How to get a skilled worker visa if you're an International Student studying in the UK

How To Get A Skilled Worker Visa If You're An International Student Studying In The UK

You can switch to the UK skilled worker visa even before you graduate from university. Here's how...
Dec 06, 2022
If you're an international student studying in the United Kingdom, obtaining a work permit has just become a lot easier. The UK government has announced changes to the eligibility criteria for their Skilled Worker Visa. International students who are already in the UK and wish to stay there and switch over to a skilled worker visa can now do so. The new rules also allow applicants to apply for a skilled worker visa without having to complete their degree.

A Skilled Worker visa allows you to travel to, reside in the UK and undertake an eligible job with an approved employer. This category of visa is only available to those companies that hold a valid UK sponsor license and have allocations to issue certificates of sponsorships to candidates. A skilled worker visa was typically only available to overseas employees as well as new hires who met the relevant eligibility requirements. However, it is now also available to international students who wish to study in the UK.

To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, you must:

  • Work for a UK employer that's been approved by the Home Office and has a sponsor license
  • Have a 'certificate of sponsorship' from your employer with information about the role you've been offered in the UK
  • Do a job that's on the list of eligible occupations
  • Be paid a minimum salary - how much depends on the type of work you do
  • You must meet all of the following requirements to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa:
    • Your job is eligible for this visa
    • You'll be paid the minimum salary or the "going rate" for the type of work you'll be doing - whichever is higher
    • You'll be working for a UK employer that's been approved by the Home Office
  • Salary requirements: You'll usually need to be paid at least £25,600 per year unless the "going rate" for your job is higher than this.
  • You must have a job offer from an approved UK employer before applying for a Skilled Worker visa. Approved employers are also known as sponsors because they are sponsoring you to come to or stay in the UK. 
  • If you already have a job offer from an approved employer Your employer (also known as your sponsor) will check that you meet the eligibility requirements. They'll give you a 'certificate of sponsorship' to prove this. You must apply for your visa within three months of getting your certificate of sponsorship.

English Language

There are a number of immigration routes with an English language requirement for applicants. This may be to support integration and/ or to demonstrate they have the English language ability needed for that particular route. The level of English language ability required is set as appropriate for each relevant route based on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. For example, students at the degree level must demonstrate their ability at level B2 (A-Level or equivalent) and skilled workers B1 (AS-Level or equivalent). The ways an applicant can show they meet the English language requirement are:

  • Being a national of a majority English-speaking country.
  • Having an academic degree taught in English.
  • Passing a secure English language test.
  • Having shown they meet the required level in a previous successful immigration application. In some routes, there are additional ways of meeting the English language requirement. We will not make any changes to these route-specific provisions:
  • Skilled workers who are sponsored as a doctor, dentists, nurses or midwives can rely on the assessment of their professional body as proof of their English language ability.
  • Students who are studying a course at a degree level or above at a UK Higher Education provider with a track record of compliance can meet the English requirement if their sponsor assesses their ability. The UK’s Points-Based Immigration System 15
  • Students who are applying to complete a short-term study abroad programme in the UK, as part of a course equivalent to a UK degree being studied at a Higher Education Institution in the USA do not need to prove their English language ability. We will also extend the list of majority English-speaking countries to include Ireland (so applicants who are neither British nor Irish citizens and who have studied at Irish universities can rely on their qualifications to show they have met the English language requirement) and Malta.

International students can apply for this visa while they are studying. They must have an offer of employment from an approved employer to accompany their application but can switch over to the visa once it has been approved. This new visa route is expected to help students ease their living costs, by being able to support themselves whilst studying.

What is the UK Skilled Worker Visa?

For many international students studying in the UK, this is a faster and more affordable route to a work permit in the UK. The Skilled Worker visa is a long-term employment visa that allows applicants to remain and work in the UK for up to five years. This visa, which replaced the previous Tier 2 (general) work visa, was redesigned to allow for a lower threshold of salary threshold and to remove the resident labour market test. The skilled worker visa is valid for up to five years. Applicants can decide whether they wish to extend their visa or apply for indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship.

Timeline to receiving the skilled worker visa

If applicants meet all of the requirements for a work permit, the average processing time is currently up to 11 weeks. This timeline may be extended or reduced depending on the capacity of the home office.

What other visa routes should applicants consider if they do not meet the eligibility requirements?

If you're temporarily wanting to enter the UK, try the Permitted Paid Engagement visa route. Depending on your nationality, this visa may apply to you. Some nationalities will not need to apply for this visa. Please contact us to find out if you are eligible.

Candidates may apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa if a company has invited them as an expert in their profession to work on certain projects or tasks. You may stay in the UK for up to 1 month.

 Permitted Paid Engagement visas are usually issued when:

  • A UK-based organisation or client has invited certain individuals
  • Candidates come to the UK to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system
  •  Other eligibility requirements are met. 


Individuals may be able to visit the UK for paid engagements if they have been invited as an expert in a particular profession. The general rule is that in order to be eligible for the visa the person must demonstrate they are:

  • Invited by a UK-based organisation or client
  • Want to come to the UK to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system
  • Meet the other eligibility requirements listed below.
A visa is only required for those who need a visa to enter the UK. Check here for further requirements.

You must show that:

  • You're 18 or over
  • You're visiting the UK for no more than one month
  • You've been formally invited and paid by a UK-based organisation to attend an event or other permitted engagement
  • You'll leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • You will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home
  • You're able to support yourself during your trip (or have funding from someone else to support you)
  • You're able to pay for your return or onward journey (or have a budget from someone else to pay for the trip)
  • You have proof of any business or other activities you want to do in the UK, as allowed by the Visitor Rules

Permitted Activities

A person can be invited by a UK-based organisation or client to:

  • Be a student examiner or assessor
  • Take part in selection panels as a highly qualified academic if you’re invited by an education, arts or research organisation
  • Give lectures at a higher education institution, as long as it’s not a part-time or full-time role
  • Examine UK-based pilots so they meet the standards of the country you come from if you’re invited by an approved UK training organisation regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority
  • Provide advocacy in a particular area of law
  • Take part in arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting
  • Take part in fashion modelling assignments
A person can also do minor activities related to their work or business overseas, such as attending meetings.

The below activities are not permitted under this visa category:

  • Do pay work unrelated to your main job or area of expertise at home, other than what’s allowed by your visa
  • Extend this visa or switch to another visa
  • Live in the UK for extended periods
  • Get public funds (benefits)
  • Study
  • Marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership
  • Bring family members (‘dependants’) - they must apply separately

Documents Required

In order to process your visa, please ensure you have prepared the following documents. Once prepared, we can assist you in initiating a case.

  • A current passport or other valid travel documents - your passport must have a blank page for your visa
  • A formal invitation from a UK-based organisation or the client you'll be paid by
  • Proof that the paid engagement relates to your expertise, qualifications, and main job in your home country, for example, a letter from your employer on company headed paper, detailing your role, salary and length of employment
  • Business registration documents or recent invoices that confirm ongoing self-employment
  • Previous travel documents/passports, which show previous travel *confirmation of legal residence
  • Financial documents that show that you have sufficient funds available. These must clearly show that you have access to the funds, such as bank statements, proof of earnings (payslips, salary statement)
  • You'll need to provide an invitation letter showing why you're carrying out the engagement and how long it's for from a relevant UK-based organisation, such as:
    • a Higher Education institution
    • an organisation in the creative arts or entertainment industries
    • a sports organisation, agent or broadcaster
    • a research organisation
    • an aviation training organisation regulated by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority
    • a client, if you are a lawyer
You will be required to provide evidence of professional status in your home country or expertise, depending on the engagement.

Start-up visa

This visa category is for those people who have an innovative idea and wish to set up a new technology business in the UK with the potential to innovate or disrupt. The requirements are stringent, and the expectation is that your business must be something that’s different from anything else on the market.


  • You must be endorsed by an authorised body that is either:
    • a UK higher education institution
    • a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs
  • You must be able to show that your business idea is:
    • a new idea - you cannot join a business that is already trading
    • innovative - you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the market
    • viable - it has the potential for growth

Documents Required

  • A valid passport or other documents that shows your identity and nationality
  • Bank statements showing you've had at least £1270 in savings in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you apply
  • Proof that you meet the English language requirement:
    • passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
    • having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English
, gained through study undertaken in a UK school when you were under 18
    • having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English - if you studied abroad, you'll need to apply for confirmation through UK NARIC that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree, master's degree or PhD
  • Your tuberculosis test results if you're from a country where you have to take the test.


Once you've applied, proved your identity and provided your documents, you'll usually get a decision within three weeks.

In conclusion, there are many other visa types that may be relevant depending on the experience of each candidate and the company they are looking to work for in the United Kingdom. For more information on these, or for assistance with your application, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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