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UK Visas | The Careers Service UK Visas – Oxford University Careers Service
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General information

If you are thinking about staying in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to apply for a visa unless you are an EEA or Swiss national.

The rules about working in the UK are complex and change frequently. This is a brief guide to some of the options, but for full and up-to-date information, follow the web-links at the end of the page.

The Points Based System for immigration consists of different tiers (categories) of visas which allow people from outside the EEA/EU to work or study in the UK.

Working in the UK while a student

Depending on your status, it is possible to work in the UK whilst you are studying, and there are routes to work in the UK upon completion of your Oxford degree.

Tier 2 visas

Under Tier 2, licensed employers can sponsor applicants for a specific graduate-level job. There are special arrangements for applying in the UK for a Tier 2 visa for recent graduates, and DPhil students who have completed at least a year of their course. To qualify under this scheme you must have a suitable job offer from a licensed sponsor, have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, and meet financial and language requirements. The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) provides useful information about applying under Tier 2.

You can check whether an employer is a Tier 2 licensed sponsor by looking at the Home Office’s register. You will need to discuss with a prospective employer whether they are willing and able to sponsor you. The salary offered must be both at the appropriate level for the job and at least £20,800 per annum, whichever is higher. If you apply under the special arrangements for students, your employer is exempt from undertaking a Resident Labour Market Test.

It is also possible to apply under Tier 2 later from outside the UK, but this is more restrictive for both you and the employer.

Tier 4 - Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Tier 4 visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme allows DPhil students nearing the end of their studies to stay in the UK for one year afterwards – to seek and take work, or to be self-employed. You must be sponsored by the University and apply in the UK before you officially complete your studies. See the University’s ‘After Your Studies’ webpage for further advice.

Tier 1 - Graduate Entrepreneur Visa endorsement

The University of Oxford may endorse up to thirty graduates annually who have ‘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.’ The endorsement process is conducted by the Careers Service and is separate from the visa application, which is the second stage of the process and is administered by the Student Immigration team.

Successful endorsement applicants can apply for a visa for one year to develop their business idea. Visa holders can then apply for one further year to remain in the UK by being re-endorsed. Proof of satisfactory progression within the business is one of the requirements to be considered for a second endorsement. Additional employment is allowed to supplement income whilst the business is in development. The applicant’s dependent partner and children can also apply to remain in the UK.

The University of Oxford Careers Service invites students, graduates and post-doctoral researchers who wish to stay in the UK to develop their business ideas and who meet the eligibility criteria to apply for University endorsement. We are keen to support entrepreneurial activity at all levels and encourage all graduating students from any discipline and with any sort of business idea to apply. Previously endorsed businesses include:

  • Social enterprises and not-for-profits
  • Technology start-ups
  • Funding generation and investment organisations
  • Digital education tools
  • Energy research

Applications for endorsement are invited four times a year (once in each term and one in the long vacation). For dates of the current call for applications, please see CareerConnect or our blog, or email us.

Who is eligible?

  • Applicants must be non-EEA nationals who have received, or will receive, their degree from the University of Oxford or who are working at Oxford as a postgraduate with a Tier 2 visa. They must also:
    • have a genuine, credible and innovative business idea
    • not have previously been granted a Post Study Work visa
    • fulfil an English language requirement (automatically qualified by completing a degree taught in English at Oxford or another UK university)
  • Postdoctoral researchers currently working for the University on a Tier 2 (General) Migrant visa and who have graduated from a UK Higher Education Institution are also eligible to apply.

Information for existing visa holders

Be aware that Tier 4 and Tier 2 visa conditions do not allow holders of said visas to be self employed or engage in business. Be careful whilst working on any business idea for a Tier 1 G.E.V. endorsement application to avoid breaching the conditions of an existing visa.

How to apply

Applicants must apply through CareerConnect. If you do not yet have an account on CareerConnect, please register first. Endorsement is a competitive process and applicants will be required to show evidence that they have a genuine, credible and innovative business idea. Required documents include:

  1. CV
  2. Cover letter demonstrating:
    • Eligibility
    • Personal commitment to the entrepreneurial idea
    • Support needed and available from the university and elsewhere
    • Previous relevant experience in the service/product, as an entrepreneur, and in business
  3. A description of your business and progress to date. Applications will be judged on the following selection criteria:
    • Is this a genuine, credible and innovative business idea?
    • Can you demonstrate your ownership, or co-ownership, of the idea?
    • A short business plan that includes an assessment of market, competition, customers, service/product, and financial requirements (P&L).
    • Realistic and useful measures for assessing performance after 1 year
    • Is there evidence of progress to date that demonstrates a real commitment to getting the business started, including for example:
      • Feedback from current or potential users/customers?
      • Financing – actual and/or promised?
      • Contracts?
      • Formalising of the business—egg, incorporation/registration, website, domain names, offices?
  4. Additional information.A one page document that addresses the following three points:
    • Current status of the venture – idea, pilot, early operations (check one and provide one sentence details)
    • What is your stake to build the business in UK? (not more than 100 words to mark the argument explicitly)
    • What do you imagine the venture doing/being in 2 years? Please outline 5 key milestones along the way.

A termly call for applications (and one during the long vacation) will be announced on our blog. More detailed information about applying and required application documents will then be available on CareerConnect.

What should you bear in mind when making an application?

When writing your application, it is worth bearing in mind that the panel will be looking for evidence that you have a genuine, credible and innovative business idea. The panel will also want to understand why your business will benefit from being based in the UK and the potential reward for local and/or national economy to having said business based here. Some of the criteria the panel look for in an application include those listed below. It is beneficial to provide evidence you meet as many of these as possible.

  • Minimum UK Home Office criteria to apply for Tier 1 GEV
  • Personal commitment to the business
  • Support from the university and elsewhere
  • Previous relevant experience
  • Credible and innovative idea
  • Ownership, or co-ownership, of said idea
  • Feedback from current or potential users
  • Financing – actual and/or promised
  • Contracts and/or agreements in place
  • Formalising of the business
  • Realistic business plan
  • Realistic and useful performance measures


Further information

For information on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa application process (post endorsement) and eligibility please visit the UKVI website:

Other options

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa

Nationals aged under 31 of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea or Taiwan and non-citizen British nationals might be eligible to apply under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) for a two year visa to experience life in the UK, including taking employment. Visas are issued under a quota system, and you have to apply from your home country. More information can be found on the UK government website.

Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visa

You may be able to remain in the UK after completing a degree for an internship. The intern needs to be sponsored through a scheme for the placement. A separate organisation normally acts as sponsor for the employer’s internship programme. For information, visit the UKVI website.

UK Ancestry Visa

If you are a Commonwealth citizen with a grandparent born in the UK, you may be able to apply from your home country for a visa for five years to look for a job and work, on the basis of UK ancestry. See the UKVI website: UK Ancestry visa for more information.

Our resources

Regrettably, Careers Advisers cannot offer advice to students about their visa options beyond the information on this page.

We do, however, host regular talks at the Careers Service delivered by the Student Information and Advisory Service – for international students wanting to find out more about their visa options.

External resources
This information was last updated on 31 October 2017.
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