Tier 2 General

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

What is Tier 2 General?

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 (see 'Can I apply?' below).

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 much more complicated.

To apply for Tier 2 (General) you need a job offer from an employer that has, or is willing to apply for, a Tier 2 sponsor licence.  Your job must be graduate level (on the list of NQF Level 6 or PhD level jobs published in the Codes of Practice for Tier 2 sponsors). 

Once you have your job offer, to apply for Tier 2 you will need to meet the criteria for 70 points.

30 Points – Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) This is an electronic database record issued by UKVI to your employer. Your employer will process the CoS and give you a unique CoS reference number.

20 Points – Minimum salary Your CoS must confirm that you will be paid an annual gross salary of at least £20,800 (if you meet the 'new entrant' salary conditions and are applying in the UK) or the salary that is published in the Codes of Practice for the job offer you hold, whichever is the higher amount. Your employer will confirm your salary on your electronic CoS record. Many jobs now have a lower 'new entrant' minimum salary so you may now be more likely to meet the salary requirement (see more information below).

10 Points – Maintenance If you are a single graduate you will need to show you have maintained £945 every day for a 90 day period ending no more than 31 days before you apply. Alternatively if your employer is an A-rated sponsor they may certify on your CoS that they will maintain and accommodate you up to the end of your first month of employment if required.

10 Points – English language  You can claim 10 points for having a degree taught in English (must already have been awarded) or if you have a Tier 4 (General) student visa and your CAS was assigned on or after 21 April 2011.

Switching from Tier 4

Good news! There are special arrangements for students to make it simpler to qualify for the first 30 points. To claim 30 points for your CoS normally your employer has 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 if you meet the following requirements your employer will not need to do the RLMT:

  • You have current Tier 4/old-style Student leave for Aston University that has not expired AND
  • You have completed all academic work for your course or have completed a minimum of 12 months study in the UK towards a UK PhD during your current period of leave or a period of continuous leave which includes your last grant of leave AND
  • Your period of study was undertaken whilst you had a visa that allowed you to study (e.g. Tier 4) AND
  • You studied for the award at a UK recognised or listed body (Aston is) AND
  • You are applying inside the UK

You are also exempt from the RLMT if 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 an annual salary of at least £159,600. 

If you meet the above requirements this also means that you can switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 within the UK, your employer will be able to issue you with an unrestricted CoS (not subject to monthly limits), and you will be eligible for the lower 'new entrant' salary rate if your CoS is for up to three years.  

In order to benefit from the above arrangement you must have completed all of the assessments for your course. You will also need to be awarded a full degree or Masters once you get your final results.  If you will be awarded a certificate or diploma you are strongly advised to speak to an International Student Adviser in The Hub about the consequences of this. 

If you do not meet the above requirement you cannot apply within the UK.  If you apply outside the UK your employer must do the Resident Labour Market Test, they must apply for a restricted CoS and you may not be eligible for the new entrant salary rate so you may need to be paid more.

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 information 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 UKVI 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 £20,800 (if you qualify to be considered as a new entrant) 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. 

We recommend obtaining a hard copy of the CoS from your employer.  This makes it easier to complete your Tier 2 application.

As part of your Tier 2 General student visa application you will need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This will cost £400  for every year that your new visa will last and £200 for every period of up to 6 months that your new visa will last.  You will be asked to pay this fee as part of your online application and you do not need to register to do this separately.  Your visa adviser will be able to help you with this when you are ready to submit your application.  

Apply using the standard service

Tier 2 General applicants and dependants must apply online for a Tier 2 General application. If you are making a standard application inside the UK and for a Tier 2 General visa issued for no more than 3 years the fee is £704. You can expect your visa application to take roughly 6 weeks depending on the time of year you are applying. If your CoS is for more than 3 years the application fee is £1408.

Apply using the Tier 2 Priority Service

You can get a decision on your Tier 2 General visa within 10 working days if you apply through the Tier 2 Priority Service.  A priority Tier 2 visa application with a CoS of up to 3 years costs £1181. For a CoS of more than 3 years the current cost is £1885. 

Apply using the Premium Service 

You can pay an additional fee on top of the normal application fee in to get a decision on your visa application within 1 working day. You should be able to select this option when you complete the application 

Please discuss your options with an International Student Adviser for more information.

Applying outside the UK

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 much more complicated application therefore you are strongly advised to speak to an International Student Adviser in the Hub about this.   

Please note that you cannot apply inside the UK to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 if you will not be 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.

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

You should always get your form checked by an Adviser.  You will need to create an account on the UKVI website with log in and password and then complete and save each page.  If you book an appointment to see an International Student Adviser in The Hub we can check your form for you before submitting it online.  

If an Adviser is not available please use the example application form guide found here

Points to Consider

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 completed all necessary academic work and assessments for your course (or in the case of PhD students you have completed at least 12 months of a UK PhD course in the UK). You will need written confirmation that you have completed all academic work.  Please come to The Hub and book an appointment to see an Adviser for this.

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 appointmentwith an International Student Adviser for details.

What can Aston do to help?

The International Student Services Team 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 your Tier 2 application is decided.

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

  • 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). We recommend to obtain the full CoS statement from your Employer as this will help you complete your Tier 2 General application.

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 completed all necessary academic work 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.
  • 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.  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 employment 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 cannot start your Tier 2 job listed on your CoS until you have been granted your Tier 2 visa.  Alternatively, if you have already been awarded a UK degree (bachelors, masters or PhD), you are allowed to start your Tier 2 job while a decision is being made on your Tier 2 visa 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 and have been awarded a UK degree. 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.

 Checked and updated by VN 12/04/2019