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Working visas

Important updates
For the latest immigration news, including Covid-19 concessions, as well as other key updates for international students, please see our Immigration and International Updates page.

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.

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 Skilled Worker visa (previously named Tier 2 (General)) which requires you to be sponsored by an employer in much the same way as the University of Exeter sponsor you for a Student/Tier 4 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 Student visa route (previously named Tier 4).  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/Student graduates to remain in the UK and work for 2 years after their studies (3 years for PhD graduates). 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 Student/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 throughout the year. 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: http://ex.ac.uk/studentstartups 

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 Student/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 exempt from the Fiannce requirement if you have lived in the UK with a valid visa for the 12 months before you submit your visa application and are making your visa application from inside the UK.

All other applicants, including those applying outside the UK, must meet the Finance requirement.

You are required to have £1,270 for 28 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 Student/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. 

From the 1 December 2020, the Skilled Worker route will replace the Tier 2 (General) route for sponsored skilled work. Under the new route you must obtain 70 points to be eligible for a visa:

50 points are automatically obtained from:

  • Having a job offer from an employer with a sponsor licence (20 points). See the Register of Sponsors for a full list.
  • Having a job at an appropriate skill level (20 points). The minimum skill level is RQF level 3 (A level).
  • Meeting the English Language requirement (10 points). Either by being a national of a majority English speaking country or having a degree taught in English in a majority English speaking country and providing a NARIC statement to confirm this.

A further 20 points must then be obtained from one of the following tradeable characteristics:

  • Meeting the general salary threshold (20 points). The absolute minimum salary to be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa is £20,480, although the general salary threshold is £25,600 or higher depending on the chosen profession.
  • Having a relevant PhD (10 points) plus being paid at 90% of the appropriate rate (10 points).
  • Having a PhD in a STEM subject (20 points).
  • Being a new entrant (20 points). The new entrant rate applies to students switching from Tier 4/student route, applicants under age 26 or anyone moving into a postdoctoral position (researcher/lecturer) providing the contract duration does not exceed 4 years.

Providing you meet the eligibility criteria above, the employer will issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to support your visa application.  For graduates, CoS numbers can be issued no earlier than 3 months before the official end date of your course.

To assess your eligibility for a Skilled Worker visa, you can use the Home Office points based calculator - link to follow soon.

You can switch into the Skilled Worker route from most other visa categories (except visitors) without having to leave the UK.

When you can start work will depend on a number of factors such as when you apply for the Skilled Worker visa and when your Tier 4/Student visa was granted.  Read through the information on UKCISA for further details and remember to always check with your employer. 

As a student completing a PhD programme at the University of Exeter, may want to consider extending your Tier 4/Student visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme. This is 12 month visa extension allows students and their dependants to extend their Tier 4/Student visas to allow them to look for and start employment or set up a business in the UK.

It's important to note that from summer 2021, the Doctorate Extension Scheme will be merged into the new Graduate route under which PhD graduates can apply for 3 years' permission in the UK to work. 

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, British Overseas Territories Citizen or British Overseas National. 

Nationals from San Marino can apply from San Marino, but must also provide a Certificate of Sponsorship issued by that country or territory.

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

  • You must provide a TB certificate (if applicable).
  • You must meet the minimum financial requirements of £2,530 for 28 days.
  • You can submit your application in your home country or in any other country worldwide as long as that post accepts Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme applications and you are legally resident in that country for more than 6 months (with the exceptions of San Marino nationals)
  • This visa cannot be extended. 

More information can be found on the Home Office and UKCISA websites as well as in the Youth Mobility Scheme guidance.  

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 (www.accesstier5.com) 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.