If you hope to work in the UK after graduation you will have to obtain a new visa. A Student Visa/Tier 4 visa will expire two or four months after the end of your course, depending on the length of the course, and has restrictions on your ability to work. Obtaining a work visa will allow you to work more freely.
You may find the information on working after your studies published by the UK Council for International Affairs (UKCISA) particularly helpful.
View UKCISA's advice on working after your studies
Graduate Visa (opening 1 July 2021)
A new Graduate visa route will open on 1 July 2021. The Graduate route will enable international students to remain in the UK to work, or look for work, for two years. For Doctoral students, the Graduate route will replace the previous Doctoral Extension Scheme and allow students to remain in the UK for three years.
The Graduate route will be unsponsored, meaning applicants will not need a job offer to apply. There will be no minimum salary requirements nor caps on numbers. Graduates on the route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their career as required, including self-employment. We understand that there will be no restriction on working as an “entertainer” (performer).
To apply, students must have successfully completed a degree-level course at a sponsoring institution with a track record of compliance. Applications must be made inside the UK before your current Tier 4/Student visa expires.
A helpful summary of the information currently available on the Graduate route can be found on the UKCISA website. We expect full guidance and the application form to be published in July when the route opens.
Tier 4 Doctoral Extension Scheme
This route permits DMus and PhD graduates to remain in the UK for 12 months after finishing their course to gain work experience in the UK. To be eligible, applicants must currently be studying in the UK with valid Tier 4 leave, have a CAS issued by their sponsoring institution and apply during the 60 days before their course end date. There are no restrictions on performance work or self-employment on this visa. This route will close when the Graduate visa route opens on 1 July 2021.
Skilled Worker visa (formerly Tier 2 General Visa)
To apply you need an offer of a full-time, permanent or fixed-term skilled job from an employer with a licence to sponsor migrants to work in the UK. Some of the conditions for Skilled Worker visas are made easier for recent graduates switching from Student Visas/Tier 4 visas. Students interested in this route should speak to the HR department of their prospective employer for further information, or refer to information published by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Skilled Worker visas
Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting (T5)
This category allows employers to bring workers to the UK for temporary contracts, which can be anything from a few days up to a year, with the possibility of extending for up to a further year. This visa allows graduates to accept shorter term performance engagements or contracts, provided the employer is licenced to sponsor migrants in this category. More information is provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting (T5) visas
Youth Mobility Scheme (T5)
This scheme currently allows nationals of the following countries to work in the UK for up to two years:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Korea
In addition, the scheme is open to British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Nationals and British Overseas Citizens. It is not possible to switch into this category in the UK, so applicants must return home to apply. There are no restrictions on performance work or self-employment on this visa. More information is provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Youth Mobility Scheme (T5) visas
Global Talent (formerly Tier 1 Exceptional Talent)
The Global Talent visa replaced the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route with effect from 20 February 2020.
The Global Talent route permits individuals of exceptional talent, who are emerging world leaders in their field, to live and work in the UK without being linked to a specific employer. Endorsement for musicians must be obtained from the Arts Council and there are strict criteria. Only a limited number of endorsements are available per year for all areas of the arts, including music, dance, literature, film. More information is provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Global Talent visas