Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2


The process surrounding switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 is about to change and as of 1st January 2021, with the introduction of the new points-based immigration system in the UK, the process will be somewhat easier for students in the UK to stay in the country after their studies and find a job. 

However, YOU MUST have a job offer to do this switch. There is no way  to switch from a Tier 4 Student Visa to a Tier 2 Work Visa or Skilled Worker Visa with NO JOB OFFER.

Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2

At present under the current immigration rules, switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 visa is certainly possible, as from 1st January 2021 when the new points-based system (PBS), with respect to skilled migrants, switching from the new Student Route (the rebranded version of the Tier 4 student visa) to the new Skilled Migrants’ category (the rebranded version of the Tier 2 visa ), is much easier than before (if you already have a job offer).

Furthermore, the new PBS will treat EU and non-EU citizen Tier, 4 students, equally with other people in different immigration categories. In addition, as from 5th October 2020, further changes have been made to the immigration system for students. The Tier 4 route has now become the Student Route which means that the terminology has changed, making it more user friendly for the non-lawyers to understand, referring for example to ‘student immigration permission’ instead of ‘tier 4 leave.’


Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 – Rules before January 1st 2021

An application to switch can be made three months before the expected completion of the student’s course. Furthermore, those postgraduate students at PhD level who have completed at least 12 months of study of their course and wish to switch can also do so. The usual rules apply insofar as the employer having a certificate of sponsorship to employ persons who are foreign nationals with no settled status in the UK and who are not EU or Swiss nationals (this change will come into effect as from 1st January 2021).

Furthermore, whereas in most applications for Tier 2 General work permits, unless there is a labour shortage, the sponsoring employer may be required to carry out a resident labour market test advertising the job before it can be offered and a certificate of sponsorship assigned to the prospective employee, the requirement for advertising (which will be abolished as from 1st January 2021), is not applicable where a Tier 4 student switches to tier 2. At present, the minimum tier 2 salary is £20,800 and also applies to those switching from Tier 4. The migrant will usually be required to have graduated with a degree before the switch.


Switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 visa after 1st January 2020

At 11 PM on 31st December 2020, when the Withdrawal Agreement transitional period ends, the main route for both EU and non-EU nationals wishing to switch from the Student Route to the new Skilled Worker category will be the same, unless of course EU and Swiss national students in the UK have managed to obtain “settled status or pre-settled status” under the EU settlement scheme before 30th June 2021. Those who are in the country now, and those students coming to the UK on or before 11 PM on 30th December 2020, can have until 30th June 2021 to register under the EU settlement scheme. The switching rules will not apply to them if they have obtained either “settled or pre-settled status” under the EU settlement scheme. Those who have already obtained “settled or pre-settled status” will be in the same position as British students, or those who have indefinite leave (permanent residence) in the UK under the immigration rules and decide to Such individuals can apply for and get jobs in the UK after their studies. They would have no restrictions, and the issue of getting a sponsorship license by the employer, and for the employee making an application at the Home Office to stay under the new category of skilled worker will not be applicable to such EU/Swiss nationals. If they have not obtained “settled or pre-settled status” however is, and they are yet to apply for it, then the normal rules with respect to switching for foreign nationals in this country would apply to such EU/Swiss nationals.

Students who wish to switch will be switching into the renamed Tier 2 general work permit route which is now called “the Skilled Worker Route”, and workers will need to demonstrate that they have scored sufficient points in the UK’s new points-based system to switch or indeed to apply for a skilled worker’s visa. Under this route, a worker can earn a minimum salary at present of £20,480, which is less than the current minimum requirement of £20,800.

On 13th July 2020, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced further measures about the Home Office’s new (PBS) and this would be effective from the end of the free movement for EU/ EEA/ Swiss nationals from 1st January 2021.


The new Skilled Worker Visa will replace Tier 2 ( general) visa.

The new Skilled Worker Route (formerly the Tier 2 General Work Visa) will be more suitable for former Tier 4 students desirous to switch and work in the UK rather than returning to their countries their studies have been completed. The qualification criteria for a switch is lower than the system in place before January 2021. The student/migrant will need to already have a job offer and be qualified to at least to an A-level or equivalent standard.

Moreover, the job offer will as now be from a licensed sponsor, and the student wishing to switch will need to speak English to an approved level. If the individual has obtained their A-level in English language or literature at 18 years or below, they would have satisfied the language requirements. There will be 50 points to be scored at this stage, and the student (as indeed others wishing to work in the UK), will then need another 20 points from various categories based on prior education, higher salaries (than the minimum requirement), and shortage occupation roles. Those occupations that are in short supply are set out in appendix J and K of the immigration rules.


Further changes as from 1st January 2021

  • Abolition of the Resident Labour Market Test. The current need to advertise the post to give persons in the British labour force and in the EU ( including Swiss nationals) the first opportunity to apply for a position post will be abolished as from 1st January 2021. In any event, it does not apply to students wishing to switch employers before 2021 in any event. Sponsor employers must still show, however, that they are filling a genuine vacancy and have met the skills and salary thresholds required for that role.
  • There will be no monthly cap, so students switching should not be anxious about the number of skilled worker visas issued by the Home Office. Students can switch, and the UK economy will benefit from their skills and work.
  • As indicated earlier, there will be more flexibility for in-country switching between visa routes. From 1st January most migrants, excluding visitors, medical visitors, business visitors, and seasonal agricultural workers, can apply to switch from one immigration route ( such as student status) to another category from within the UK if they meet the requirements of the new rules.

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