Switching to a UK Tier 2 visa to be made easier for Tier 4 Visa international graduates
New government plans will make it easier for foreign students in the UK to apply to switch from within the UK from a Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 skilled worker visa once they complete their course, rather than having to wait until they have confirmation that they have passed their exams. The plans, outlined in Budget documents published on 22 November 2017, are an effort to ‘make Britain more welcoming.’ However, the employer needs to have a Tier 2 Sponsorship Licence to employ students under the Tier 2 Visa scheme.
Switching from a Tier 4 Visa to a Tier 2 Visa
The relaxed rules will pave the way for international students to switch to a Tier 2 skilled worker visa as soon as their studies are complete. Under current legislation, students have to wait until they can show that they have passed.
It’s understood that this change has come as a result of universities telling the Home Office that existing rules cause considerable difficulties for master’s students, who are often forced to wait several months upon completion of their course for a degree to be awarded.
Meanwhile, changes to the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, will see two years shaved off the current five-year waiting time to meet the qualifying criteria for UK settlement that is a requirement of this scheme. The Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) initiative targets ‘existing global leaders or promising future leaders,’ across a range of industry sectors.
The changes to the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route follow an announcement that the annual number of visas for this scheme would be doubled from 1,000 to 2,000.
The new legislation outlining changes to UK immigration rules in the Autumn Budget is set to be introduced in the spring of 2018.
Positive changes for international staff recruitment
A Universities UK statement welcomed the changes, describing them as ‘positive for both the recruitment of staff and making it quicker for students to switch into post-study work.’
“In the months ahead, we would like to see the government go further and commit to a strategy for growing international student numbers,” the statement said.
Elsewhere, according to an article published by Times Higher Education, different UK sectors may take a different view on the immigration White Paper, questioning whether it is enough to take a ‘light touch’ approach to EU nationals in Tier 2 skilled worker and Tier 4 student visa systems, or better to lobby for some alternative system for EU nationals.
Tier 2 visa rules dictate that employers must hold a valid Tier 2 sponsor license and adhere to the system’s salary threshold. According to recruiters, both these requirements will undoubtedly scupper any chance of EU students remaining in the UK to work, following graduation.
Settled status of EU nationals in Britain post-Brexit
Chief executive of the Million Plus mission group, Pam Tatlow, said: “We welcome the interest of the Home Office and the government in improving the visa regulations for students, early career graduates and staff. However, the more pressing issue is reconciling issues around the settled status of EU nationals in the UK at the time of Brexit.”
“Achieving a system that supports continuing mobility between the UK and the EU…This is why the Home Office needs to publish the White Paper, which would precede the immigration bill, as soon as possible,” Tatlow added.