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Working visas

We know that international students will be worried by the Covid-19 situation and what it means for their immigration status and their studies in the UK.

Attend a live webinar for the latest visa advice and how to prepare a Tier 4 visa application. Register HERE.

Key updates (10 September):

Read the latest information on travellng to the UK (England) and self-isolating.

BRP Collection if you have chosen to send your BRP card to the University, we will contact you as soon as it arrives with instructions on how to collect it.  Please do not come to campus as building are not yet open.

Visa Application Centres are re-opening with reduced services, check VFS or TLS Contact for information specific to your country or UKVCAS for UK information. 

USA biometric appointments - following limited appointment availability in the Application Support Centers (ASC) over recent weeks, this should start to change from mid-August. Applicants can check the appointment calendar in the online application portal used to submit the UK visa application. Priority Visa services have resumed, applicants will be able to purchase these services when booking their ASC appointment.

There is the option to enrol at VFS Premium Application Centres (PACs), VFS PAC services attract an additional fee. VFS are extending capacity at the PACs with Saturday service starting in some locations on 15th August. You can contact VFS directly by clicking here.

If you have submitted an online application and your chosen Application Support Center is closed and you have been unable to choose an alternative Center we are currently seeking guidance from our UK Visas and Immigration on how you should proceed.

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) increases from £300 to £470 per year from 1 October 2020.

Tier 4 Pilot Scheme closes 04 October 2020.  Masters students starting in October 2020 must submit their visa application on or before this date to qualify.

The new Hong Kong BN(O) visa route opens January 2021.

Graduate Route read the latest updates about this new 2 year working visas on our Graduate Route page.

Useful links: 

The University’s information for students returning to campus.

Self-isolation activities programme The University have put together several activities during this 14-day period. Exeter Based Students and Cornwall Based Students.

Full Home Office concessions for students is outlined here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students.

UKCISA regularly updates their advice for students here: Coronavirus (Covid-19): info for international students.

Contact us:

Finally, the trained immigration advisers in International Student Support are here to help with any questions or concerns you have during this difficult time. Please email us at and one of our advisers will respond as soon as possible.

In February 2020, the UK Government announced plans to introduce a new immigration system with effect from 01 January 2021.  To find out how this impacts working visas and the categories below, read Home Office guidance provided.  We will update the below information once more details are released.

In this section, we have put together basic information on a selection of visa categories that most interest international students. If you have an EU/EEA passport, then you do not need a visa to work in the UK.

This list is in no way exhaustive as there are other immigration routes available if you:

The main working visa in the UK is the Tier 2 (General) visa which requires you to be sponsored by an employer in much the same way as the University of Exeter sponsor you for a Tier 4 student visa. There are a few other visa options that may apply to you depending on your situation.

If you are a current Exeter student or have graduated in the last 6 months, you are welcome to contact us about any visa category, however our area of expertise mainly lies within the Tier 4 route.  You may also find the UKCISA website useful.

The UK government has announced the introduction of the Graduate Route from summer 2021, which will allow Tier 4 graduates to remain in the UK and work for 2 years after their studies. Further details can be found on our Graduate Route page.

The University of Exeter will only consider endorsements for students and graduates of the University who engaged with entrepreneurship activity during their studies. You must meet the eligibility criteria for endorsement and agree to the conditions as described below.  Once you receive an endorsement, you must meet the relevant visa requirements to be able to apply for a visa.  

Which type of visa is suitable for my situation?

A Start-up Visa is suitable for early-stage entrepreneurs who have not previously established a business in the UK. Those who apply for this visa are likely to be current University of Exeter students studying here on a Tier 4 visa.

  • 2 year visa
  • No minimum funding required
  • You can work outside of your own business 

An Innovator Visa is suitable for those wanting to continue with the same business that they have previously established with a Start-up Visa or are pursuing a new business venture.

  • 3 year visa
  • A minimum of £50,000 funding required (unless continuing with the same business)
  • You cannot work outside of your own business 

What should I do first?

Attend a Student Startup Information session which take place in January, May and October. You can find a list of upcoming events on the Student Startup website

And after that?

You must engage with the Student Startup programme, submit your business idea for review by the Student Startup team and if considered viable, pitch your idea to a panel. If successful, you will develop your business idea further with the Student Startup team before the university issues its visa endorsement. For full details of the Student Startup programme, visit: 

Will I get help with applying for the Start-up Visa?

International Student Support can help to check and submit visa applications with students who have successfully received the university’s endorsement. 

Can I switch from a Tier 4 visa to a Start-up Visa from inside the UK?

You can either apply from inside the UK (switching from a Tier 4 visa), or apply from your home country. 

What are the requirements of the Start-up Visa?

Endorsement: Endorsement letter from the Start Up team.

Financial requirements: You are required to have £945 for 90 days and will need to evidence this with a bank statement.  You can use an account in your name only or a joint account if you are one of the account holders.  You cannot use an account in the name of your parent or legal guardian.

Previous sponsorship: If you are currently financially sponsored by a government or an international scholarship agency or your financial sponsorship ended within the past 12 months, you will need your sponsor's unconditional written permission to stay in or re-enter the UK and make this immigration application.

English language requirement: Not required if switching from Tier 4 from inside the UK.  Otherwise unless you are a national of a majority English language country, you will need evidence of your English language level. You can use your University of Exeter degree certificate or an in-date IELTS certificate (minimum of 5.5). 

What are the conditions of the university’s endorsement?

Once your visa has been granted, you must maintain contact with the University, through quarterly check-in meetings. 

  • You must have a job offer from an employer with a Tier 2 sponsor licence. A list of sponsors can be found on the Home Office website.
  • The employer issues a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to support your application.  For graduates, CoS numbers can be issued no earlier than three months before the official end date of your course.
  • The job must be a graduate-level job (NQF Level 6+).  There are some exceptions that are explained in the Skills Level section on the UKCISA website. 
  • The salary must be £20,800 or more per year, though certain professions require higher minimum salaries, e.g. a Business Consultant: £23,000. You can check the NQF level and minimum salary for a particular job here. 
  • Usually, the job must have been advertised and no UK resident worker found to fill the position (Resident Labour Market Test).  However, most Tier 4 students who have recently graduated or have completed over 12 months of a PhD are exempt from this requirement. 
  • You can switch from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa in the UK.  When you can start work will depend on a number of factors, such as when you apply for Tier 2 and when your Tier 4 visa was granted.  Look at the information on the UKCISA website and always check with your employer.
  • The number of visas granted each year in this category is capped for applicants applying outside the UK. 
  • You have to prove that you have English language skills, which you meet if you have a UK degree. 
  • You must meet financial maintenance requirements: bank statement showing £945 for 90 days OR your employer is an A-rated sponsor and ticks a box on the CoS to certify they will maintain and accommodate you for the first month. 
  • If you are unsure whether an employer could sponsor you under Tier 2 for a job you have seen advertised, we recommend that you contact the human resources department and enquire before you proceed with an application. 
  • Useful websites: UK Visas and Immigration and UKCISA. 

As a student completing a PhD programme at the University of Exeter, may want to consider extending your Tier 4 visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme

This is a one off 2-year working visa for applicants aged 18-30 and from: Australia, Canada, Japan*, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea**, or Taiwan*.  Applicants can also apply if they are a British Overseas Citizen or British Overseas National. 

*Japan & Taiwan - need to submit an expression of interest and the Home Office then chooses at random who to issue an invitation to.

**Republic of Korea - need a certificate of sponsorship in order to apply.

  • You must meet the minimum financial requirements and provide a TB certificate (if applicable).
  • You cannot apply if you have children who live with you or are financially dependant on you. 
  • You must apply from your home country and this visa cannot be extended. 

More information can be found on the Home Office and UKCISA websites.  

Graduates seeking internship opportunities may want to approach employers willing to subscribe to the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) scheme which is designed to enable applicants to gain work experience, conduct research, or take a training position for 12 or 24 months.  

  • Suitable if you are seeking an internship position (work experience).
  • Work experience under Tier 5 (GAE) is limited to 12 months. 
  • The employer is not permitted to offer you employment following the internship or work placement. It is a condition of the visa that you leave the UK at the end of the visa period. 
  • Unlike Tier 2, the employer is not the immigration sponsor, instead, the employer must register with an overarching body (a government authorised scheme) that provides the sponsorship certificate to support your visa application. 
  • Read through the information on the Home Office website where you can follow the links to a list of approved schemes for Tier 5. You may find a scheme that is specific to your chosen profession or your nationality. 
  • Access Tier 5 ( is an example of a Tier 5 (GAE) sponsorship scheme. In addition to applying for advertised internship positions, you might also consider approaching an employer you are keen to work with and suggesting that they register with this or a similar scheme in order to offer you work experience. The Access Tier 5 website above has advice for employers on the process. For guidance on how to present your proposal to an employer consult the Career Zone.