Can I Change My Student Visa to Tier 2?

If you live in the UK on a valid visa, it may be possible to switch to a different visa without having to leave the country and apply from abroad. In some cases applying from the UK can be cheaper, but the visa process also usually lasts longer.

Students who are coming to the end of their course and wish to stay in the UK may wish to switch from their Student Visa to a different visa. However, there are a couple of different options, from the Tier 2, Skilled Worker Visa, to the Graduate Visa.

So which is best and what do you need to do to switch your visas?

What Is a Tier 2 Visa?

What Is a Tier 2 Visa?

The Tier 2 visa is now known as the Skilled Worker Visa, and the Tier 4 visa is now known as the Student Visa. The tier system has been changed somewhat to reflect the nuances of the positions foreign nationals can fill in the UK.

The Skilled Worker Visa is for foreign nationals who wish to live and work in the UK to fill gaps in the UK job market; for this reason, there is a list of eligible occupations that foreign nationals can take to get a Skilled Worker Visa.

To apply for a Skilled Worker Visa, applicants must:

  • Have a job offer for a position on the list of eligible occupations
  • Have a job offer from an approved UK employer (sponsor)
  • Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from the employer detailing the proposed role
  • Have a job offer that meets the minimum salary requirements

Getting a Skilled Worker Visa is therefore not an easy feat, as you must find an eligible position with a licensed sponsor. However, if you’re already in the UK, it may be easier to get this visa as you can attend in-person interviews, although you can’t switch from every type of visa to a Skilled Worker Visa.

Switching from a Student Visa in the UK

Switching from a Student Visa in the UK

You can switch from a Student Visa to a Tier 2, Skilled Worker Visa, as long as you have a long-term visa, not a Short-Term Student Visa for courses lasting less than 6 months. However, to switch visas from a Student Visa, you must either:

  • Have completed your course
  • Intend to start your new job after your course ends
  • Have studied for a doctorate for at least 24 months

If you meet one of the above requirements, you can also switch your Student Visa for a different UK visa such as a Spouse Visa if you have married a UK resident while studying in the UK.

When changing from one degree to another whilst in the UK, you need to make sure you start your application, and have time for the application to be processed, before your current visa expires. Finding a licensed sponsor and an eligible job can be difficult, especially while you’re studying, so it can be beneficial to apply for a Graduate Visa instead of a Skilled Worker Visa.

What’s a Graduate Visa?

A Graduate Visa is for international students in the UK on Student Visas who have studied for a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or Postgraduate Degree and successfully completed their course, to stay in the UK for a further 2 years. Doctorate graduates will be granted a 3-year Graduate Visa.

You cannot, therefore, convert to a Graduate Visa if you have not graduated i.e. passed your university course. You must also be in the UK when you apply. You’ll usually receive a response within 8 weeks of submitting your application.

While in the UK on a Graduate Visa, you can then live, work and study in the UK for the duration of your visa. To stay longer, you should switch to a Skilled Worker or other work visa.

Visa Application Process

Visa Application Process

When applying for visas for the UK, whether applying for the first time, extending your visa or switching to a different visa from inside the UK, you need to apply for your visa online and pay the application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

When you apply for your visa you’ll have to submit various documents with your application proving you meet the eligibility requirements. For Student Visas, you’ll need to provide:

  • Your passport or other travel document
  • A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a licensed sponsoring institution
  • Evidence you have sufficient finances or sponsorship for your course and living costs
  • A negative tuberculosis test if you are coming from one of the listed countries
  • Consent from your parents if you’re under 18, and proof of your relationship

For Skilled Worker Visas, you’ll need to provide:

  • Your passport
  • Your certificate of sponsorship reference number
  • Proof of your knowledge of English
  • Your proposed job title and annual salary – which must meet the minimum income requirements
  • Your proposed job’s occupation code
  • The name of the future employer and their sponsor licence number

What You Can and Can’t Do as an International Student in the UK

If you receive a Student Visa for the UK, you’ll be able to stay in the UK for the duration of your visa. Student Visas are given for up to 2 years for students studying below degree-level courses and for up to 5 years for students studying for a degree. You can also extend your Student Visa if necessary.

While in the UK you cannot claim public funds, however, you can use the NHS. The IHS enables you to use the health service in the same way as a British resident, so you may use the free services, but you will have to pay for prescriptions and dental care – although these costs are subsidised by the NHS.

Students may also work limited hours while they are studying in the UK, with details given on the visa sticker in their passport and online.

Students studying full-time below degree level may work up to 10 hours during term-time and full-time during school holidays. If under 18, 40 hours is the maximum they are allowed to work a week and a maximum of 8 hours a day.

Students studying full-time at degree level may work up to 20 hours a week during term-time and full-time (up to 48 hours a week on average) in vacation periods and once the course is completed. If you work more than 20 hours a week during term time, you’re breaking the rules of your visa and may have your visa revoked.

You may also bring your dependents (your partner and/ or children) to the UK with you if you are studying a postgraduate research programme, such as a PhD, according to the new visa rules for students being introduced on 1 January 2024.

Is it Easy to Get a Student Visa?

Getting a student visa isn’t as hard as it might seem, but it’s not an easy process either. After collecting all of your documents, keeping your bank account full for 28 days to show you have sufficient finances for your stay, submitting your application and paying the various fees, your application can still be rejected.

If your student visa application is rejected, you will receive a letter from the Home Office explaining their decision and whether you have the right to appeal. Some reasons for refusing student visas include:

  • Not showing enough knowledge for the course
  • Not showing a strong enough will to study
  • Not having sufficient finances
  • Not having a good enough standard of English
  • Showing poor character

Some of these reasons may seem harsh and may be due to poor interview technique, however, the Home Office withholds the right to refuse visa applications on these grounds. So, to increase your chances of success, practise your English before attending an interview, be upfront about any criminal convictions and the reason behind them, and show your eagerness to study.

Need Visa Help? Contact Synergy Immigration Solutions

At Synergy Immigrations Solutions, we have a team of experts ready to help everyone with their UK visa applications. Browse our other blogs on Student Visas, or contact us today to learn how we can help you!

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