Edinburgh - 0131 228 2083
Glasgow - 0141 248 6552

McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

Switching visas: From a Tier 4 (General) Student

04 March 2020 James Ritchie Tier 2 Workers

If you are in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa, you may be coming to the end of your studies and looking at ways of remaining in the UK.

Whether you are looking for long-term work, or have another reason for remaining in the UK, this blog will outline the alternative visa options to which it is possible to switch from a Tier 4 student visa. 


Tier 1 – Investor

The investor visa is open to anyone inside or outside the UK, including Tier 4 students, who can meet the eligibility requirements as a high-net worth migrant. To be granted, an applicant must:

  • Have at least £2,000,000 with a view to investing the funds in the UK;
  • Be able to prove that the money belongs to you or their partner; and
  • Have a UK regulated bank account opened for the funds.

If successful, you may stay in the UK for 3 years. Before the end of the visa validity, it is possible to extend the visa provided you have invested enough of the funds in the UK. Settlement is possible after 5 years continuous leave in this category.

Tier 2 – Sponsored work

For those aiming to put their degree to use in the UK, the Tier 2 (General) visa is the most popular. This category is designed for companies approved by the government to employ skilled migrants to work in the UK. A Tier 4 student visa holder is eligible to switch into this category provided they have:

  • Completed either a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, postgraduate certificate, professional graduate diploma, or have completed a minimum of one year of a PhD in the UK;
  • A confirmed offer of employment from a Tier 2 sponsor licenced company in the UK which meets the minimum skill and salary level of the chosen field of occupation; and
  • Meet other general requirements such as English language and sufficient funds.

It is possible to apply once your degree has ended, or up to 3 months in advance of the intended course conclusion. Settlement is possible after 5 years continuous leave in this category.



This visa is also open to Tier 4 student visa holders who wish to set up a business in the UK.

Besides meeting the general visa requirements, an applicant must:

  • Have held £945 in savings over a 90-day period prior to submitting their application; and
  • Have an endorsement from one of the Start-up endorsing bodies

The criteria for an endorsement is based on three concerns:

  1. Innovation — does the applicant have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage?
  2. Viability — does the applicant have, or are they actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business?
  3. Scalability — is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets?

The requirements for this visa may appear light, however the criteria to gain an endorsement can be quite strict depending on the particular endorsing body.

If successful, the applicant will be granted 2 years leave to remain. Prior to the expiry of this visa, an applicant may apply to switch into the Innovator category. Settlement is possible after 3 years continuous leave within the Innovator category.


Tier 5 - Government Authorised Exchange

This is a sub-category of the Temporary Worker visa which is geared towards field-specific work placements. The Home Office maintain a list of Tier 5 government authorised exchange scheme organisations, and the visa sub-category is open to migrants who can acquire an offer of sponsorship from one of those organisations.

It is possible for a Tier 4 student visa holder to switch into this visa category, provided they:

  • have lawfully obtained a UK bachelors, Master’s degree, PGCE or PGDE during their last grant of leave;
  • are being sponsored to undertake postgraduate professional training or work experience which is required to obtain a professional qualification or registration in the same professional field as their qualification described above; and
  • are being sponsored to undertake an internship for up to 12 months which is directly related to the qualification described above

Successful applicants may remain in the UK for up to 12 or 24 months depending on the length of the scheme applied for. This visa sub-category cannot be extended and this is not a route to settlement.



Finally, it is also possible for a Tier 4 student visa holder to switch into a family member visa. To be eligible, an applicant and their British spouse must:

  • Be married, in a civil partnership, or have lived with their unmarried partner for at least 2 years;
  • Demonstrate the applicant’s knowledge of the English language;
  • Prove they have adequate accommodation which is not overcrowded; and
  • Evidence sufficient finances to support the applicant for the duration of their residence.

This is one of the more complex applications to make due to the pitiless eligibility requirements, which we have intentionally summarised here for the sake of brevity. An unsuccessful application will mean a refusal. A refusal will mean the loss of the exorbitant and non-refundable processing fee charged by the Home Office.

A successful applicant will be granted 2.5 years leave to remain in the UK. Prior to the expiry of this visa, an applicant may apply for a further 2.5 years. Settlement is possible after 5 years continuous leave in this category.


Final comments

Our immigration solicitors have a wealth of experience navigating the tricky submission procedures involved in switching visa categories. If you would like help making any of the abovementioned applications, please do not hesitate to contact us for expert advice and assistance.


Call now


Average rating for Our Testimonials, McGill & Co is 5 Star of 5 stars - based on 81 Review

Make an enquiry

Please let us know your name.
Please let us know your email address.
Please enter a valid phone number
Please let us know the nature of your enquiry
Please let us know your message.
How did you hear about us?

Please tell us your preferred office

Invalid Input

Latest Tweets