Tier 2 General

Switching to Tier 2 General inside the UK to work after your studies

Tier 2 General is the best option for most students hoping to work in the UK after their studies. Tier 2 of the points based immigration system in the UK is for skilled migrants with a job offer. To be able to apply for Tier 2, you need 70 points and a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer who holds a Tier 2 sponsor licence.

The information on this page assumes that you currently hold a Tier 4 General visa, and that you will be applying for Tier 2 inside the UK. If you hold another type of visa or plan to apply from home, please contact an International Student Adviser as soon as possible for detailed advice as this will make the application more complicated.

Changes from 01 July 2014 (Increased Maintenance)

From 01 July 2014 the amount that you needed to show for maintenance increased from £900 to £945.  You must hold this amount for a full 90 day period. 

Changes from 06 April 2014

  • Please note that for Tier 2 visa applications made on or after 06 April 2014 the application fee will increase from £578 to £601.  Any Tier 2 General visa application made on or after 06 April 2014 will be charged at this new cost.  The cost of a Tier 2 Dependant visa will also increase from £434 to £601, in line with the main applicant cost.

  • The minimum salary will increase from £20,300 per year to £20,500 per year for Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned on or after 06 April 2014. However if the salary for the job that the CoS is issued for is higher than £20,500 on the Codes of Practice you must be paid at this higher amount.

  • The 'high salary' exemption from the Resident Labour Market Test will increase from £152,100 to £153,500 if the applicant is recruited on or after 06 April 2014.

  • There are some changes to the minimum salary for various jobs in the Codes of Practice, such as PhD level jobs for which the minimum salary will increase.

  • For decisions made on or after 06 April 2014 the Tier 2 General visa can be granted for the full five years, rather than the current maximum of 3 years removing the need to make a visa extension application after 3 years.  However whether you can apply for leave for the full 5 year period depends on what end date your employer has put on your CoS.  You will be granted the visa in line with the length of employment. Please note that the application cost is higher if the visa is to be issued for 5 years. 

Minimum Salaries from 06 April 2013

The Home Office introduced lower "new entrants" wages on 6th April 2013 for Tier 2 (General).  This is for recent graduates switching from a Tier 4 Student visa to a Tier 2 General visa who meet the post study work provisions as outlined below.  Applicants who will be aged 25 or under on the date of application can also be paid at the new entrant salary level.  For example, a new entrant Financial Manager will be expected to earn at least £25,600 rather than the experienced worker salary of £37,500 and a new entrant Business Analyst will be expected to earn at least £24,900 rather than the experienced worker salary of £30,600.  The salaries are listed on the codes of practice, available here.

Once you have your job offer, to apply for Tier 2 you will need to meet the criteria for 70 points. You can also have a look at the UKBA points based calculator (click on the hyperlinked text 'PBS Calculator') which will give you an initial idea of whether you have enough points to apply.

 Points required How it works
How most students will meet the criteria
30 points for your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) You will need 30 points for your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which is an electronic database record issued by UKVI to your Tier 2 Sponsor. You will be given a unique number associated with your CoS. Your job must be at graduate level, and your job title must most closely match a job in the Code of Practice at NQF level 6.

Good news! There are special arrangements for students to make it simple to qualify for the first 30 points. See first bullet point below.

To claim 30 points for your CoS, normally your employer will need to have completed the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). This test relates to how the job has been advertised, and means that the employer has to prove that the job cannot be filled by any other worker already settled in the UK or EU.

However there are four situations in which the RLMT is not needed and in which you will be automatically awarded the 30 points:

  • You are applying inside the UK with a Tier 4/old-style Student visa and you have recently been awarded a Bachelor's, Master's or PhD degree or completed 12 months study in the UK towards a UK PhD OR
  • You are applying  inside the UK with a Tier 1 PSW visa OR
  • Your job is on the shortage occupation list OR
  • You hold a job offer with a salary of at least £153,500 per year.
  • Current Tier 4/Student visa
  • Applying inside the UK
  • Recently been awarded a BSc/MSc or completed 12 months of PhD

To claim these points you will need to submit a special document called the Tier 2 General Academic Reference (see documents list below for more information).

Please note that you must always have had immigration permission to study in the UK during your Aston course. If you are unsure about this, contact an International Student Adviser.

Please note that you cannot apply inside the UK to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 if you have not been awarded a full degree eg Bachelors or Masters. If you will be awarded a certificate or diploma you are strongly advised to speak with an International Student Adviser about the consequences of this.
20 points for a salary of £20,500+ or an appropriate rate of pay You will be awarded 20 points for being paid at a gross salary of £20,500 or above per year OR for earning the appropriate rate of pay for the job offer you hold, as published in the Codes of Practice for Tier 2 Sponsors, whichever is the higher amount. The job must be on the list of NQF level 6 (degree level) jobs as per the codes of practice. Your sponsor will confirm your salary on your electronic CoS record. They will also check which job category in the codes of practice is most appropriate for the vacancy.
Since April 2013 many jobs now have a lower 'new entrant' minimum salary so you may now be more likely to meet the salary requirement.
10 points for having sufficient savings A single graduate needs £945 for every moment of every day for a 90 day period ending no more than 31 days prior to application.                 
Alternatively, your sponsor (A-rated sponsors only) may certify on the CoS that they will maintain and accommodate you up to the end of your first month of employment in the United Kingdom if required. Your sponsor may limit the amount of the undertaking but any limit must be at least £945

Put £945 in a current or normal savings account and keep it separate and safe for 90 days before you plan to apply. You will need bank statements as evidence (see document list below for details). 

10 points for speaking English 10 points will be awarded for having a degree taught in English or otherwise meeting the English language requirements. Please note your degree must already have been awarded - ie: you have your final results on MAP.

You can also be awarded 10 points automatically and will not have to provide documentation for English Language if:

  • you have ever been granted leave as a Tier 4 (General) student where the CAS used to support your application for that grant was assigned on or after 21 April 2011. 


You can use your Aston degree. You will already be submitting the Tier 2 General Academic Reference, which will also confirm that your degree was taught in English (see documents list below for more information).

For further information, visit the UK Visas & Immigration website to download the policy guidance. Please note, however, that the guidance is confusing and some topics are mentioned more than once, with different wording. The table above is a summary of the guidance relevant to Tier 2 General for most students applying in the UK. You are strongly advised to book an appointment with an International Student Adviser for help navigating the Tier 2 rules, unless your sponsor’s legal department is confidently handling your application.

To check if your prospective employer is already a Tier 2 sponsor, check the UKBA register of sponsors. You'll need to find the company name and then check that the licence covers Tier 2 General (right-hand columns in the table). Aston staff can't advise your employer about applying for a licence, but if necessary you can direct them to the information on the UKVI website.  There is also a sponsor helpline provided by UKVI, details of which are on the link above. 

What else do I need to ask my employer?

Once you have confirmed that your employer is a Tier 2 sponsor and can issue you with an unrestricted Certificate of Sponsorship, you need to find out some of the details of your CoS so that you can check your eligibility and complete your application form accurately. Your employer will normally give you your CoS number automatically, but you may need to request the other details below:

  • What is your employer's sponsor licence number?
  • What company name and address are associated with the Tier 2  sponsor licence?
  • On which date was your CoS assigned?
  • What is the exact job title on the CoS? You'll need to check the codes of practice to confirm that your job is classified at NQF level 6 and to find out what UK Visas & Immigration considers to be an appropriate salary. Then write the job title in the appropriate place on your application form.
  • What salary is stated on the CoS? Find out the gross salary and any additional allowances that your employer has stated on the CoS. Some allowances can be included to help you reach the total minimum salary of £20,500 or the appropriate salary, whichever is higher.
  • Has your employer confirmed on the CoS that they will certify your maintenance? If they are an A-rated sponsor and have agreed to cover your maintenance, you don't need to show any bank statements.

If you are applying inside the UK, you have two ways to apply for Tier 2:

You then have the choice of the standard service (send your documents by post) or the premium service (go in person for a quicker, more expensive decision). Please discuss your options with an International Student Adviser for more information.

Please note that you cannot apply inside the UK to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 if you have not been awarded a full degree eg Bachelors or Masters. If you will be awarded a certificate or diploma you are strongly advised to speak with an International Student Adviser about the consequences of this.

If you are applying outside the UK you will need to apply online, unless you are applying in Cuba or North Korea. The link is available from UKVI website. Applying outside the UK is a more complicated application therefore you are strongly advised to speak to an International Student Adviser in the Hub about this.

How do I complete the application form for applying in the UK?

You should always get your form checked by an adviser.  The current version of the form is version 04/2014.
Please click here for an annotated version of the paper application form

which we have prepared and which may help you to complete your application form.

When can I apply?

There are several issues that you need to consider when deciding when to apply for Tier 2:

  • You must apply within three months of the date your Certificate of Sponsorship was issued.
  • You must apply no more than three months before the start date on your Certificate of Sponsorship. If this is not possible, you should contact your sponsor.
  • If you are applying from inside the UK, you must have a current visa as a student, so you’ll need to apply before your current leave expires.
  • You cannot apply until you have been awarded and your results are released on MAP. If your results do not appear on MAP and you have been notified of your award in writing, please come to The Hub Advice Zone for help getting your Tier 2 General Academic Reference.

Biometrics (Fingerprints and Photograph)

Tier 2 visas are issued as Biometric Residence Permits (a card) instead of a sticker in your passport. UKVI will write to you after they have taken your payment, asking you to give your fingerprints and photograph as part of your application for the Biometric Residence Permit.


If you are in the UK with dependants separate application forms must be completed for them and the amount of money in your bank account needs to be much more than £945. Please book an appointment with an International Student Adviser for details.

What can Aston do to help?

Through The Hub Advice Zone, Aston can:

  • Help you check if you're eligible to apply for Tier 2, and if you can apply inside the UK.
  • Check your application including all relevant documents.
  • Point you towards specific pieces of information in the UKVI guidance for employers and sponsors, if you are asked for this by your employer.
  • Help explain the work conditions of your visa to your employer, for example if you need to start work with your Tier 4 visa before you Tier 2 application is decided.

Due to UK law and the nature of our immigration advice service:

  • We cannot send the application for you by post or come with you to your appointment.
  • We cannot give detailed advice to employers about applying for a Tier 2 sponsor licence or what they need to do as your sponsor. It is the employer's responsibility to check this, and to get appropriate legal advice where necessary. It is also their responsibility to make appropriate checks when issuing your Certificate of Sponsorship.  Aston's advisers are qualified only to advise you as a student/recent graduate.
What documents do I need?

General documents:

  • Current passport
  • Previous passport, if you have one
  • Biometric Residence Permit, if you have one
  • Police Registration certificate (up to date), if this is a requirement of your visa
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) – this is not a document, but an electronic record.

Your employer will give you a CoS reference number, which you will need to write clearly on the application form in the correct box. You should check with your employer that all the relevant information has been included on the CoS record (see Tier 2 policy guidance).

Your studies in the UK:

  • Original “Tier 2 General Academic Reference” needed if applying in the UK to switch from Tier 4/Student visa, requested from MAP and collected at The Hub Advice Zone or from an adviser. You must have been awarded (received your results) before you can request this letter. This is not a normal academic reference from your tutor. You cannot use your degree certificate to prove you qualify to switch Tiers because the degree certificate does not confirm the course duration. Please note that if you are an MSc student or an MA student whose results are released before the end of their course, you will need to contact Laura Bryan for a bespoke Academic Reference. The online version will not suffice.
  • Your original academic transcript if you are using your Aston degree to prove English Language ability and you have not yet graduated or 
  • Original degree certificate, if you are using your Aston degree to prove English Language ability and you have already graduated or
  • Original test certificate, if for any reason you need to use a test to prove English Language ability.

Your financial situation:

  • Personal bank statements covering a 90 day period (with £945 in the account for every minute of every day, ending no more than 31 days before your application. Ad-hoc statements printed in branch must be on bank stationery. Electronic statements will need a stamp on every page.

Example bank statement: We now have an example copy of what your bank statements should include. Please note this is an example and must not be used with any visa application.

  • If your A-rated sponsor has said that that they will maintain and accommodate you up to the end of your first month of employment if necessary, you do not need to provide bank statements, but you must make sure that they have stated this on the CoS.
  • If you have held a full sponsorship that covered all tuition fees and living costs (eg: from your home government) in the last 12 months, you will also need a letter from the sponsor giving permission for your Tier 2 application (see Tier 2 policy guidance). The letter must give unconditional permission for your Tier 2 application.

National Insurance Number

As with any employment in the UK,  you need to apply for your National Insurance Number, if you don't already have one. You can start work before you get it, but you should apply once you have been offered the job.

How long can I stay under Tier 2?

If this is your first application for Tier 2, your visa can be granted in the following circumstances:

  • For a period equal to the length of engagement as shown on your CoS plus 14 days or
  • Up to a maximum period of 5 years plus 1 month based on the start date on your CoS


Most employers apply for an initial 3 year visa.  If this is the case, then you can apply to extend your stay under Tier 2, your visa may be given for another 3 years, or for the period of time you need to take your total leave granted in Tier 2 to 5 years, whichever is shorter. You cannot stay under Tier 2 for longer than 6 years in total.  After this period under Tier 2, those wishing to settle in the UK will need to meet a salary requirement of at least £35,800 (if applying after 6th April 2019) per year unless you are working in a Shortage Occupation or are in a designated PhD level job. For more details, please see the latest news release.

Can I start my job while I'm waiting for my visa?

As long as you are allowed to work with your Tier 4 (General) or old-style Student visa, it has always been possible after the official end of your course to work full-time for 4 months (or until the end of your visa, if shorter). The usual conditions of your student visa apply, eg. you can work full-time but not fill a permanent vacancy or be self-employed. If you make a valid application for a new visa before the end of your existing visa, you can also continue to work until a decision is made on your application.

You are also allowed to start your Tier 2 job while a decision is being made on your Tier 2 application. This means that you can take up a full-time job that fills a permanent position, as long as you have applied under Tier 2 in order to continue in that job. As usual this will be at your risk and that of your employer, and your continued employment will be conditional on the new Tier 2 visa being granted.

For more information, please visit the UKCISA website.



Page last checked and updated 15 January 2015 MA

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research