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Know Your Rights: UK visa rules for life after graduation broken down

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Want to stay and work in the UK? We have the info. Source: Shutterstock.

Can I apply for work as an international student in my host country? What are my wage rights? Am I allowed to join protests and class walkouts? If I had a run-in with the authorities, what should I do? To help you understand the extent and limitations of your rights as a student abroad, Study International News will provide the answers to all these burning questions and more through our “Know Your Rights” article series. Have a question you want to be answered? Email us at editor@hybrid.co

Back in December 2017, we reported it was easier than ever to swap from a UK study visa to a working visa – great news, right?

But what are your other options?

If you are studying in the United Kingdom as a full-time student, you will be on a Tier 4 visa and will be allowed to work up to 20 hours a week during term-time and full-time in the semester break if you are studying at degree level or above.

This work experience you can obtain while studying can be a crucial stepping stone to work in the UK after graduation too.

There are many ways Tier 4 students can stay or return to the UK after their course comes to an end.

In January 2018, the Home Office made changes to the Immigration Rules affecting international students.

Bad news for part-time students: you will be unable to extend your Tier 4 visa or transform it into any kind of working visa while you remain in the UK. However, you will be able to apply for a Tier 2 (working) visa from overseas once you return home.

To obtain a Tier 2 visa you must have accepted a job in the country. Got an interview coming up? We’ve got you covered.

Your employer will need to hold a sponsor license and offer you a paid position which the government deems to be at graduate level – or above.

The minimum salary for you to be allowed to remain in the UK is £20,800 (US$28,150) if you are switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2.

Applying as an international student from inside of the UK, you have advantages over international graduates applying from their home countries – or anyone else applying from overseas, for that matter.

Like with those applying from outside the UK, companies do not have to advertise the job position for 28 days before offering it to you and they will not have to pay the £1,000 (US$ 1,350) immigration skills charge. Times Higher Education even reported recently this charge is likely to increase to £2,000 (US$ 2,700) in the near future, which could be offputting for some employers.

So, if you are able to apply while you still live in the UK, your chances of success are likely to be increased.

It isn’t always easy though. Even in sectors where there are significant skills shortages, students struggle to find employers willing to sponsor them as often companies are unaware of how to do so – or are unwilling or unable to spend the money.

If you want to apply for a Tier 2 visa while studying, the earlier on you get to grips with the system and start looking for employment, the better. You will be more likely to be able to secure employment by contacting and potentially even working or volunteering at companies which interest you.

Alternatively, you could be eligible for a Tier 1 or a Tier 5 visa.

A Tier 1 visa is for individuals the UK government is trying to attract including experts, investors and entrepreneurs. So, if the government thinks you have an exceptional talent or the means to invest money in a UK-based business, you may be eligible for a Tier 1 visa.

You will need to be deemed an Exceptional Talent applicant through an official body in your area of expertise which your university will be able to point you towards. If you are hoping to gain a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa you will need to make a business case to your university who will help you with the process should they accept your claim.

Tier 5, however, is a temporary working category in which, typically, you will need to move back home temporarily before applying.

If you have failed to switch to a Tier 2 visa while you are still in the UK, Tier 5 can work as a great fall-back. While you are home, you can work toward forming relationships with employers back in the UK to secure Tier 5 sponsorship as a temporary worker.

You will be able to come and work in the UK for up to two years, depending on what you agree with your employer, for a “short time for work experience” or for training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme.

Your employer would need to pay the higher minimum salary and an immigration skills charge, however, so bear that in mind. You will also need to have a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor, which could be an organisation running an approved exchange scheme, a higher education institution or a government department or agency.

If you were a ‘short-term student’ before Jan 11, you needed to leave the UK as soon as your course ended – or after the six-month period of immigration permission, whichever was sooner.

However, now as a short-term student, you can stay to stay for up to 30 days after the course finishes. A marked improvement, giving you a little extra time for that job search, but not promising if you are hoping to work in that time.

Before Jan 11, Tier 4 students – except those studying for a PhD – wishing to switch to a Tier 2 working visa would need to have already graduated before being able to apply.

Now, students can put in their application as soon as their course is completed, giving them more time to straighten out any little hiccups in the process.

If your degree certificate is not yet ready you can now submit evidence which shows when you began and ended your course as well as evidence of your exams and assignments all being completed.

If your application is made from outside the UK, you may be part of a trial group which uses electronic visas rather than passport endorsement.

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