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Switching from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa

You are permitted to switch in-country from the Student visa (including Tier 4) to the Skilled Worker category (which replaced the Tier 2 route on 1 December 2020).  There are also routes for dependent partners and children of Skilled Workers.  In this post we look at how to switch from a Student visa to a Skilled Worker visa.

Switching from Tier 4 / Student to Skilled Worker

In terms of who is permitted to switch into the Skilled Worker route, the only immigration status requirement under the new points based system is as follows: 

SW 1.5. An applicant who is applying for permission to stay must be in the UK on the date of application and must not have, or have last been granted, permission:

(a) as a Visitor; or

(b) as a Short-term student; or

(c) as a Parent of a Child Student; or

(d) as a Seasonal Worker; or

(e) as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or

(f) outside the Immigration Rules.

This means that you can switch in-country from Tier 4 or Student to the Skilled Worker category. You cannot switch from the Short-term student visa to the Skilled Worker route. 

Requirements to switch from Tier 4 / Student to Skilled Worker

Am I a new entrant?

You will automatically be considered a new entrant if you are under the age of 26. 

You can also be considered a new entrant if all of the following conditions apply:

  • Your most recent visa was as a Student; and
  • That Student visa expired less than 2 years before the date of application; and
  • In that Student visa, or any previous Student visa, you were sponsored to study one of the following courses (not any other qualifications of an equivalent level): a UK bachelor’s degree; or a UK master’s degree; or a UK PhD or other doctoral qualification; or a Postgraduate Certificate in Education; or a Professional Graduate Diploma of Education; and
  • You completed (or are applying no more than 3 months before you are expected to complete) the course mentioned above, or you are studying a PhD and have completed at least 12 months study in the UK towards the PhD.

There are also a few other ways to qualify as a new entrant:

  • If your most recent permission was as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant;
  • If you are in a postdoctoral position in any of the following occupation codes:
    • 2111 Chemical scientists;
    • 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists;
    • 2113 Physical scientists;
    • 2114 Social and humanities scientists;
    • 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified;
    • 2311 Higher education teaching professionals;
  • If your job offer is in a UK regulated profession and you are working towards a recognised professional qualification for that profession;
  • If you are working towards full registration or chartered status with the relevant professional body for the job you are being sponsored for;

What are the advantages of being considered a new entrant to the labour market?

Employers seeking to recruit under the Skilled Worker route must ordinarily pay their skilled workers a salary which equals or exceeds both a general salary threshold (£25,600) and 100% of the ‘going rate’ for the occupation (as set out in the relevant occupation code mentioned above), whichever is higher.

However, a new entrant to the labour market may be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both £20,480 per year and 70% of the going rate for the occupation. This is a significantly lower figure and will permit new entrants to be paid a lower salary.

What if I have a Government Award or International Scholarship?

If you have received an award from a Government or international scholarship agency in the 12 months before the date of application which covers both fees and living costs for study in the UK, you must have provided written consent to the application from that Government or agency.

How old must I be to switch from Tier 4 / Student to Skilled Worker?

There is no upper age limit for this route, but you must be over the age of 18 on the date of your Skilled Worker application. 

What are the other requirements for switching from Tier 4 / Student to Skilled Worker?

In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa, you will also need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

  • You have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job you are planning to do;
  • Your job offer is a genuine vacancy;
  • Your sponsor has paid any required Immigration Skills Charge;
  • Your job is at an appropriate skill level;
  • You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0);
  • You have enough money to support yourself without relying on public funds;
  • You have provided a criminal record certificate, if required; and
  • You have provided a valid TB certificate, if required.

If you are applying for permission to stay and have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or more at the date of application, you will meet the financial requirement and will not need to show funds. Therefore, most Students applying to switch will be exempt from providing further financial evidence. Additionally, for those switching in-country a TB and Criminal Record Certificate is not required. 

Length of Grant when switching from Tier 4 / Student to Skilled Worker

If successful, Student migrants who switch into the Skilled Worker route will be granted permission to stay until 14 days after the end date of their Certificate of Sponsorship. When they are applying as a new entrant, they cannot be granted more than 4 years in total. However, they can continue to extend as a Skilled Worker, but cannot qualify will need to meet the relevant salary requirement without relying on the lower ‘new entrant’ salary threshold.


Students who wish to travel after they have completed their studies while their Tier 4 / Student visas are still valid, and before submitting Skilled Worker applications, should be aware that they may face problems when re-entering the UK. The immigration officer will need to be satisfied that you will apply to extend your leave in this category or another category or you will leave prior to the expiry of your current Student visa. 

After you have submitted your Skilled Worker application, you should not travel until you have received a decision and it is recommended to wait until you have received your new BRP before leaving the UK. 

Eligibility to Settle as a Skilled Worker

Once in the Skilled Worker route, skilled migrants will be on a route settlement. They must have spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK on this basis as they cannot combine their time in the UK on the Tier 4 / Student route to settle more quickly.

They will need to meet the other requirements for settlement, including knowledge of life in the UK, and the sponsorship, salary, validity and suitability requirements.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance in relation to an application to switch into the Skilled Worker Visa category please contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.

This article was co-written by Zoe Bantleman and Georgina Griggs.


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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