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Switching Talent from Tier 4 to Tier 2

At this time of the year HR, Talent Acquisition and Recruitment managers will be looking to switch their talented Tier 4 General visa holders to Tier 2. Should you have such talent that you wish to retain by switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, we advise you act now before the prohibitive new immigration rules come into place this autumn at which point international students will be required to leave the UK at the end of their course and not be eligible to switch to a work visa in-country.

If you are looking to switch, or are at the beginning of the start of the process of doing so, don’t get caught out with the letter from UK University in the absence of an original degree. The letter giving the current status of the Student and where they are in their studies has got to meet the Tier 2 General requirement or it can lead to a negative outcome for the application.

Any student wanting to switch from a Tier 4 or other student visa must have one of the following qualifications as a result of their student visa if they want to switch the Tier 2 (General) category:

a UK Bachelor’s degree
a UK Master’s degree
a Postgraduate Certificate in Education
a Professional Graduate Diploma of Education

They must have got their qualification at a UK recognised body or an institution that has a Tier 4 sponsor licence.

The other student visa categories are:

Student nurse
Student re-sitting an examination
Overseas qualified nurse
Person writing up a thesis
Postgraduate doctor or dentist
Student union sabbatical officer

PhD students must have completed at least 12 months’ study for their PhD during their most recent stay in the UK and had permission to take the qualification.

Employing a Tier 4 Student for full-time, permanent, post-study work

The following is a guide to help employers ascertain whether they can assign a student a Restricted or Unrestricted CoS, which will make all the difference in the application process.

Evaluation of the Student:

Is the Student currently studying in the UK on a Tier 4 Visa?

If ‘Yes’; Has the student completed and passed a UK degree at a recognised Tier 4 Licence holder institution?

If ‘Yes’; The student is exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and can be issued an Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship by a Tier 2 licensed sponsor.

Evaluation of the Employer:

Is the employer a Tier 2 licensed sponsor?

If ‘No’; The employer must apply for a Tier 2 Licence in order to be able to employ the applicant.

If ‘Yes’; The employer can issue an Unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship – there is no limit on unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship. Subsequently, the applicant submits a leave to remain application under Tier 2 to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)

*Currently, following programme completion, but prior to graduating or applying for Tier 2, students can work on a full-time temporary basis on their Tier 4 visas. Tier 4 visas are valid 4 months post graduation. However, please note that with the new rules coming into place in autumn 2015, students will no longer be able to work during their studies, and as previously mentioned, they will also be required to leave the UK upon graduation.

Under current rules, once switched into Tier 2 (General), how long can you stay?

Tier 4 Students can stay in the UK for up to 5 years after switching to a Tier 2 (General) visa.


Alongside your visa application fee, applicants will also have to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge as part of their application.

How to switch?

Within the UK applicants can:

• Apply online as an individual or as a family group
• Ask to use the priority service

Applicants can get a same-day decision at a Premium Service Centre (PSC). For our clients we will arrange an appointment in advance and complete and prepare the application bundle for submission.

Biometric Information

Each person applying must also provide biometric information (fingerprints and a digital photo). For applications submitted in person the biometric process is carried out at the Premium Service Centre. For all Postal applications the biometric process is carried out at certain Post Office branches and costs £19.20.

Applicants will receive a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card if their application to switch to a Tier 2 General visa is successful.

How long does the application process take?

Decisions are usually made:

• Within 8 weeks for online applications
• Within 10 days if for application submitted through the Tier 2 priority application service
• On the same day if applications are submitted at the premium service

Applicants will be contacted if their application is complicated and will take longer, for example if:

• The supporting documents need to be verified
• Applicants may be required to attend an interview, or
• Because of particular personal circumstances of an applicant, e.g. if they have a criminal conviction

Once the application has been submitted to the UKVI, applicants can remain in the UK until they have been given a decision, as long as they applied before their last visa expired.

How can we help

At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to advise you on the most appropriate type of application for your individual circumstances and have the insight to make the application process as smooth as possible.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient management and processing of all UK business immigration categories.

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