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Advice and Counselling Service

Visas for working after your studies

Below are the main immigration categories for international students who want to remain in the UK to work in the UK right after their studies, or in the future. 

The Advice and Counselling Service at Queen Mary also runs joint briefing sessions with the QM Careers & Enterprise Service each semester, to explain the main possible immigration routes for international students who wish to remain in the UK to work.  Book a place on the Careers website.

Skilled Worker Route

Under the Skilled Worker Route you would be sponsored by an employer to undertake a specific job in the UK. In order to sponsor you under the Skilled Worker Route, your employer must be listed on the UKVI Register of Sponsors (please note this is updated daily). You can switch to this route from your Student immigration permission in the UK, and you can also apply outside the UK.  

The Skilled Worker Route is part of the Points Based System. There are 50 non-tradable (mandatory) points as follows: 

  • Certificate of Sponsorship from a Sponsor listed on UKVI’s register of sponsors (20 points) 
  • Job at appropriate skill level (RQF level 3 or above) (20 points) 
  • English language at B1 level or above (10 points) Your degree from Queen Mary will evidence that you meet the English language requirement. 

You must meet all of the above requirements in order to be eligible for the Skilled Worker Route. 

You will also need to obtain an additional 20 points from the list of tradeable points. See the section 'attributes' for further details about the tradeable points, the minimum salary you need to earn, the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) issued by your employer and the funds which you may to show in your bank account.  

Eligible family members can come to or stay in the UK as your dependants.  

If you are intending to work at Queen Mary, see the guidance from Queen Mary's Human Resources departmentand contact HR if you have questions about eligibility or the Skilled Worker visa application process.  

Attributes: CoS, salary

Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) 

If you are successfully recruited to a post, and you are eligible for the Skilled Worker Route, your employer will issue you with a CoS number. You will need to write the CoS number in your Skilled Worker application. 


In addition to the mandatory 50 points, you will also need to obtain an additional 20 points from the list of tradeable points. Many students will meet option E, wording copied below, but you can check paragraph SW 4.2 of Appendix Skilled Worker for the full list of tradeable points available. 

E Applicant is a new entrant to the labour market and their salary equals or exceeds both: 
• £20,480 per year; and 
• 70% of the going rate for the occupation code 

There are a number of criteria which you can meet to be considered a 'new entrant' including being under the age of 26 on the date of application, or meeting all of the below conditions: 

'(i) the applicant’s most recent permission was as a Student: and 

(ii) that permission expired less than 2 years before the date of application; and 

(iii) in that permission or any previous permission as a Student, the applicant was sponsored to study one of the following courses (not any other qualifications of an equivalent level): 

  • 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 

(iv) the applicant has completed (or is applying no more than 3 months before they are expected to complete) the course in (iii) above, or the applicant is studying a PhD and has completed at least 12 months study in the UK towards the PhD. 

Granting the application must not mean the applicant’s combined permission as a Skilled Worker and/or Tier 2 Migrant would be more than 4 years in total, whether or not the permission is for a continuous period.' 

If you meet the option E requirements, your salary should be above £20,480 and also above 70% of the salary listed for your job in the Occupation Codes. The salary needs to be above whichever is highest out of these two. 

The Occupation Codes can be found in Appendix Skilled Occupationsof the Immigration Rules. You can ask your employer for the occupation code, so that you can calculate the required salary level for that job.

Attributes: Maintenance, English language


If you have been in the UK with immigration permission for the previous 12 months before you apply under the Skilled Worker Route, then you automatically meet the financial requirement and do not need to show funds. 

If you are applying outside the UK, or have been in the UK less than 12 months you must show either £1270 for at least 28 days in line with Appendix Finance of the Immigration Rules, or your sponsor can certify the maintenance for you.  

English language 

There are a number of ways which you can meet the English language requirement, including if your degree was taught in English. Your QMUL degree will meet this requirement. 

Where can I find out more information about the Skilled Worker Route?

Start-up category 

This is a category of immigration permission which allows you to work on your business in the UK. If you have a business idea which is innovative, viable and has potential to scale, you can apply to have your business idea assessed by an endorsing body. Endorsing bodies include leading business organisations and Higher Education Institutions. Queen Mary University of London is an endorsing body. If your business idea is accepted, and the endorsing body agrees to endorse you, they will issue you with an endorsement letter which will be needed as part of your application for immigration permission under the Start-up category.  

Eligibility for the Start-up category 

You must meet all of the below requirements to be eligible for the Start-up category 

  • You must have an endorsement letter from an endorsing body 
  • If you have already been in the UK for at least 12 months with immigration permission, and are applying from inside the UK, you automatically meet the financial requirement. If you apply from outside the UK, or from inside the UK but have not been in the UK with permission for 12 months, you must have held at least £1270 in your bank account for at least 28 consecutive days before you apply  
  • You must meet the English language requirement. You will meet this requirement if you have completed a degree level course or above at Queen Mary. You will also meet this requirement if you have already proved your level of English to be B2 or above as part of an earlier successful application, e.g. for a Student visa application 

Check the UK government website to see which documents you will need to provide with your application.  

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

You will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your application. This will cost £624 per year of permission granted. 

Can I apply for the Start-up category in the UK?

You can apply for the Start-up category in the UK if you have current, valid immigration permission in any category EXCEPT in one of the following categories: 

  • Visitor; 
  • Short-term Student; 
  • Parent of a Child Student; 
  • Seasonal Worker; 
  • domestic worker in a private household; 
  • outside the Immigration Rules. 

You must apply before your current immigration permission expires.

How long can I stay in the UK in the Start-up category?

You can spend up to two years in the UK under the Start-up category. You cannot extend this visa. Time spent with Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) immigration permission will count towards the two years. 

After two years, you can check if you are eligible to apply for the Innovator route if you want to continue working on your business.  

Can I be endorsed by Queen Mary University of London?

Yes, Queen Mary is an endorsing body. To apply for a Start-up Visa through Queen Mary, you must be a Queen Mary graduate. 

See  Queen Mary's Careers and Enterprise website for details about how to apply to be endorsed by Queen Mary. You will find the following information: 

  • When to apply for endorsement 
  • Application process and selection 
  • Scoring criteria 
  • How to apply for an endorsement 
  • Monitoring and reporting under the Scheme 
  • Funding your business  

When can I start my business?

Tier 4 students who had their last Tier 4 visa granted before 1 October 2019 can only engage in business activities once their Start-up visas have been granted. 

Students who had their last Student visa granted on or after 1 October 2019 may engage in business activities once they have applied to the Home Office for their Start-up visa.  

How long will it take to receive my Start-up visa?

If you apply to switch to the Start-up route within the UK, it will take approximately 8 weeks to receive your visa after you have attended your appointment. You must apply before your current Student visa expires and then your Student permission continues until you have received a decision on your application.  

Can I apply for a Start-up visa from outside the UK? 

Yes. Check the guidance on the UK government website. 

What’s the difference between Graduate route and Start-up Visa?

The Start-up route provides two years for people to start and grow a business in the UK, providing it meets the criteria. You also would not need £50,000 to switch to the Innovator Route.  

If you are in the UK on the Start-up route then you are permitted to bring dependants. You are not permitted to bring dependants if you are in the UK on the Graduate Route.   

The Graduate Route offers more flexibility in that you can undertake most work, including employment and self-employment and you can also be looking for work. You are not permitted to work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. Please see our guidance for further details on the route. 

Can I switch from Graduate route to Start-up Visa?

The Graduate route allows you to be self-employed and run a business, and while in theory someone can switch from the Graduate route to the Start-up route, there is a potential problem. A requirement of switching to the Start-up route is that you have not previously established a business in the UK that has started trading.  

So if you want to switch from the Graduate route to Start-up, it is important that you do so before your business has started trading. This means you will either need to defer your start of trading until late in your Graduate permission, or be prepared to switch to Start-up part-way through your Graduate permission and "lose" the rest of your Graduate permission. 

For more information about how to check whether a business has started trading please check the UKCISA website.  

Government Authorised Exchange, Mobility Scheme and other immigration categories

Government Authorised Exchange

Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) is a temporary worker route. The GAE strand allows you to spend up to 2 years in the UK. You can switch from Student to GAE in the UK if you have completed your degree. Sponsorship is required for this route, but you do not have to meet the salary requirements of the Skilled Worker Route, and you would usually be sponsored by an umbrella organisation, rather than the company you are working for.  

  • You must show a minimum of £1270 for at least 28 days before you apply or your sponsor could certify the maintenance for you. 
  • You must meet the sponsor's requirements including the level of the job. 

Some GAE sponsors are organisations which allow you to find a job, and will liaise with you and your employer to arrange the Certificate of Sponsorship. Please note that these companies are likely to charge a fee to either you or your potential employer. These organisations include Tier5intern and Access Tier 5. We recommend that you read the requirements of the scheme carefully before applying for one of the schemes.  

If you are interested in working for Queen Mary under the GAE route as a sponsored researcher, then you should refer to Queen Mary's Human Resources department for more details and contact information.  

Youth Mobility Scheme

This scheme allows nationals of certain countries to work in the UK for up to two years. 

The scheme is available to nationals of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Taiwan, and to British Overseas Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Nationals (Overseas). 

You cannot switch into this immigration category from within the UK. Instead, you need to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance from your home country. You must be aged between 18 and 30, and you must have at least £2530 in your personal bank account for at least 28 consecutive days before you apply.  

See the UK government website for further details.  

Other immigration categories

There may be other immigration categories you can apply to that allows you to stay in the UK and work at the end of your studies. You can find information about other categories including UK Ancestry, Turkish workers, and Innovator and other 'high value migrants' on the website of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA). 

If you need specialised immigration advice about one of these other categories, you can get legal advice by contacting an immigration adviser. Make sure that the immigration adviser you choose is authorised to provide immigration advice and services by the Office for the Immigration Services Commissioner or other regulatory body. 
You can find other regulated advisers through: 

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