Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 Guidance for Applicants and Employers

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.

UK employers are permitted to employ Tier 4 visa holders within certain restrictions and where the individual’s visa conditions allow. For example, where the Tier 4 visa holder is still studying, they may carry out paid employment for a limited number of hours per week during term time, or on a full-time basis during holidays.

If you are looking to onboard a Tier 4 visa holder after they have finished their studies, you will need to ensure that their immigration status is in order and permits the type of employment you are offering.

Students Tier 2 Guidance
There are a number of visa options and schemes open to Tier 4 holders wanting to stay in the UK to work after their studies.

In most cases, it’s likely they will be looking at the Tier 2 visa route.

Tier 4 visa holders are permitted to switch to the Tier 2 visa category without their new employer having to undertake a resident labour market test – provided they have achieved a UK bachelor’s or master’s degree, or a professional graduate diploma of education or at least one year of a PhD, and attained qualifying employment.

Removing the requirement to carry out a resident labour market test – ie checking whether there is any UK or EEA national who could fill the role – is a clear benefit for employers. Usually a pre-requisite to recruiting a Tier 2 worker, this streamlines the process considerably, reducing application processing – all else is in order – to a matter of days rather than weeks.

Despite this procedural concession, making the switch from Tier 4 to tier 2 isn’t necessarily straightforward.

Tier 4 to Tier 2 application – who is eligible?
Tier 4 visa holders may be eligible to switch from a Tier 4 to Tier 2 (General) visa where they satisfy the following criteria:

The individual must have completed a UK bachelor’s or master’s degree, a postgraduate certificate in education or professional graduate diploma of education or undertaken at least one year of a PhD within the current continuous period of leave (i.e. they haven’t left the UK and submitted a new entry clearance application to return since being awarded their degree.)
They must have a confirmed offer of employment from a UK employer who holds a Tier 2 sponsor licence.
The role they are being offered must meet the minimum skill and salary levels of one of the Standard Occupation Codes. Note that a Tier 2 switch from Tier 4 is considered to be a ‘new entrant’ (rather than an ‘experienced worker’). The level of minimum salary threshold will depend on the SOC code selected to suit the relevant employment.
They must meet the English language requirements; Tier 4 students should almost certainly have met these requirements already through their UK qualification or their original Tier 4 application.
They must prove they have sufficient funds to maintain them self for the first month, or the employer must certify maintenance on their behalf.
They must apply to switch from Tier 4 into Tier 2 from within the UK before their Tier 4 visa expires. Note also that rule changes in January 2018 permit Tier 4 visa holders on non-PhD courses to apply to switch to Tier 2 as soon as they finish their course without having to wait until they have received their final results.
Employers: Brief Guide
To hire any Tier 2 skilled worker, UK employers must first hold a valid sponsorship licence. This requires an application to be made to the Home Office.

With your sponsor licence granted, you are required to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship for each individual you wish to hire under the Tier 2 route.

The individual then makes their visa application to the Home Office using the CoS. This has to be submitted within 3 months of the CoS being issued and no more than 3 months before the intended start of employment.

Importantly, the CoS is not transferable between individuals. You have to issue a new CoS for each individual applicant.

We recommend assisting the applicants with their Tier 2 application to the UK Visas and Immigration, ensuring their paperwork is all present and correct, that the correct fees are paid, and generally helping to avoid errors that could otherwise cause delay or issues with their ability to join your organisation.

The documentary evidence element of the application, in particular, can be difficult for applicants to satisfy without guidance.

To switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 inside the UK, the applicant will need to evidence they have completed and been awarded their degree. This would be an original certificate of award or an original academic reference from their university or academic institution containing specific details. Generally, applicants who have only completed part of a course will not be eligible to switch into Tier 2, for example, two years of a three-year course.

If you are an A-rated sponsor, you can state on the CoS that you will maintain and accommodate the applicant to the end of the first month of employment in the UK (to a minimum of £945). If this is not the case, the applicant must show that they have held at least £945 for a consecutive period of 90 days by providing a bank statement ending no later than one month before the date of application.

If successful, the Tier 2 visa will initially be granted for three years or five years if the employment contract is permanent, or for the duration of the fixed-term contract were shorter than three or five years.

As a UK sponsor licence holder, you will be operating under a number of immigration compliance duties in respect of your Tier 2 workers. This includes a duty to notify the Home Office if there is unexplained absence or the individual leaves your employment early. Failure to meet these duties could result in penalties, impacting your ability to employ Tier 2 workers.

We understand that Immigration rules can be very complicated therefore If you are not sure of the procedure or require further guidance please contact our offices and we should be able to help you further.