From student to skilled worker – how to recruit students switching from a student visa to a skilled worker visa
For those overseas students studying in the UK, it can be daunting to go from a Home Office classification of ‘student’ to ‘skilled worker’ but as the Tier 2 (General) visa has now been replaced by the skilled worker visa both employers and students are having to get used to the new visa terminology. In this blog we look at the practicalities and complexities of student job applicants switching from student visa to skilled worker visa.
UK Immigration solicitors
If you have questions about your business sponsoring employees under a Home Office issued sponsor licence or the new skilled worker visa the friendly specialist immigration team at London based OTS Solicitors can help. Call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments can be arranged via video call, Skype or telephone.
Recruiting overseas students on UK Student Visas as skilled workers
When a student’s studies are at an end it is a big step to go from student visa to work visa, especially when the new work visa is called the ‘skilled worker visa’ as that implies a skill or work experience rather than a degree qualification. However, despite its name, a job applicant doesn’t need experience to meet the eligibility criteria for a skilled worker visa.
Can students work for your business whilst in the UK on a student visa?
Many smaller UK businesses like to get to know the students they may want to recruit into the business full time after graduation or completion of their studies. Business owners therefore need to know if a student can work part time for their company prior to graduation. The Immigration rules say that UK employers can employ those on Student Visas if the student’s visa conditions permit this. The extent of the work permitted under the Immigration rules depends on what subject is being studied and whether the student is working in term time or during holidays.
A student can't be self -employed whilst in the UK on a student visa and therefore can't work for your business on a freelance basis. If your company employs a student then you will need to carry out the same right to work checks that you are an obligation to complete for any full time or non-student employee. The right to work check may need to be renewed depending on the length of the student’s visa.
Recruiting a part time student worker to a full-time position on a skilled worker visa isn’t just a question of the application being rubber stamped as the student worker will need to go through the skilled worker visa application process in the same way as any other job candidate.
Can a student apply for a skilled worker visa whilst studying in the UK?
Applications to switch from a student visa to a skilled worker visa can be made whilst a student is studying in the UK butimmigration solicitors say that UK employers and students need to be aware that:
- An application for a skilled worker visa needs to be made before the expiry of the student visa. If the student visa expires then the student could be classed as an overstayer and this could affect the success of any future Immigration applications
- If a student applies for a skilled worker visa they can normally stay in the UK if their student visa expires provided that their skilled worker visa is awaiting a decision by the Home Office
- If a student isn’t able to apply for a skilled worker visa before the expiry of their student visa, they can look at alternate visa options or leave the UK and make their skilled worker visa application from outside the UK. Making a skilled worker visa application from outside the UK shouldn’t significantly delay the recruitment process
- If a student applies for a job and you allocate a certificate of sponsorship to the student to enable them to apply for a skilled worker visa the certificate of sponsorship must be used within three months
- A student can't apply for a skilled worker visa more than three months before their Employment start date
- A student may be able to start work for an employer who intends to sponsor them as soon as the student has submitted their skilled worker visa application unless the student is studying on a part time post graduate course. Many employers prefer to wait until the skilled worker visa application has been processed but if you don’t want to wait it is important to check the rules on the individual student’s circumstances and that you comply with the right to work checks and legislation
- Whilst your business may know that it intends to recruit a certain number of overseas students who will need skilled worker visas you can't allocate certificates of sponsorship until job offers have been made and accepted by the student. That is because certificates of sponsorship are not transferrable
- A student shouldn’t leave the UK after they have submitted their skilled worker visa application as leaving the UK whilst an application is pending with the Home Office means the Home Office will treat the application as automatically withdrawn. If travel is required then it is best that the student takes legal advice to avoid having to submit a fresh skilled worker visa application and losing the visa application fee.
From student to skilled worker visa
A student is eligible to apply to switch to a skilled worker visa provided that they aren’t in the UK on a short-term student visa. If a student is on a standard student visa, they can apply for a skilled worker visa if:
- They have an offer of Employment from an employer with a Home Office issued sponsor licence
- The job offer meets the minimum skill level – this is set in the Immigration rules as RQF level 3, the equivalent of a UK A-level qualification
- The job pays the minimum salary threshold relevant to the job and the student’s circumstances
- The English language requirement is met – most students who are applying to switch from a student visa to a skilled worker visa won't need to sit an English language test as their qualification will exempt them from the need to do so
- The financial requirement is met but many students won't need to meet the financial requirement as the Immigration rules say that a skilled worker visa applicant is exempt from having to meet the financial requirement if they have been living in the UK on a valid visa for at least twelve months
What are the minimum salary threshold rules for students applying for a skilled worker visa?
In most cases, students switching from a student visa to a skilled worker visa will meet the eligibility criteria for ‘new entrant’ status. Immigration solicitors says that means an employer can offer a salary of £20,480 (rather than the standard minimum salary threshold of £25,600) or seventy percent of the government set going rate for the job, whichever is the higher figure.
For employers, the minimum salary threshold for visa applicants who qualify as new entrants is therefore either:
- £5,120 less than for a skilled worker visa applicant who isn’t classed as a new entrant or
- Thirty percent less than the going rate for the job as a skilled worker visa applicant who isn’t a new entrant has to be paid the minimum salary threshold of £25,600 or one hundred percent of the going rate for the job, whichever is the higher salary.
A student will meet the new entrant criteria if they are under the age of twenty-six or if:
- The most recent visa was a student visa and the student visa expired less than two years before the date of the skilled worker visa application and the student visa was for a UK bachelor’s degree or a UK master’s degree or a UK PhD or other doctoral qualification or a Postgraduate Certificate in Education or a Professional Graduate Diploma of Education and the student has completed or is making their skilled worker visa application no more than three months before the expected completion date or in the case of studies for a PhD the student has completed at least twelve months of study in the UK towards their PhD qualification or
- The student is in a postdoctoral position in a relevant occupation code, namely 2111 Chemical scientists, 2112 Biological scientists and biochemists, 2113 Physical scientists, 2114 Social and humanities scientists, 2119 Natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified, 2311 Higher education teaching professionals
- The student has a job offer in a UK regulated profession and the student is working towards a recognised professional qualification for that profession or
- The student is working for full registration or chartered status with their relevant professional body for the job they have been sponsored for.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
Moving from student to skilled worker isn’t straight forward for either sponsoring employers or students. If your business needs help with their Sponsor Licence or advice on students and the skilled worker visa the expert team of business immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors can advise you.
UK Immigration solicitors
OTS Solicitors are experts in immigration law and can help your business with its sponsor licence application and sponsor licence compliance through offering a full Sponsor Licence management service. Our friendly specialist immigration solicitors can also answer skilled worker visa questions. For the best advice on sponsor licences, work visa options and the skilled worker visa call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conference, Skype or by telephone appointment.