Can I Change My Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa?

One of the most common questions we get asked is whether those who come to the UK on a Student Visa can switch to the new Skilled Worker Visa.

Following a change in the law, those who come to the UK using the Tier 4 Student Visa can change to a Skilled Worker Visa (formerly the Tier 2 Visa) from within the UK if they completed the course of their study, have a job offer from an employer with a sponsor licence, and meet all the skilled worker visa eligibility requirements (as explained below).

Under the new UK immigration rules in 2023, those who are looking to switch can begin their application for a skilled worker visa before the end of their course, but the employment start date must be no earlier than your course completion date. Otherwise, you have to leave and submit out of the UK. If you are studying towards PhDs, the start date of your skilled worker visa must be no earlier than 24 months after the start date of your course. Those on a short-term Student Visa are not able to switch to a Skilled Worker visa in the UK.

One of the main benefits of switching to the Skilled Worker Visa is the ability to work in the UK and successful Skilled Visa applicants can go on to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain (i.e. settle permanently in the UK) after living here for 5 years on this visa.

What Are The Rules?

To make the switch from a UK Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa, you must:

  • Have completed the course of your study. If you are studying a full-time PhD, the employment start date should be no earlier than 24 months of your course.
  • Have a job offer from an employer with a Skilled Worker sponsor licence
  • Meet the minimum salary requirements: as a new graduate, you may be eligible to switch to a Skilled Worker Visa if you have a lower salary than £26,200 per year, if you are classed as a new entrant or if you have a Ph.D. – see below for more details on Tier 4 to Tier 2 new rules.
  • Have a job must be on the eligible occupation list
  • Meet the English language requirements
  • Have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK (you will not need to meet this requirement if you have been in the UK for 1 year or more on a Student Visa).

For more details on the general requirements, please see our Skilled Worker Visa page.

The switching from tier 4 to tier 2 visa requirements have changed in recent years, hence it is important to understand the new criteria, as outlined below.

What Is The Process?

The process of switching from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa is as follows:

  1. Ensure you have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your UK sponsor before you apply
  2. Complete the application form to switch to a Skilled Worker Visa on the Home Office website
  3. Pay any application fees required (please see below)
  4. Provide proof of identity – either by making and attending a biometric appointment with your nearest UKVCAS service centre or by using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ mobile phone app.
  5. Upload any documents required to support your application

Depending on your circumstances, you may be asked to attend an interview with the Home Office before your Skilled Worker visa is granted.

Please note: you must apply before your current Student Visa expires; otherwise, you may be classed as an overstayer. Once you have applied, you can then remain in the UK for as long as it takes to receive a decision.

If you need support with the process, get in touch with our experts at UK Visa Specialists, we’re here to help guide you through the process and make sure your application and supporting documents are all submitted correctly.

What Are The Fees?

The cost of switch from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa are as follows:

  • For a visa of up to three years: £704 per person
  • For a visa of more than three years: £1,408 per person

If your role is on the shortage occupation list:

  • For a visa of up to three years: £464 per person
  • For a visa of more than three years: £928 per person

In addition to the application fee, you will also need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge, which will allow you access to the National Health Service (NHS) £624 for each year.

You can also pay for your application to go through a priority route if you are short on time. The normal time an applicant can expect a decision is around 8 weeks. Alternatively, you can pay an additional fee for a faster decision, as follows:

  • £500 for the priority service, which will provide a response within five working days, or
  • £800 for the super-priority service for a decision by the end of the next working day (or two working days if your UKVCAS appointment is on a weekend day).

What About Other Visa Types?

You cannot apply to switch to a skilled worker visa if you’re currently in the UK:

  • on a visit visa
  • on a short-term student visa
  • on a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • on a seasonal worker visa
  • on a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • on immigration bail
  • because you were permitted to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

You must leave the UK and apply for a Skilled Worker visa from abroad if you’re in one of these categories.

Applicants hoping to switch will still have to be sponsored in their new role and must meet the English Language requirements, which they may not have had to demonstrate when they applied for their Tier 2 (ICT) visa. It should be noted that time spent on a Tier 2 (ICT) visa will not be counted towards the 5-year residence period required for settlement in the UK on the Skilled Worker route. The clock will start from the date of issue of the Skilled Worker visa.

If you are thinking about making the switch from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa and want guidance through the application process,  get in touch with us on 01403 801 801 or for a free consultation.

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