If you are about to or have recently completed your degree in the UK, you are probably looking to dive right into the world of work. Although the UK immigration system provides a relatively straightforward switch from a Tier 4 to a Skilled Worker Visa, the process can get stressful if you are not organised and familiar with the visa requirements.
These five steps provide detailed information about switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, the requirements and how to tackle the process with a steady frame of mind. Complying with the following eligibility conditions and evidence requirements for Tier 2 will ensure that you do not put your application to remain in the UK at risk.
Act quickly (before your visa expires)
Acting with haste is fundamental in ensuring that you can successfully apply for a Tier 2 Visa. An application to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 must be submitted from within the UK before the Tier 4 visa expires.
The UK Immigration Rules state that applications must be made within a 28-day period after you have graduated. If you fail to apply for a Tier 2 Visa within this period, you are required to leave the UK and continue with your application from your country of residence. Furthermore, if you do not inform the Home Office that you have graduated, but your Tier 4 sponsor does, you could run the risk of not being permitted to re-enter once outside the UK.
Following changes to immigration rules in January 2018, students wishing to take up employment in the UK are able to apply for a Tier 2 Visa once they have completed their course but not found out their final results. This modification allows you to begin your Tier 2 application earlier than previous applicants and so it is advisable that you use this extension to your advantage and apply for a work visa as soon as you have sat your final exams.
Check your work visa eligibility
Before making your application to work in the UK, you need to ensure that you meet the following requirements for switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2:
- You must have completed a UK bachelor’s or master’s degree, a postgraduate certificate in education or professional graduate diploma of education. PhD students must have completed at least 12 month’s study before making an application.
- You must have a confirmed offer of employment from a UK employer who holds a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence.
- The job you have been offered must meet the minimum skill and salary thresholds of one of the Standard Occupation Codes. As someone switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, the minimum salary level is £20,800 per annum. For PhD students, the threshold is slightly higher at £21,600 per annum.
- You must prove that you have sufficient funds to maintain your living for the first month. If you have an A-rated sponsor, the employer can accommodate you with a minimum of £945 for the first month of employment. If this is not the case, you must provide a bank statement showing you to have at least £945 saved to support yourself.
Check eligibility of your visa sponsor
If you meet the Tier 2 criteria and are able to make an application, it is important that you check the eligibility of your employer. In order to hire a Tier 2 skilled worker, employers must hold a valid Sponsorship Licence, granted through an application to the Home Office.
Your Tier 2 sponsor will then issue you a Certificate of Sponsorship, submitted as part of your visa application. This has to be sent within three months of the certificate being issued and no more than three months before the start of employment.
Provide evidence for your application
Once you have checked the eligibility for yourself and your employer, your application must provide all the requested forms of evidence to prove that you meet the visa’s conditions. If you are switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, you must supply:
- An original certificate of award which shows your full name, the title of the qualification/award and the name of the awarding body.
- An original academic reference from your academic institution. This should include the same information as required by the certificate but must also provide the reason why an original certificate of award could not be provided and a date of when the certificate will be issued.
If you are a student visa holder who currently receives or has received sponsorship for your studies in the UK from the British Government, any other Government or an international scholarship agency in the last 12 months, you must provide written confirmation from this body of their unconditional consent for you to remain in the UK with no time limit. Failing to provide this evidence with the unconditional consent or unlimited time limit requirements means that your application could be rejected.
Seek legal advice from an immigration expert
As switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, can seem daunting and demanding, it is important that you seek professional help before submitting your application. Advice from one of our highly-qualified immigration lawyers will fully prepare you for the visa process and will allow you to access any help you need for your application.
If successful, switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 will allow you to work in the UK for three or five years with a permanent employment contract, or for the duration of the fixed-term contract if this is shorter.
For those who have built their lives in the UK during their studies, staying to work can be an important next step. Make sure you are in the best position possible by calling IAS on 0333 363 8577 to discuss your options.
If you need support, you can get in touch with our London, Manchester, or Birmingham immigration lawyers, or alternatively, check our office finder for your closest branch. We look forward to speaking with you.
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