Switching from a Tier 4 visa into Tier 2 General

For full information about employing Tier 4 student visa holders please see additional requirements for employed student visa holders.

Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)

PhD/DPhil students who are nearing completion of their studies and hold a Tier 4 student visa can apply for a 12 month extension of their visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme. A Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) visa is, therefore, an extension under Tier 4 rather than a different type of visa. A Tier 4 DES visa permits the holder to look for and undertake work, however, please note that they will need to have completed their studies (been granted leave to supplicate) before they can work full time as the same Tier 4 conditions apply limiting work to a maximum of 20 hours per week while studying.

In some circumstances, particularly if a role shorter than 12 months is being offered, it may be worth suggesting that the applicant considers applying under Tier 4 DES instead of applying to switch into Tier 2. As a new CAS must be issued by the Tier 4 sponsor in order to apply under Tier 4 DES you should refer Oxford students to the Student Immigration team. Students from other universities will need to seek advice from their university.

If a Tier 2 application is being purused, the same exemption from the Tier 2 advertising rules apply whether an applicant is switching from a Tier 4 or a Tier 4 DES visa into Tier 2.

Eligibility requirements to switch from Tier 4 into Tier 2

A Tier 4 student visa holder awaiting the outcome of an application to switch into Tier 2 (General) which was submitted before their Tier 4 visa expired can fill a full-time permanent vacancy as long as they have successfully completed a course at degree level or above and they are employed in the role for which they are applying under Tier 2, otherwise a temporary contract of employment should be issued to the student worker until their work visa has been granted.

Student visa holders who intend to switch into Tier 2 (General) are required to provide documentary evidence that they have completed a course of study of at least one academic year in duration. Applicants who have only completed part of a course (for example, two years of a three year course) will not be eligible to switch into Tier 2. The only exception is for DPhil/PhD students who may switch into Tier 2 before they have completed their course, but they must have completed at least one academic year of their course before switching into Tier 2.

All student visa holders switching into Tier 2 must provide either an original certificate of award which clearly shows:

  • Their full name;
  • The title of the qualification/award;
  • The name of the awarding body.

[Please note that provisional certificates are not accepted]

or an original academic reference, on headed paper, from their academic institution which contains the following information:

  • Their full name;
  • The course title/award;
  • The course duration;
  • The date of completion of the course (unless the applicant is a DPhil/PhD student, in which case the letter must confirm that the applicant has been studying for more than one academic year);
  • The name of the awarding body;
  • The reason why an original certificate of award cannot be provided (where studies have been completed);
  • That the certificate will be issued (where studies have been completed).

In addition, any student visa holders switching into Tier 2 who currently receive/ have received in the past twelve months, sponsorship for their studies in the UK from the British Government, any other Government or an international scholarship agency (whether based in or outside the UK), must provide original written confirmation from the funding body giving their unconditional consent for the applicant to stay in the UK with no time limit on their stay. PLEASE NOTE: Home Office guidance makes clear that where a consent letter is required and is not provided, does not give unconditional consent, or only gives permission to remain in the UK for a limited time, the Tier 2 application will be refused.

PLEASE NOTE: when a Tier 4 visa holder switches into Tier 2 they must inform their Tier 4 sponsor that they have changed immigration status, hence, they should be reminded of this obligation. Tier 4 students sponsored by the University of Oxford must notify the Student Immigration and Advisory Service by email (Tier4compliance@admin.ox.ac.uk) and their college (undergraduate and visiting students) or department (postgraduate or recognised students) as soon as possible. Full details of visa obligations for Tier 4 students sponsored by the University of Oxford can be found on the Student Information and Advisory Service website.

If you wish to offer an overseas student a position for which they would require permission to work, please be aware of the Home Office rules on switching immigration status.

Evidence the applicant is qualified for the role

While those switching from a Tier 4 student visa into Tier 2 are exempt from the rules relating to advertising and selection for the role, known as the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), evidence must be provided that they meet the required qualifications specified in the job description before a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) can be issued.

Where a job description specifies that a PhD is required (and gives no provision for those who are close to completion or have relevant experience), a Tier 2 CoS cannot be issued unless the individual actually has been awarded a doctorate. Unless there are specific reasons why it is not possible, therefore, it is better to quote “PhD or close to completion” or “PhD or relevant experience”.

New Entrant salary thresholds when switching from Tier 4

In addition to being exempt from the RLMT requirements, applicants switching into Tier 2 from a Tier 4 student visa are considered to be 'New Entrants' *, rather than 'Experienced Workers', and as a result the two salary thresholds which must be met (that specific to the job type, and the Tier 2 minimum threshold) are lower:

  • The Tier 2 minimum salary threshold for a 'New Entrant' is £20,800 per annum, significantly lower than the 'Experienced Worker' threshold of £30,000 per annum.
  •  The salary thresholds specific to a Researcher role, for example, are £21,600 per annum for a 'New Entrant', and £28,000 per annum for an 'Experienced Worker'.

* Please note, however, that if a Tier 2 CoS is being issued for longer than three years the applicant is considered to be an 'Experienced Worker', and the higher salary thresholds apply, even if they would otherwise be considered to be a 'New Entrant'.

For further information on meeting the points criteria for a Tier 2 visa see our guidance on the In country Certificate of Sponsorship application process.

Travelling outside the UK before switching from Tier 4

An application to switch from Tier 4 into Tier 2 can only be submitted from within the UK before the Tier 4 visa expires. If a Tier 4 student visa holder has finished their course, and this has been reported to the Home Office by their Tier 4 sponsor, they risk not being permitted to re-enter if they travel outside the UK. They would then no longer be able to apply to switch from Tier 4 into Tier 2 and would instead have to submit an overseas Tier 2 visa application and the advertising rules would apply.

If a Tier 4 visa holder is intending to switch into Tier 2 to take up a role within a department/ college and they have mentioned travel plans you should discuss this with them and with the Staff Immigration Team to help ensure they do not risk being refused re-entry and being unable to switch as a result