UK Tier 4 visa to Tier 2 visa switching easier after January

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New UK visa rules are now in effect that make it easier for Tier 4 student visa holders to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa. A raft of rule changes enforced on January 11 2018 allow Tier 4 visa students to file an application to switch to a Tier 2 visa immediately upon completion of a degree course without having to wait for their exam results.

Sanwar Ali comment:

There are many tier 4 visa students who are unable to stay in the UK on a tier 2 visa because their visa expires before they receive their exam results for their degree level course. Now tier 4 students can apply even before they have their exam results. If a tier 4 student has to leave the Country it is somewhat more difficult to obtain a tier 2 visa. The employer will most likely have to do a resident labour market test, and pay the annual immigration skills charge. This is not necessary for a tier 4 student on a degree level course switching to a tier 2 visa.

Prior to the rule changes, non-PhD students in the UK were forced to wait for their official course results before being allowed to submit an application to switch visas. The wait left many graduates with very little time to find a job before their Tier 4 visa expired, but the latest rule changes will allow for greater flexibility and more time to secure employment.

If a student failed to find work in the few months after completing their degree course, they would be forced to return home. However, the new rules will give post-graduates a little more time.

Dwindling international Tier 4 Visa student numbers

Tighter UK visa rules have been blamed for dwindling international student numbers in the UK. To prevent foreign talent leaving Britain, London Mayor Sadiq Khan backed calls for a new category of post-study work visa.

His suggestion was that a post-study work visa should be distinct from the Tier 2 route and should enable students to work in the UK for 12 - 24 months, after graduation. However, the government dismissed the idea and instead introduced slightly more relaxed rules to appease critics of the government’s treatment of international students.

It’s understood that the slightly more relaxed rules are a result of extensive discussions between UK universities and the government, although seen as a compromise rather than the ideal.

Tier 2 Visa Pilot scheme

In early January, the UK government announced the extension of a pilot student visa scheme to 23 additional universities, which will give non-EU students an extra six months to find employment upon completion of their course.

As reported by in October 2016, the scheme was initially trialled among four UK universities - the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Bath, and Imperial College London.

Universities participating in the scheme are responsible for carrying out eligibility checks, but students don’t have to submit as many documents when filing a visa application.

For help switching from your Tier 4 to a Tier 2 visa, contact

If you need help with a Tier 2 visa, or a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence, including help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence obligations, can help.

More and more employers are facing sudden unannounced onsite inspections. Contact us for a copy of our free Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence Compliance guide.

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at