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Graduate Visa to Skilled Worker Visa: Requirements

International applicants can switch to the skilled worker visa from a graduate visa if they have an employment offer from a UK employer and meet other requirements.

If you want to know more about switching from a graduate visa to a skilled worker visa, do not hesitate to contact us. Call our team at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online. We are available to guide UK employers and graduate visa holders on how to sponsor and switch to a skilled worker visa.

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    Is It Possible To Switch From a Graduate Visa to Skilled Worker Visa?

    Switching from a graduate visa to a skilled worker visa is possible. The UK created the graduate visa opportunity in 2021 for international students who have finished studying an eligible course. The course must have been completed at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate level.

    With the graduate visa, the international student gets 2 years to stay and work in the UK. This would have been good news to UK employers looking to hire from a vast pool of international talent without the encumbrances of sponsorship if the graduate visa wasn’t only valid for 2 years and also non-renewable.

    So, for UK businesses to retain international talents on the graduate visa, they would have to sponsor them to get the skilled worker visa.

    To switch to the skilled worker visa, UK employers and their employees must meet certain eligibility requirements. The employer must first be a sponsor approved by the Home Office.

    It is necessary to note two things:

    • The switch must happen before the graduate visa expires.
    • The applicant must not leave the UK, Isle of Man, the Channel Island or Ireland until the Home Office decides on their application. The Home Office will withdraw the application if this rule is flouted.

    How Can Employers And Businesses Employ Individuals Who Are On The Graduate Visa?

    Employers and businesses can employ individuals on the graduate visa provided they can sponsor them to switch. Before sponsoring the switch, you must be a Home Office-approved employer and hold a sponsorship licence.

    This sponsorship licence gives you the right to hire international employees. If you do not have this licence and wish to hire someone on a graduate visa, you must apply to the Home Office for a sponsor licence.

    Looking to hire an employee with a Graduate Visa? Our immigration expert team can help your business successfully and legally sponsor them to work for you.

    Applying For a Sponsor License & Nominating Key Personnel


    UK businesses or employers that do not already have the permission of the Home Office to sponsor a graduate visa holder must apply for the sponsor licence. With the licence, you can recruit an international graduate to do a specific job in a particular occupation.

    Nominating Key Personnel

    Before employers can apply for the sponsorship licence, they must nominate key personnel managing the sponsored employees. This means a part of the business must be dedicated solely to managing and applying for sponsorship.

    There must be at least three personnel that a business must have:

    • A level 1 user responsible for the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).
    • A key contact person who will act as the middleman between the Home Office and the business.
    • An authorising officer who is in charge of every staff that uses SMS.

    Applying for the Sponsor Licence

    Employers applying for sponsor licence must do so online using the Sponsorship Management System. The SMS platform will require you to present the following details:

    • The business’ contact and address.
    • The hierarchy of the company.
    • The kind of licence the company wants to apply for.
    • The key contact personnel in your business.

    After supplying these details, you must print or download the submission sheet at the bottom of the application and mail it to the Home Office. The email address is on the submission sheet. This email will also carry your supporting documents and proof that you have paid the licence fees.

    Note that the authorising officer of your business must be the one to apply for the sponsor licence.

    If you cannot send your application via mail, then you have to send it by post to the address of the Home Office listed on the submission sheet.

    Your application must also show the following:

    • The industry your business is under.
    • The contact of your authorising officer.
    • The role description.
    • The exact job role(s) that need the sponsorship.
    • The organisational chart that shows the owner, board members, manager and directors.
    • The salary you have mapped out for the available roles. (Note that this must comply with the minimum wage rules set by the Home Office.
    • The business operating hours.
    • The position the employees will occupy on the organisational chart.
    • The education, skill and experience required for the role.

    Documents Required

    Your application for the sponsor licence must come with supporting documents. Below are the supporting documents employers must present:

    • Bank account statement of the business.
    • Evidence that the business owns its premises or is paying rent.
    • Account audit of the previous financial year.
    • Evidence that the business has VAT registration.
    • Insurance policy certificate of the business.
    • Evidence that the business is registered with the HMRC.

    You must make sure that these documents are in PDF, PNG or JPEG formats when sending them via mail. Also, ensure that you name each document correctly to avoid confusion. Each name must not be above 25 characters.

    You also must ensure that the documents are clear and very legible.

    You must provide a certified translation if the documents are not in English or Welsh.

    Sponsor Licence Application Fee

    Businesses applying for the sponsor licence to sponsor skilled workers must pay the application fee. The fees are as follows:

    • Small businesses will pay £536 for the sponsor licence.
    • Medium or big businesses or employers will pay £1,476 for the sponsor licence.
    • Small businesses won’t have to pay if they already have a temporary worker licence and want to add a licence for skilled workers.
    • Medium or big businesses will have to pay £940 to add a skilled worker licence to their temporary worker licence.
    • Small businesses will pay £364 for 1 year and an extra £182 for 6 months as immigration skill charge.
    • Medium or big businesses will pay £1000 for 1 year and an extra £500 for 6 months as immigration skill charge.
    • Small, medium and big businesses will have to pay £199 for every certificate of sponsorship issued.

    It takes 8 weeks for the Home Office to decide on your application. If it is successful, you get a licence valid for 4 years and eligible for renewal.

    When the Home Office approves your application, you get a licence rating, “A”. This means you can issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS).

    If you break the rules of the sponsor licence, the Home Office will downgrade your licence to a “B” rating. With this rating, you cannot issue certificates of sponsorship till you upgrade. On the occasion of a downgrade, you have to wait for 1 year before an upgrade.

    Find out if you’re eligible for a Sponsor Licence. Our expert lawyers are here to guide and assist you through the process.

    Eligibility Criteria for Businesses and Employers Looking to Apply for Sponsor Licence

    As an employer, you must also meet certain requirements before applying for the sponsor licence.

    Your Business Must Be in the UK

    The first requirement to meet is to ensure your business is located in the UK. It must also have UK customers. If you do not meet this requirement, your application will be rejected. Again, your business must have the legal rights to operate in the UK. You can prove this by showing your business licence and certificate of incorporation.

    Clean Criminal Record

    Employers must ensure they do not have any outstanding criminal convictions like a breach of immigration rules, money laundering or tax evasion fraud.

    Revoked Sponsor Licence

    Employers looking to apply for a sponsor licence must ensure they are eligible for the application. If your sponsor licence was revoked less than 1 year ago, you do not qualify for a sponsor licence.

    Job Requirement

    Employers applying for a sponsor licence must show the Home Office that the job(s) they offer is genuine and needs international employees. The application has to contain every detail of the job offer. The Home Office requires this to ensure businesses do not offer bogus employment. Hence, you must show the Home Office why that employee is needed.

    Again, the job must be in the Standardised Occupation Codes. Employers must also ensure they can pay the going rate or minimum salary stipulated for such a role.

    Finally, businesses must show the Home Office that the international employee(s) they want has the needed experience and educational qualifications.

    Monitoring Sponsored Employees

    Employers must show they can manage international workers in their company. There must be an HRM arm that can ensure the employees have the proper immigration status. The HR arm must also monitor the attendance of sponsored workers and have the correct information about them.

    It is mandatory for businesses, through their HR arm, to report to the Home Office any sponsored worker that absconds from duty. This is particularly important because if the Home Office finds out a sponsored employee absconded without a report from the sponsor, such a sponsor will lose their status.

    Eligibility Criteria for Individuals To Qualify For The Skilled Worker Visa

    Here are the eligibility criteria for the skilled worker visa:

    • The applicant must have a valid job offer from an employer approved by the Home Office.
    • The applicant must show they have a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) from a valid sponsor.
    • The applicant’s salary must be a minimum of £29,000 or the going rate for their job, whichever is bigger.
    • The applicant must be an intermediate-level (B1) English speaker.

    The Home Office decides on the applicant based on a points system. The total points is 70. Since the applicant finished an academic degree in the UK (taught in English), they automatically meet the English requirement.

    If the applicant’s job offer pays a lesser salary than the required minimum, they can accrue the 20 points in this category if their job is on the shortage list or if they have a Ph.D.

    If the applicant has spent less than 1 year on the graduate visa, they must show they have a minimum of £1,270 for 28 days. This is if the employer does not agree to use this sum as accommodation and maintenance fee for 1 month for the employee.

    Switching From a Graduate Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa: The Process


    Switching from a graduate route visa to a skilled worker visa is possible. However, you must switch within the 2 years when your graduate visa is still valid. If you do not do this, you must leave the UK before applying for a skilled worker route.

    Below are the steps you must follow to switch visas:

    Gather Supporting Documents

    You need to get some documents before you start the switching process. Here are the documents:

    • Reference number of your certificate of sponsorship. This can be obtained from your employer.
    • Evidence that you can read, write, speak and understand the English language. You will automatically meet this requirement since you are already on a graduate visa. You only need to present your Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD certificate from your UK university.
    • A valid passport that confirms your nationality and identity. Your passport must have 1 blank page where the Home Office will attach your new visa.
    • Document showing the occupation code of your job.
    • Employment offer from an eligible sponsor that clearly states your annual salary, job role and title.
    • Certificate of Sponsorship bearing your employer’s name and licence number.
    • Proof you have enough money to fund yourself for at least 1 month in the UK. You typically have to show you have a bank balance with a minimum of £1,270 28 days before your application. You do not need to show this if your employer shows through the CoS that they will care for you for at least 1 month.
    • Marriage and birth certificates if you are applying for a visa with your family.

    Pay the Visa Fees

    The next step is to pay the relevant visa application fee. Note that if you apply with your family, you will also pay for them.

    In addition to this, you also need to pay for the immigration health surcharge for each year you stay. The same applies if you are applying with your family.

    Make an Online Application

    The next step to applying for a skilled worker visa is to apply online. The application link can be found on the Home Office’s website. You can save your progress and come back later to the platform.

    Submit Your Biometrics

    After applying online, you will be directed on when and where you will submit your fingerprints and photo. Your biometric will be submitted at any UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Service) centre near you.

    If there is any information you need to change, you will have to contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

    You can also cancel your skilled worker application and get a refund if your application has not been processed yet.

    You will get an email from the Home Office telling you their decision on your application.

    You must apply to switch your graduate visa to a skilled worker visa within 3 months of being issued CoS, or else your application will be denied.

    Need assistance to switch from a Graduate Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa? We have the best lawyers ready to help you achieve your goals. Contact us today.

    How Much Does it Cost to Switch from the Graduate Route to Skilled Worker Visa?

    See the cost of switching visas within UK (graduate to skilled worker) below:

    • £719 for a person applying for a 3-year skilled worker visa.
    • £1,423 for a person applying for a 5-year skilled worker visa.

    If the job offer is for an occupation on the shortage list, you’ll have to pay:

    • £479 for 3 years.
    • £943 for more than 3 years.

    You must also pay the immigration healthcare surcharge of £1,035 per year. You will have to pay this for as long as your visa will last.

    The Processing Time Of The Visa Switching Application

    The processing time of the visa switch is usually 8 weeks. But it can take longer if the Home Office needs to verify certain information you supplied. Sometimes, you may also be required to go for an interview, thus increasing the wait time.

    How IAS Can Help With Graduate Visa to Skilled Worker Visa Switch

    IAS can help employers and employees in the application process to switch from a graduate to a skilled worker visa.

    Our team can assess your business’ eligibility for the sponsor licence (in case you need to apply first). We can look through your organisational chart and company set-up to ensure your business meets the requirements stipulated by the Home Office for prospective sponsors.

    We can also guide your authorising officer in making the sponsor licence application, ensuring that all part of the application is done correctly. In addition to that, we can also help you hire international talents by guiding you through the process.

    For employees, we can check your eligibility for job offers and even help you apply for a skilled worker visa.

    We have helped various employers and employees get through this process by putting our thorough knowledge of UK immigration laws to work.

    Should you need our services for this visa application or want more information about what we can do for you, call us at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or message us online.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    As of 17th July 2023, you can no longer switch from a student visa to a skilled worker visa route without completing your degree course in the UK. So, if you plan on switching, you must finish your study first.

    You cannot switch from a skilled worker to a graduate visa. You can only switch from a student visa to a graduate visa after you are done with your studies.

    You cannot switch from a student to a work visa before your course ends in the UK. It was possible before 17th July 2023. To switch from a student visa to another visa, you must finish your course, and your school must notify the Home Office of your course completion date.

    If you want to change your current visa (study visa) to a work permit in the UK, you must have a valid job offer from a valid sponsor. Then, you apply online at the Home Office’s website if you meet the requirements to get your work permit.


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