If you are an international student, it is important to be aware of the visas required to work in the UK and abroad after graduation. The following information should act as a signpost to resources, so that you can research your options thoroughly.

Working in the UK

I’m from an EEA country

No restrictions apply to students and graduates from member countries of the European Economic Area (EEA), i.e. the European Union, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland. Switzerland is not in the EU or EEA, but is part of the European single market, so Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the UK as other EEA nationals.

See gov.uk’s full list of EU and EEA countries

I’m from a Non-EEA country

Students from all non-EEA countries require entry by visa and various restrictions and conditions apply for work permits. You will be entitled to work up to 20 hours a week during term time. There is no restriction of hours for work during the holidays. You may require sponsorship from an employer to work in the UK.

See gov.uk’s register of licensed sponsors

More information

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has a wealth of information available on its website. As part of their ‘Study in the UK: a practical guide’, they have two sections particularly applicable for international students looking to work in the UK. These are ‘Can you work?’ and ‘Working after studies’.

Go to UKCISA website

Work Visas

The main work visa options for Non-EEA students are the:

Employers who are able to sponsor workers to work in the UK under both Tier 2 and 5 are listed on a register of licensed sponsors. With Tier 2 being the main visa route for those interested in working in the UK after their studies finish, students may find it useful to look through this register to determine if a potential employer would be licensed to employ migrant workers under this Tier. A number of employers will often state whether they are able to sponsor non-EEA workers in their job descriptions or application materials.

Although the stamp in your passport may say 'authorisation for work required', please note that the British Government has given this authorisation to all international students. Some employers may not be aware of this, so the onus might be on you to explain this to them. 

Further details on all visa application routes can be found on the gov.uk work visas website

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa

There is an immigration route for international students who are interested in developing their own businesses whilst in the UK. The UK Government states that this Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa is:

“For MBA and other UK graduates who have been identified by Higher Education Institutions as having developed genuine and credible business ideas and entrepreneurial skills to extend their stay in the UK after graduation to establish one or more businesses in the UK.”

Cranfield University can help with applications through their Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship and Business Incubation Centre.

We have put together a comprehensive Careers Factsheet on Entrepreneurs, which is available to download here. Further details on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa can also be found on gov.uk

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa

You can apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa if you’ve been endorsed in your field in science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or the arts as:

- a recognised leader (exceptional talent)
- an emerging leader (exceptional promise)

If you currently hold a Tier 4 visa and meet the requirements you would need to apply for your visa from outside the UK. Applicants who currently hold one of the following valid visas may apply from within the UK: any route under Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 5 (Temporary worker - Government Authorised Exchange) on an exchange scheme for sponsored researchers.

Designated Competent Bodies relevant to Cranfield students

The Royal Society – for endorsement applications in the natural sciences and medical science research field.
The Royal Academy of Engineering – for endorsements in the engineering field.
Tech City UK – for endorsements in the digital technology field.

Tier 2 (General) Visa

Tier 2 is main immigration route for working in the UK and is for skilled workers with a job offer. There are different categories within Tier 2 and the most relevant for international graduates is Tier 2 (General). This visa requires applicants to have received an offer of employment and the employer must provide you with a 'Certificate of Sponsorship' (CoS).

Further information on all areas of Tier 2 can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration webpages.

To obtain a Tier 2 (General) visa for you, your employer must:

- hold a Tier 2 sponsor licence
- offer you a 'graduate level' job
- allocate a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to you and
- offer the minimum applicable salary (the minimum annual salary is £20,800 per year for new entrants and for experienced workers is £30,000). Please note that for some occupations the minimum entry level salary will be a higher amount.

The visa can be granted for up to 5 years and will depend on the length of appointment and whether the job meets the 'new entrant' or 'experienced worker' salary rate.

Visit advice for job applicants for support and immigration advice for job applications at Cranfield University and UK Council for International Affairs (UKISA) who have helpful advice on your options during and after study.

Tier 4 Concessions

You can switch into a Tier 2 (general) visa from within the UK if you continue to hold a valid Tier 4 visa and meet all other eligibility requirements under the Tier 2 route.

The good news for your employer is that if you switch from a Tier 4 (general) visa to Tier 2 (general) visa within the UK, two concessions will apply that makes it easier for your employer to employ you.

The concessions are:

- your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) will be an unrestricted CoS which does not fall under the national annual limit, therefore it could be issued to you in a shorter timeframe. This annual limit only applies to applications made outside of the UK.
- your employer does not need to conduct a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).  The RLMT ordinarily requires a job to be advertised in a particular way and for sponsors to demonstrate that there are no suitable settled workers to fill the post.

We advise that when making job applications you check to make sure that the prospective employer is registered as a Tier 2 sponsor. When you complete the online application form or submit a covering letter, you can make the employer aware of the following:

- that as they are registered as a Tier 2 sponsor they can sponsor you for a Tier 2 visa,
- mention the two concessions above that apply for applicants moving from a Tier 4 to a Tier 2 visa in the UK,
- that you have a right to work in the UK, restricted to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time, and that under the Tier 4 rules following completion of your course1, you may work full time hours on the final remaining months of your visa as this is considered 'vacation time' by the Home Office (refer to the 'Can I work whilst in the UK?' section of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance).

Please note any early completion of a course needs to be reported to the Home Office and this may result in a change to your immigration permission and your ability to work, so it is always important to speak to your employer.

If you are an international PhD student, there is an immigration toolkit available to read on the jobs.ac.uk website, which you may find helpful.  

When can I apply and when can I start work?


For Masters students who have sat all exams and completed all academic work and the formal course end date has passed, you do not have to wait until your degree has been awarded before applying.

PhD students may apply for a Tier 2 visa once having completed at least 12 months of the course.

Starting work

If you have successfully completed your course and because Cranfield University is a recognised body or an institution in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution, you potentially might be able to start work with your Tier 2 employer before receiving a decision on your Tier 2 application, however you should discuss this with your Tier 2 sponsor.  A prospective employer might not want you to do this as it could lead to problems if your Tier 2 application is not successful. Your employer will let you know when you can start your job.

If you have made your Tier 2 application having completed your course, but are still awaiting results that confirm you have been successful, you will not be able to start your Tier 2 job until the Home Office grants your Tier 2 immigration permission. 

Visa application

Application form

Tier 2 applications made within the UK are submitted online


You are required to show you have held a minimum balance of £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days. This bank account must be in your name or a joint account with another person. If you have any dependants then the amount of maintenance you will need to show for each dependant is £630 per dependant.

If your sponsor is a fully approved (‘A-rated’) sponsor, they may certify maintenance for you, if you need it.  This means that they will provide the above sum for you if it becomes necessary.  Where your employer is happy to do this you do not have to provide evidence that you have this money. Check with your employer whether this is an option for you. Your sponsor would need to confirm this on the certificate of sponsorship.

Register of Sponsors Licensed under the Points based system includes Cranfield University as an A rated sponsor.  

Immigration Health Surcharge

Your application will in most cases include an immigration health surcharge.

Documents required for your application

- Passport
- Biometric Resident Permit (if your visa was issued in this format)
- Police Registration Certificate (only if you are from a country required to register and it must be up-to-date)
- 2 brand new passport size photos on a grey or light cream background
- Bank statements
- Degree certificate*
- Certificate of Sponsorship (Cos)

Please note that if you have been fully financially sponsored (all tuition fees and living expenses) by a government or international scholarship agency, and this funding ended less than 12 months before you intend to apply for this visa, you will need written permission from that sponsor to say they do not object to you applying for the visa.

* If you have completed your relevant eligible qualification, but have not received your final certificate or transcript, you have the option of submitting an official academic reference provided by your institution, confirming the details of your course and specifying the date you completed the course, having sat all exams and presented all academic papers (unless you were studying a PhD course where confirmation of 12 months' study is required).

Important links

- Find further information about the Tier 2 (General) visa on the gov.uk website
Tier 2 (General) Policy Guidance
- Information for employers on applying for a Tier 2 licence
UK Council for International Affairs (UKISA) - Working after studies UKISA

Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension) Visa

This visa route is only open to PhD students who are very near to the end of their studies. Even though this visa falls under the Tier 4 route it is a work visa which allows the applicant to remain in the UK for 12 months to work for any employer, look for work or set up a business.

If you wish to remain in the UK beyond this 12 month period you will need to move into another visa category for which you are eligible.

Important links

- Discover our Student Immigration and funding team page on this topic
- Further information is available about the Tier 4 (General) route on the gov.uk website

Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange)

This Government Authorised Exchange scheme is made up of 4 separate programmes:

- Work Experience Programme – for internships and job shadowing (12 month visa).
- Research Programme – for work on a specific scientific, academic, medical or government research project (24 month visa).
- Training Programme – to undertake a formal, practical training programme in Science and/or medicine. This would normally lead to a professional qualification (24 month visa).  
- Overseas Government Language Programme – for language teachers sponsored by their overseas government to carry out teaching placements in the UK (24 month visa).

Whichever programme you apply for, you will need to be sponsored by a ‘licensed overarching body’. These bodies are responsible for the running of the programmes and may help you to find a placement.

Sponsored Researcher - this is an exceptional sub-category which allows universities to sponsor individuals who are coming to the UK from overseas to undertake research at Cranfield and are being financially sponsored by an external organisation for up to 24 months. (Unless you are a sponsored researcher at a university – in this case, the university will be your sponsor). 

Important links

- Further information about the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) is available on the gov.uk website
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Policy Guidance
- List of Tier 5 government authorised exchange schemes
- Overarching bodies that can provide sponsorship: Access Tier 5 and Tier 5 Intern

Resources for Employers

Cranfield University creates global leaders in technology and management, and we are renowned for having a rich student body from culturally diverse backgrounds. With their combination of academic excellence, research capabilities and knowledge of real world applications, they are able to make valuable contributions to commercial objectives.

If you are an employer and need advice in relation to recruiting a non-EEA graduate, you can obtain it from UK and Visas and Immigration Employer Helpline via telephone 0300 123 4699 or by email. As a student, it is useful to be aware of this, should a potential employer have any questions.

For information on sponsoring a Tier 2 or 5 worker, employers should visit the UK Visas and Immigration's guidance for employers.

Making your business case to Employers

In order to be successful with any application for employment, you will need to provide evidence for your skills and abilities, as well as demonstrate your career motivation. We have a Learning Pack dedicated to the art of filling in an Application Form, which can be downloaded here; and a Factsheet on Speculative Applications which can be found here.

We would also recommend that you take the time to write a compelling Cover Letter, outlining the type of permit that you are looking for and any steps an employer would need to take in order to hire you. The Learning Pack related to this topic can be found here.

Finally, to be totally proactive and generate your own opportunities, you should read up on The Hidden Jobs Market to discover how to find roles that aren’t advertised; you can download our Factsheet on this here.

National Insurance Numbers

You can apply for a National Insurance Number if you have the right to work in the United Kingdom and you are looking for, or starting work.

How to obtain a National Insurance Number

NI Numbercard

Contact Jobcentre Plus, on 0345 600 0643, who will arrange an Evidence of Identity (EOI) interview for you or send you a postal application. Jobcentre Plus will confirm the date, time and location of the interview and will tell you what information/documentation is required for your interview or to support your postal application. Jobcentre Plus will use this interview or postal application to check your identity, and where applicable, your eligibility to work in the United Kingdom.

An example of National Insurance number would be AB 12 34 56 78 A

For further information on National Insurance numbers, please see the gov.uk website.

Resources for our International Students

We have teamed up with various companies to offer job hunting resources, specifically tailored to our international students. Two such resources are Student Circus and Goin Global.

Student Circus

Student Circus

Cranfield University have signed up with Student Circus to bring our international students greater access to jobs within the UK. All employers on the site are:

- confirmed as willing to sponsor the UK Work Visa
- verified as offering salaries per immigration rules
- licensed with the Home Office
- able to provide expert immigration advice

By using the site, our international students can expect to:

- get prepared for the UK job market and build a network
- discover structured and formal paid internships designed with flexibility
- improve their chances to get a job with the same company

All Cranfield students will receive a log-in to Student Circus once they arrive on campus.

Goin Global

Goin Global

GoinGlobal helps job and internship seekers find opportunities both at home and abroad. They are an expert-created, constantly updated career resource committed to providing “grassroots employment intelligence” through their team of local career experts. These globally-minded individuals are in place around the world, personally monitoring and updating the career information and resources that GoinGlobal delivers to you.

We have two subscriptions with GoinGlobal, the standard site and a USA-specific version.

These help students by:

- facilitating successful international employment experiences.
- providing a complete tool kit of resources to support informed career decisions.
- delivering useful and unique material that is hand-gathered at its source, not simply compiled from publicly available internet sources.
- providing information that is location-specific and global in perspective.
- delivering useful, actionable information that is constantly expanding to meet the evolving needs of global job seekers.
- supporting organisations​ as they promote globalisation, understanding that experiencing another culture is the first step towards becoming one global community.

All Cranfield students will receive a log-in to GoinGlobal once they arrive on campus.

Visa and Immigration advice at Cranfield

The Student Immigration and funding team can offer support and advice for your own personal circumstances. Follow this link to find their webpage with further information and contact details.