Student Visa to Skilled Worker Visa

What are the new rules on Students switching to the Skilled Worker visa?

On January 17, 2024 | In Skilled Worker Visa | By A Y & J Solicitors Last Updated : January 18, 2024

Introduction

In the past, Student visa holders were able to transition to the Skilled Worker visa if they managed to secure eligible employment with a sponsor, provided they met all eligibility requirements of the Skilled Worker route. The switch could be made as soon as the sponsored employment was secured. This has now changed. 

New changes to the Student visa impose restrictions on when students can switch to the Skilled Worker route if they find sponsored employment in the UK. The rules require that students must have completed their course of study or have a work start date that is after the completion date of their course before they can switch to the Skilled Worker visa. 

The new rules were officially released on 17 July 2023 and came into effect almost immediately, at 3pm on the same day. This has been unlike any other change, where historically the Home Office has provided advanced notice of the date when new rules will take effect.

The new rules also mean that student visa holders cannot switch to a Skilled Worker dependant partner either, unless they complete their course or after the course completion date recorded on their Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This means that, where an international student’s partner has secured a sponsored job, the student cannot switch to becoming a dependent on their partner’s Skilled Worker visa until they complete their studies. 

Why has the Government made these changes?

The changes were brought forward by the Home Secretary at the time, Suella Braverman, with the intention to tighten the rules for migrants and to reduce net migration figures.

It came after recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that net migration has increased significantly to 745,000 in 2022, which is up from 184,000 in 2019. 

The Government announced that its move to restrict international students switching from the Student visa to the Skilled Worker visa before the completion of their course, is intended to prevent misuse of the visa system. The idea behind this is that the student visa route is for study, and migrants applying for a student visa should fulfil the purpose for which they have stated in their application, before moving on to work. 

What are the requirements for Students switching to the Skilled Worker visa?

To be eligible to switch to the Skilled Worker visa, a student must meet either one of the following conditions:

  1. They have completed the course of study for which they were being sponsored; OR
  2. They are studying a full-time degree level or above with a Higher Education Institution which has a track record of compliance and their Certificate of Sponsorship shows a start date no earlier than their course completion date; OR
  3. They are studying a full-time PhD with a Higher Education Institution which has a track record of compliance and their Certificate of Sponsorship has a start date no earlier than 24 months after the start of the PhD course.

To be able to transition into the Skilled Worker route, candidates must ensure they meet all other eligibility requirements of the route, including having a job on the eligible occupations list, meeting the minimum salary requirements for the occupation code, meeting English language requirements and having sufficient funds to support themselves (unless maintenance is certified by the sponsor). 

Although the newly imposed conditions require that the student must have completed their course before they can switch to the work route, it does not necessarily mean that you need to have received your final results or completed your graduation. If the student has secured a job with a sponsor, they can start working for the company once the course completion date on the CAS has passed, provided they have applied for the Skilled Worker visa. Students can apply for the Skilled Worker visa up to 3 months in advance of the work start date. Therefore, where students have secured a job, they can apply to switch to the Skilled Worker within the 3 months prior to their course end date. 

If applying under ‘option B’, employers must ensure that when assigning a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a candidate, the work start date must be after the course end date on their CAS. It would also be good practice to clarify the situation on a sponsor note on the CoS to avoid any questioning or delays by the Home Office. 

What are the requirements for Students switching to the Skilled Worker Dependant route? 

The new changes also affect those wanting to switch to the Skilled Worker Dependant route. Students must meet one of the following conditions to switch to the dependent visa:

  1. They have completed the course of study for which they were being sponsored; OR
  2. They are studying a full-time PhD with a Higher Education Institution which has a track record of compliance and their Certificate of Sponsorship shows a start date no earlier than 24 months after the start of the PhD course.

Whilst a dependant partner on a Student visa is free to switch to the Skilled Worker visa at any time, the main Student is not permitted to switch to become a dependant themselves, until they meet one of the conditions above.

Eligibility for Indefinite Leave to Remain

It is worth noting that any time spent on the student route, whether as the main applicant or dependant, does not normally count towards the qualifying time for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). You cannot combine time spent as a Student and Skilled Worker to qualify for the 5-year ILR, unless applying for the 10-year settlement route. Once a candidate switches to a Skilled Worker, they must complete 5 years of continuous residence to qualify for ILR. 

How AY&J Solicitors can help?

A Y & J Solicitors is a specialist immigration law firm with extensive experience with all types of applications, including switching from the Student route to the Skilled Worker route. We have an in-depth understanding of immigration law and are professional and results-focused. For assistance with your visa application or any other UK immigration law concerns, please contact us on +44 20 7404 7933 or contact us today. We’re here to help!

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