UK Visas

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.

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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.

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.

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 CareerConnect, our News section, or email us on reception@careers.ox.ac.uk.

Who is eligible?

  1. Applicants must be non-EEA nationals.
  2. 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.
  3. They must also:
    • have a business plan that demonstrates innovation, viability, and scalability.
    • not have previously been granted a Post Study Work visa
    • 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.

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 for one year or more. 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. There are numerous sponsor schemes available (such as Access Tier 5) and the options to be sponsored tend to be far quicker and less expensive than Tier 2 sponsorship for a full permanent role. Details of the scheme were presented at Oxford in February 2020 by Zenia Chopra, Head of Client Services, Immigration, for Kingsley Napley. Zenia explained the scheme and talked positively about the options for international students to stay in the UK for an internship via this route. You can access the presentation online for Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visa presentation at Oxford, February 2020 (pdf).

For further 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.

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.

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 for settled or 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:

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