the UK. If this happens, you would have to return home to make your immigration application.
If you are eligible, please download guidelines on how to apply to the Endorsement Scheme and an application form from the Queen Mary Careers website: http://www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/students/enterprise/tier1/index.html
How long can I stay in the UK with Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) immigration permission?
Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) immigration is granted for one year. If your business could be a success, Queen Mary may choose to provide you with a second endorsement letter and you may be able to apply for immigration permission for a second year. If, at the end of two years, your business is a success, you may be able to apply for further immigration permission in the different category of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur). There is more information about this on the UK Government website: https://www.gov.uk/tier-1-entrepreneur
When can I start my business?
You can start your business and work on a self-employed basis before the Home Office decides your Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) application, as long as you apply before your immigration permission expires.
On Tier 1 categories
For information about other categories under Tier 1 of the Points Based System of Immigration e.g. Exceptional Talent, Investors and Entrepreneurs visit the UK Government website.
The UK Council for International Students (UKCISA) has published detailed web pages for students.
Tier 2 (General)
Tier 2 (General) is the immigration category that allows UK employers to sponsor employees who would not normally be entitled to work in the UK.
To be eligible, you must have an offer of a skilled job from a licensed sponsor (employer) paying at least £20,800 (which is the normal minium rate for 'new entrants' including those switching from Tier 4) or sometimes higher depending on the stated minimum salary for the specific job. Your employer applies to the UK Government for a 'Certificate of Sponsorship' (CoS). If the UK Government issues your employer a Certificate of Sponsorship, you can then make an immigration application to remain in the UK under Tier 2 of the Points Based System of immigration, using this Certificate of Sponsorship.
Under the standard Tier 2 rules for those applying outside the UK, an employer needs to carry out the "Resident Labour Market Test". However, under the rules for recent UK graduates, employers do not have to do this, and the job does not count towards the annual limit normally imposed on Tier 2 Certificates of Sponsorship.
Can I switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2?
Yes, and you can apply within the UK after you have the university has awarded your qualification. If you apply to switch on or after 11 January 2018, you can apply as soon as you have completed your Bachelor's or Master's degree course. In order to provide evidence that you have completed your course, you can request a letter from the Student Enquiry Centre. You can ask for a Certificate of Attendance showing you have completed your course to apply for Tier 2 immigration permission.
If you are a PhD student and you have completed at least 12 months of your studies, you can also switch to Tier 2 from within the UK.
Can I have my family in the UK with me under Tier 2?
Graduates using Tier 2 can sponsor new dependants, on the same terms as other Tier 2 migrants. You may also continue to sponsor any dependants whom you sponsored as a student / Tier 4 migrant.
When do I need to start looking for a job?
Before the end of your student immigration permission (usually October for undergraduate students and January for postgraduate students), you must have been awarded your degree, obtained immigration sponsorship from your employer and submitted your immigration application.
You need to start your employment search early so that you can complete recruitment and selection processes in time for you to make an immigration application in the UK.
If you apply outside the UK, you are not exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test and your employer would need to request a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the national allocation. Your employers' application for a CoS from the national allocation will be treated more favourably than other applications as it will be assigned at least 21 points when the UK Government prioritises the allocation of CoSs.
Will my prospective employer know about the new Tier 2 rules for graduates?
They should but not all employers know about the rules for employing graduates. The important things for a potential employer to know are:
- Your employer does not need to satisfy the Home Office's Resident Labour Market Test and;
- The Certificate of Sponsorship is not from the restricted annual allocation of Certificates of Sponsorship
Remember that you and your prospective employer can only benefit from the advantages of these new Tier 2 rules for graduates if you are making your Tier 2 immigration application within the UK, before the expiry of your current student immigration permission.
If your employer does not know about the new Tier 2 rules, you may want to show them the information on this website. You can also direct them to information on the UK Government website:
- UK Government Guidance for Sponsors - paragraph 27.6 explains that your employer can issue an 'unrestricted Confirmation of Sponsorship instead of a 'restricted' one and paragraph 28.10 explains the exemption from the Resident Labour Market test.
Your Tier 4 conditions allow you to start your job when you submit your Tier 2 immigration application (even if it is a full-time permanent job) if you have completed a degree-level course. If you are applying after 12 months of study towards a PhD, but before you have been awarded it, you cannot rely on this provision unless you have previously completed a degree-level course in the UK. In this case you would need to wait until you have received your Tier 2 immigration permission before you start a permanent full-time job.
You should discuss with your Tier 2 sponsor about when would be the best time to start work. Even if you could start your Tier 2 job before the UK Government makes a decision on your immigration application, your employer might not want you to do this as it could lead to problems if your Tier 2 application is not successful.
Where can I find out more information about Tier 2?
Note for law students who do not have training contacts starting after graduation
If you are a law student and you were unable to secure a training contract in your penultimate year, you may encounter a problem.
Our understanding is that a law graduate would normally need to make the following immigration applications:
- Extend immigration permission as a Tier 4 (General) Student migrant for the LPC course.
- Extend immigration permission as a Tier 2 (General) migrant for your training contract
So long as you are able to make both application in the UK, you will benefit from the exemption from the Resident Labour Market test and the immigration cap.
If, however, you are unable to make either of these application in the UK (e.g. because your training contract does not start for a year), you will not benefit as your immigration permission under which you studied your qualifying course at QM must be continuous. Check with your training contract provider to see if this will be a problem.
Tier 5: Youth Mobility Service
This work scheme allows you to work in the UK for up to two years. The scheme is available to nationals of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Taiwan, and to British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas).
You cannot switch into this immigration category from within the UK. Instead, you need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance. You must be aged between 18 and 30, and you must have a certain level of funds in your personal bank account on the date you apply for entry clearance.
Tier 5: Government Authorised Exchange
This category is for people coming to the UK through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice, and to experience the social and cultural life of the UK. This category must not be used to fill job vacancies or to bring unskilled labour to the UK. The scheme can provide an opportunity to do work placements, internships, practical training or work experience in the UK. You can only apply if you are offered a place on one of the approved schemes. You can see current details of the approved schemes on the UK Government website. For more general information about this scheme see UK Government website.
Working after studies Briefing Sessions at Queen Mary
The Advice and Counselling Service at QMUL runs joint briefing sessions with the QM Careers & Enterprise Service each semester, to explain all of the possible immigration routes for international students who wish to remain in the UK to work. This workshop will give you a full overview of the Tier 2 visa process for working in the UK after your studies as well as the chance to ask any visa related questions. Information about Tier 1 and Tier 5 will also be provided.
The next workshop will take place on Tuesday 5 June 2018 at 2pm. You can book a place on the Careers website: www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/events
The February 2017 session is available to watch online at QMplus Learning and Support. Look under "Searching for jobs in the UK after graduation", and the Advice and Counselling Service presentation starts at around 44 minutes.
Explaining your situation to employers
Some employers may be unfamiliar with the rules for employing international graduates and may even think that it is not possible.
The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) has produced a leaflet to help employers understand the rules and regulations for employing international graduates. You can download a copy of the leaflet from the AGCAS website.
An employer may be acting illegally if they automatically reject your job application because you are not settled in the UK or because you require permission to work in the UK. If they could sponsor you under Tier 2, then they may be committing unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. The UK Government has published a document to help employers understand their responsibilities: Avoiding discrimination while preventing illegal working: code of practice.
If you are concerned that an employer's recruitment process may be discriminating against you unlawfully (e.g. automatically rejecting your application), you could contact your potential employer and use the above resources to explain the situation.