UK visa options!

Want to stay in the UK after uni?


You may have heard about the proposed 2-year Graduate Immigration Route which is due to launch in summer 2021 – if you haven’t heard about it, you can check out more info on our recent blog post.


But if you’re an international student in the UK on a Tier 4 visa and you’re due to graduate before summer 2021, there are already options open to you!

Image of Tower Bridge in London
Photo by Julia Solonina on Unsplash


With the help of the brilliant Advice & Guidance team, we’re going to run through the main visa options if you want to live and work in the UK after finishing study.



As an international student, you’ll probably be on a Tier 4 visa, which means you’re able to study in a UK university and also work (in a paid or voluntary capacity) for up to 20 hours a week during term time. Your Tier 4 visa will usually expire 4 months after the end of your course, although this varies depending on the length of your course, so make sure you check your own visa!


If you want to stay in the UK for more than a few months after uni, you’ll likely need to consider a Tier 2 visa to work in the UK long-term after your studies, or a Start-up Visa if you want to develop your own business.


It’s also worth noting that 18-30-year-olds from some countries can apply for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa , while PhD graduates can apply for a Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme visa, which enables a further 12 months’ stay in the UK to look for work, or to begin working full-time.



Tier 2 visas


These are the graduate-level visas – unfortunately, not all jobs will let you qualify for a Tier 2 visa. In general…

  • The job has to pay more than the UKVI’s stipulated minimum salary for that job. If you’re switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, then the minimum salary is either £20800 or whatever is quoted as the minimum “New Entrant” salary rate in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules.
  • Your employer has to have a Tier 2 Visa Sponsor Licence. You can see the (huge) list of employers who have previously sponsored Tier 2 visas and who have a licence on this webpage, but remember that not all of them will sponsor international applicants.


Pro tip: You can apply for a Tier 2 from either outside or inside the UK. If you apply whilst you’re in the UK on your Tier 4 visa, you won’t need to pass the Resident Labour Market Test, your employers won’t need to ask the Home Office for permission to grant a visa, and your employers won’t have to pay the Immigration Skills Charge (which costs £1000 per applicant).


As long as the job qualifies and the employer is a Tier 2 sponsor, it is illegal for them to discriminate against international applicants. Find out more on the government’s Tier 2 pages.



The Start-Up Visa


If you’ve ever been interested in running your own business, this visa is for you! You can stay in the UK for 2 years and set up your own enterprise.


You’ll need an innovative, viable, and scalable business idea, and endorsement from an officially approved endorsing body. Luckily for you, King’s very own Entrepreneurship Institute is an endorsing body and can support up to 20 applicants each year! Applicants will need to be final-year King’s students or alumni of King’s.


Find out more on the government’s Start-Up Visa pages.





That’s a lot of information to take in all at once so give yourself time to absorb it all!

If you want more advice, you can contact the Advice & Guidance team via their website or email 

Another great source of information is the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), so do also consult this site.


Remember that King’s Careers & Employability is here for you both during your studies and for two years after you graduate – keep reading our resources for international students and our advice on CV and application writing. If you’re not sure about the UK conventions for applications, book one of our Application Advice appointments via CareerConnect.