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Switching from Tier 4 Student to Tier 2 Work Visa

UPDATE: This post was written before changes to the Immigration Rules in December 2020.  If you have a Student Visa and would like to stay in the UK on a Work Visa, please see our updated post: Switching from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa

The new Immigration Rules introduced on 29 March 2019 allow students to apply to switch into the Tier 2 category in the UK 3 months prior to the expected completion date of their course. You must be applying from the UK and should apply prior to the expiry of your current Tier 4 visa

Factors to consider when switching

In order to meet the requirements to switch to Tier 2 (General), you must have, or have last been granted, leave to enter or remain as a Tier 4 migrant and be, or have last been, sponsored either by a higher education provider with a track record of compliance or an overseas higher education institution to undertake a short-term study abroad programme in the United Kingdom. Please note that only specific Tier 4 sponsors who meet the specific requirements will be accepted.


To be eligible, you need to be completing, or have completed, the following qualifications:

  • UK recognised Bachelor’s degree;
  • UK recognised Master’s degree;
  • UK Postgraduate Certificate in Education;
  • Professional Graduate Diploma of Education; or
  • UK PhD.

There are various qualifications which are not accepted by the Home Office. It is therefore important to check whether your qualification will be accepted by the Home Office.


If you have completed, or are completing, a qualification mentioned above (except UK PhD) in the next 3 months, you may be eligible to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa. 

For students studying a PhD in the UK, if you have completed a minimum of 12 months’ study in the UK during your most recent leave to remain in the UK, you may be eligible to apply.

You must have studied or be studying the courses referred to above, in your last grant of leave or ‘a period of continuous leave which includes their last grant of leave’. We can assist in advising as to whether your leave will be considered to be continuous or broken. This may be important for those who have undertaken a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree and follow that with a postgraduate course such as the LPC or BPTC.

Permission to study

You must not be subject to any restrictions to pursue your course of study during your period of study in the UK and you must have valid leave while doing so. An important point to note is that you will need to be undertaking or have undertaken the course at your Tier 4 sponsor and relying on the supplementary study undertaken at the Tier 4 sponsor will not be sufficient.


If you are being sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency you may need to meet additional requirements.

Requirements for a Tier 2 (General) application made from within the UK

Before applying for a Tier 2 visa, you will need to be offered a role at the appropriate level with the appropriate salary. 


You will need to be at least 16 years old. If you are less than 18 years ago, the Home Office will usually require consent from your parents.

Certificate of Sponsorship (‘CoS’)

Before you apply for a Tier 2 visa, your UK employer (also known as sponsor) will need to have a Tier 2 sponsor licence. If they do not have a sponsor licence, they will need to make a sponsor licence application. There are various documents required and duties they will need to comply with.  We recommend that your employer seek legal advice on how to apply for a sponsor licence. They should also be aware that most sponsor licence applications are processed in less than 8 weeks and should take this into account when planning to apply for a Tier 2 visa. 

With a Tier 2 Sponsor licence, your sponsor will be able to issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship.  

It is important to note that being issued with a CoS does not mean that your application for a Tier 2 (General) application will be successful. You will still need to meet other specific requirements. You may wish to seek legal advice for further assistance.

Resident Labour Market Test

In most applications, the sponsor may be required to carry out a Resident Labour Market Test (‘RLMT’) before they can offer you the role and assign a CoS to you. This is the test where they need to advertise the role for 28 calendar days in two appropriate places. 

For Tier 4 migrants, the sponsor will be exempt from carrying out a RLMT if the applicants meet the relevant requirements.

English Language 

There are a number of ways to meet this requirement and these could include:

  • having undertaken the relevant English language test; 
  • having a degree taught in English; or 
  • being a national of a majority English speaking country. 

Please note that even if you meet all the other requirements, if you are unable to satisfy this requirement your application will be refused. 


This requirement may be satisfied if you have at least £945 in savings held for a consecutive 90 days ending no earlier than 31 days prior to the date of your application. Your employer can also certify on the CoS that they will maintain and accommodate you up to the end of your first month of employment in the UK.


Applicants who wish to travel after they have completed their studies while their Tier 4 visas are still valid and before submitting Tier 2 applications should be aware that they may face problems when 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 Tier 4 visa. 

After you have submitted your Tier 2 application, you should not travel until you have received a decision and it is recommended to wait until you have received your new BRP. 

Contact our Tier 2 Immigration Barristers

For advice and assistance regarding an application to switch to Tier 2 (General), contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.


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

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