UK Visas

For full and up-to-date information on UK Visas, follow the external web-links at the end of the page.

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.

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The Graduate Route will open for applications on 1 July 2021. 

This is an opportunity to apply for a visa to allow you to remain in the UK to work, or look for work, for 2 years if you have completed an undergraduate, PGCE, or Master's degree, or 3 years if you have completed a DPhil. You do not need a job offer and you do not need to be sponsored by the University or an employer. This new route is a great opportunity to build experience in the UK across a variety of sectors. Some describe it as a way for employers and students to ‘try before you buy’ unlike the Skilled Worker visa which requires sponsorship. However, you may find that employers take some time to understand all aspects of the new visa routes being introduced in 2021. Some employers may prefer to invest longer term in international students and so may prefer the Skilled Worker Visa (see below). To be eligible for the Graduate Route, you will need to have completed your course and be in the UK with a valid Tier 4 or Student visa. 

If you started your studies remotely in Autumn 2020 and have not yet travelled to the UK, you will need to be in the UK by 21 June 2021 to be able to apply for the visa. See the Oxford Student Immigration team’s frequently asked questions about the Graduate Route resource for a list of really useful answers to complex questions.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs also has some further information about the route and produced a helpful webinar on Graduate Route. The full statement of the changes from the Government is on pages 45-51. 

The University of Oxford endorses applicants whose business proposals demonstrate innovation, viability, and scalability. The endorsement process is run by the Careers Service. It 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 two years to develop their business idea. Proof of satisfactory progression within the business is required to keep an endorsement. Additional employment is allowed to supplement income whilst the business is in development. The applicant’s dependent partner and any children can also apply to come to or remain in the UK.

The University of Oxford Careers Service invites all those 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, from any discipline, and with any sort of business idea. 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. For dates of the current call for applications, please see our News section, or email us on hello@careers.ox.ac.uk

Who is eligible?

  1. Applicants must meet one of the following requirements:
    • Have received, or will receive, their degree from the University of Oxford.
    • Are working at Oxford as a postgraduate with a Tier 2 visa.
    • Are working at the University as research staff.
    • Be referred for endorsement by an Oxford University programme or entity.
  2. They must also:
    • have a business plan that demonstrates innovation, viability, and scalability.
    • not have previously established a business in the UK
    • fulfil an English language requirement (automatically qualified by completing a degree taught in English at Oxford or another UK university; applicants who have not completed a degree taught in English will need to provide other formal proof)

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 Start-up visa endorsement application to avoid breaching the conditions of an existing visa.

How to apply

Applicants must apply by email to startup.visa@careers.ox.ac.uk. Endorsement is a competitive process and applicants will be required to show evidence that they have a innovative, scalable and viable idea.  Before submitting an application each applicant should plan to attend the information session or, if they are unable to attend, contact startup.visa@careers.ox.ac.uk to discuss their application.

For more, see the details we shared in our Information session presentation (pptx).

Key resource:

Application Template (doc)

 

Basic Criteria and Business Plan

You can download the application template. Please pay attention to the maximum number of pages allowed for each part, any pages in excess of these limits will not be reviewed. Your CV should also be attached and all three parts should be submitted as a single PDF.

A termly call for applications will be announced on our News page. All applications should be submitted as a single PDF by email.

If we receive too many applications for one round, we may ask those applicants whose current visas are not in danger of expiring to resubmit for the following round of applications.

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 an innovative, viable, and scalable business idea, specifically:

  • Innovative: a genuinely new idea, perhaps based on a combination of existing technology and a new market. For example, proposing to expand an existing business currently based in another country into an established UK market would not meet this criterion.
  • Viable: how sustainable is the business? Will it rely purely on the goodwill of your friends, or will your funding be crowdsourced? How will it reach the relevant financial thresholds within 2 years so that you can transition to another visa?
  • Scalable: attractive business ideas will employ people (and pay taxes!). Proposals for single person tutoring businesses are not necessarily scalable and would be rejected.

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 Start- up visa
  • Personal commitment to the business
  • Support from the university and elsewhere
  • Previous relevant experience
  • Innovative, viable, and scalable 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

If your application is unsuccessful

We aim to provide feedback for each applicant that is invited to attend an interview and all applicants are welcome to apply again.

If you feel that your application was not judged fairly or was assessed using criteria not clearly stated in the guidelines you can request a review of the decision. This review will assess whether the decision was made based on our own published criteria as well as the guidance from the Home Office.

Candidates can submit no more than two applications for endorsement. Any new application must incorporate feedback and/or be materially different from an application submitted previously in order to be considered.

Further information

For information on the Start-up visa application process (post endorsement) and eligibility please visit the UKVI website:

If you would like to receive email updates on upcoming deadlines as well as information sessions you can sign up to our Start-up Visa mailing list.

Applicants who have been offered a job by an employer who holds a license and have been issued a Certificate of Sponsorship are eligible for the Skilled worker visa category.

For a Skilled worker visa application, the salary offered must be appropriate to the type of work and be at least £20,480. If you switch into this category from a student visa. or within 2 years, your qualifying salary could be 70% of the usual level for the type of work. The Skilled Worker route is new, having launched on 1 December 2020, so you may find that employers take some time to understand all aspects, especially the key differences from the old Tier 2 route that it has replaced and the new Graduate Route launching in July 2021. Many graduate employers who invest long term in hiring graduates are likely to use the skilled worker visa instead of Graduate Route since the latter is more time limited. However, further research on employer views of the new visa options will have to be undertaken in 2021/2022 to understand which visa route the majority of UK employers are using to hire international students.

In order to apply for skilled worker visa from within the UK, if your last visa granted was as a student, you will have to show that you have completed, during the period of that visa, or a previous visa which you have now extended, a degree or at least one year of your DPhil. If you have finished your course at the University you can include a Degree Certificate, Final Academic Transcript or a Degree Confirmation Letter to prove that that you meet this requirement. You will not need to meet the maintenance requirement if you apply to switch into this visa in the UK and have held a student visa for the last 12 months. For further information, see the Home Office requirements

Update 5 March 2021: this scheme will close when the Graduate Route (see above) opens on 1 July 2021.
You cannot apply for the Graduate Route after being issued a Doctorate Extension Scheme visa so consider your options now before you apply. 
For information about choosing between the two routes see the frequently asked questions document above.

The Doctorate Extension Scheme is for students who are close to finishing their DPhil. The scheme is part of the Student visa route meaning applicants need sponsorship in the form of a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from their department to apply for a visa extension.

The visa will be granted for 12 months from the expected completion date on the CAS and allows holders to seek and take work in the UK without needing a job offer in advance or for your employer to sponsor your visa. You would also be able to be self employed.

You can use the year simply for work experience or, if you found qualifying work with a licensed employer, you may be able to progress to the Skilled Worker route (formerly Tier 2). If you are setting up a business you may be able to go on to apply under the start-up and innovator visa categories. During the year you will need to keep in contact with the University as your sponsor for the scheme.

As it is not possible to apply once you have completed your DPhil, you should speak to the Graduate Studies Assistant for your department and request a CAS shortly before your viva to allow yourself time to make the visa application before you are granted 'leave to supplicate'. Some funded students may need their financial sponsor's permission to apply. Information is available from the Home Office.

Although the Careers Service is not able to provide individual visa advice, there are useful resources elsewhere in the University which may help students and their situations.

Information about applying to the EU Settlement Scheme (settled and pre-settled status) can be found on the UK Government website.


Please note that the latest information about the possible impact of Brexit on Oxford students will be published first on the University website.

You can download your enrolment certificate from Student self-service.

For previous completed Oxford courses you could request a degree confirmation letter.

If you have further queries, please contact:

Our resources

We regularly host visa talks with the Oxford Student Immigration team. For details of our next talk please visit CareerConnect and search ‘Staying to work in the UK’. Access latest copy of advice and guidance on staying to work in the UK: 

Careers Advisers can support you to make competitive applications for jobs but are not legally able to advise you on individual visa questions. However, we often help international applicants think strategically about their options and the sectors they are applying to and how the various visa options fit with your career interests. Julia Hilton, Careers Adviser, regularly speaks with international students on this topic and is Co-Chair of the AGCAS Internalisation Task Group in the UK.

External resources

  • The University’s Student Immigration team is best served to answer your visa queries with their detailed resources online and their email available for questions on visas: student.immigration@admin.ox.ac.uk
  • The UK Visas and Immigration website will give you the latest working visa information and details of a number of other visa schemes.
  • UKCISA, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, offers independent information and advice about immigration, finance and working in the UK.

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