// CIUK's 2016 Visa Report

An Introduction To The Tier 2 Visa And Tier 4 Visa Changes

Visas have changed dramatically in the last 12 months. Here at CIUK we know that you, as international students are not being given the answers you need.

You pay twice as much as native students and yet are only given 4 months to find a job, and this is becoming even tougher. Is that fair?

CIUK has been the UK’s leading Career Coaching provider for international students for 7 years. We bring you another ground breaking report, giving you the information you need to make the most important decisions about your future.

For Further Information Or To Enquire About Our Services, Please Send An Email With Your Enquiry And Your CV Attached And The Header “Yes I Can” To Hr@Careerinteractive.Org  


I. The Political Landscape and the reason for the changes

II. Recent changes in Tier 2 and Tier 4 Visas

III. Options available for extending your Visa

IV. What's next?

I. The Political Landscape and the reason for the changes

When the Conservatives were elected into power on the 11th of May, 2015. Many were shocked by the new majority government. For Immigration this signaled a shift from a right wing policy which had been moderated by the Liberal Democrats left wing stance.

Theresa May would now be given full reign to dictate and enact policy. There was a collective sigh of frustration from many international students who had bemoaned a system which has become increasingly negative since the abolition of the Post Study Work Visa in April 2012.

Since May we have seen the greatest rate of change in Immigration Policy since the inception of the EU Freedom of Movement Act in 2001. Employers, policy makers    and members of the legal profession have been baffled for the need for such a hardline stance against a Conservative government which on the one hand wants to encourage “the best and the brightest” in the world to study in the UK, yet relentlessly enforces a system which on average only gives you 4 months from finishing your degree to finding a job.

A tall order considering most application processes for large companies, last 3 months.

What is the Conservative policy on Immigration?

David Cameron promised to cut net immigration to "tens of thousands" in a previous Conservative Government. This promise has since been cut to an “ambition”

The most recent quarterly report from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) released on November the 26th puts this figure at 336,000.

·        In YE Sep 2015, total work-related visas granted (non-EU nationals, main applicants) rose by 6% to 122,909 including a 4,105 (8%) increase to 54,174 for skilled work (Tier 2) visas.

·        Long-term immigration for study increased from 175,000 to 192,000 in YE June 2015 (not statistically significant). Over the same period, visa applications to study at a UK university (non-EU, main applicants) increased (+0.2%) to 167,425.

Figure 1: Net Migration Numbers since 1970

Theresa May has pledged to drive down immigration numbers through a variety of policies which are basically two fold

1. Prevent EU Migrants from entering the UK

Renegotiate the Freedom of Movement Act within the EU, stop economic migrants coming from EU member states. Most notably Bulgaria and Romania (50,000+) This is a long and ongoing process which ties into the debate around whether Britain should exit the EU. There will be a national Referendum at a date to be decided in 2017.

2. Prevent Non-EU Migrants entering the UK

In May this year the Cabinet Office headed by the Prime Minister David Cameron directed the Migratory Advisory Committee (MAC) to look at ways of actively reducing the number of Non-EU Migrants coming to the UK to work. This has included a variety of policies which have further negatively affected the ability for international students to find work after they graduate in the UK.

MAC has already released an initial review of Tier 2 Salary thresholds in August ( about whether to raise the minimum salary for Tier 2) which was inconclusive and will release a more in depth report in December which will shape Immigration policy for Tier 2 in 2016.

Is it going to get any better?

CIUK has spoken to over 40,000 international students. We have submitted evidence to MAC on your behalf, basically outlining how unfair we feel the current system is for the vast majority of students who simply want to stay in the UK, work and pay taxes.

However there have been some encouraging push back against an increasingly negative climate. Notably by the Chancellor George Osborne, big business and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

Chancellor George Osborne

“Foreign students could be excluded from official migration figures, George Osborne has indicated, in a move that would see the total number of declared migrants in the UK fall but could lead to claims that the Government is attempting to massage the statistics.”

Taken from The Guardian, 6th December

Big Business

“Support for measures to boost productivity was the common theme of submissions by business groups ahead of chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday. Funding for science, tax relief for spending on capital equipment, the lifting of restrictions on skilled immigration and clarity on apprentice policy are all areas where the chancellor should focus, business said.”

Taken from the FT, 24th November

Boris Johnson

“Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, will on Tuesday call for a Commonwealth visa programme to reverse the dramatic decline in students from India attending the capital’s universities. Mr. Johnson will propose that the post-study work visa — which would allow students to stay and work for two years after graduating — is trialed with Indian citizens and, if successful, extended to other Commonwealth students. He will also propose a similar two-year work programme for science, engineering and technology overseas graduates.”

Taken from the FT,17th November

At CIUK we remain optimistic about the future for international students, and will continue to represent your interests at the highest level of business and government.

From a recent meeting attended by Senior Management at PwC’s offices in Embankment, London we have heard from FTSE 100 Companies, PwC and the Home Office as they all await the findings from the MAC Review due in December

II. Recent changes in Tier 2 and Tier 4 Visas

A. Tier 2 Visa Changes

1.The difference between Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCOS) and Unrestricted Certificates of Sponsorship (COS)

You need a certificate of sponsorship as a non-EU worker.  This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.

Certificates must be used within 3 months from when they’re issued.

Unrestricted Certificates

These are called unrestricted certificates because there’s no limit on how many you can get. These are used for applications made with in the UK. Quite common for people switching from a Tier 4 to a Tier 2 Visa

Restricted Certificates

These are for:

·        Tier 2 (General) workers currently abroad who’ll be paid less than £155,300 a year

·        family members (dependents) of Tier 4 migrants

There are a limited number of restricted certificates available each month. Each application is assessed using a points system - you can see how the system works on page 88 of the Immigration Rules appendix A.

This is limited to 20,700 per year.

2. RCOS Vs. COS What is better ?

In June of this year the monthly allocation of Rcos was exceeded for the first time since the system was implemented in 2011.

Every month there is a given allocation, the average is 1,675 per month for out of country applications.

The number was again exceeded in July and only reverted to normal in September.

Normally you need only have a Tier 2 Job offer with a salary in excess of £20,800.

However due to the high number of applicants the salary needed to apply was £45,000 in June and £32,000 in July!

For this reason many companies now do not want students to apply out of country for their Tier 2 Visa, due to the risks inherent with the RCos procedure

3. The Residential Labour Market Test explained

A common misconception is that students have to meet the RLMT for their given job.

However as a graduate from a UK University you are exempted.

You must prove you have graduated by at least having a letter from a University which clearly states you have completed your course and will graduate.

Employers can then use this to prove you are exempted. This is because you will counted as a “new entrant to the labour market”

4. Corporations focus on in country Tier 2 applications

Many large companies since the recent changes in the Visa system have begun to clearly focus on in country (COS) applications, and prefer these.

This is to the point where if your Tier 4 visa does not run up until the start of your Tier 2 Visa they may not take your applications further.

This makes early applications for jobs crucial. You need to apply at the start of your 3rd Year or Master’s Course rather than at the end

5. Future Changes under Consultation

MAC Consultation comprehensive review is due mid-December, which will give indicative consultation results on the following:

ì  Whether to raise Tier 2 Salary Thresholds

ì  The rights of Tier 2 Dependents

ì  Other improvements that can be made to the Visa System

ì  The wider impact of reducing Tier 2 Net Migrations

ì  CIUK’s predictions for Tier 2 changes

B. Tier 4 Changes

From November the 16th Students on a Tier 4 (General) Code 3 i.e. Private Colleges are not allowed to switch to a Tier 2

They must exit the country and apply for an out of country Tier 2 ( Rcos)

1. What does this mean for me?

You must attempt to find a job while within the UK under a HEI

The UK Government are attempting to crack down on students who are doing an excessive number of professional qualifications without looking for work

2. The Rule of Academic Progression

If you choose to study for a second Master’s it must be shown to be RELATED to a previous Masters or a PROGRESSION in terms of your job aspirations

A University should be able to assist you with putting this together

If you mean to study a new course starting in January you should be applying NOW

3. Changes to International Student Study Cap

The cap was changed on the 3rd of August 2015

Any new Tier 4 Visa application must lead to you spending no more than five years on courses at degree level; this includes Tier 4 leave and pre-Tier 4 student leave.

There are some exceptions to the 5-year cap:

  • If you are applying to study a course at a higher education institution (HEI) and the 5-year cap would prevent you from completing a fifth academic year at degree level or above, then the limit is extended to five years and 11 months.
  • If you have successfully completed a UK degree course which was at least four years long, and you are making a Tier 4 application to study a Master's degree at a higher education institution (recognised body or institution in receipt of public funding), the limit is six years and 11 months.

If you are unsure about the above, your University of education institution should be able to provide advice and support about your current situation.

If they cannot we suggest you look around for an efficient admission’s team who can answer these crucial questions

CIUK works with a number of institutions and can provide advice and support in certain cases.

If you wish to receive advice please email your situation and your CV with the header “Tier 4 Advice” to hr@careerinteractive.org

III. Options available for extending your Visa

A. Go to another country with better employability (Holland)

No Tier 2 Visa? Why not work in Holland...

Are you a recent Masters or PhD student from Times Top 200 University World Rankings?

Are you disheartened by the opportunities that the UK has due to the negative Visa climate?

Have you ever wondered about working and living in Holland?

Do you know that The Netherlands has an excellent reputation for converting 97% of its graduates to full time work?


·                 Engineering High Flier Netherlands Career Coaching Programme (20 Company Package – No win no fee)

·                 Finance Star High Flier Netherlands Career Coaching Programme (20 Company Package – No win no fee)

·                 Tech Star High Flier Netherlands Career Coaching Programme (20 Company Package – No win no fee)

Ø    Our highly prestigious packages cover Dutch companies which all have the right to sponsor International Student for the work permit in the Netherlands.

Ø    Our package will cover all legal costs involved with applying and gaining a Post Study Work Visa in Holland (Zoekjaar) which will last for 12 months and give you the right to look for work and work in the Netherlands.

Ø       The Zoekjaar has a 70% chance of success.

Programme Eligibility:

·     Full Time Role – Master/PhD students from the Times Top 200 University World Ranking

For More Information, Please Send A CV To Hr@Careerinteractive.Org With A Header “Going Dutch”

B. Study a Masters/ Second Masters


Companies increasingly are only looking to hire international students if their Tier 4 bridges their Tier 2 (KPMG, Deloitte)

Gives you another year to look for jobs in country and refine your skill set

You may be asked to leave the country and apply for your Tier 4 out of country (once you have been given a CAS

Current Universities open for January intakes in London:

ì  Bangor, Brunel, Coventry, Warwick Business School London

ì  University of East London, Greenwich, Westminster

ì  Middlesex, University of West London, Kingston

ì  London Business School, Regents, Birkbeck

ì  GCU London, City University, Anglia Ruskin

The most important criteria is that the University can get you a CAS (Certificate of Academic Studies)

They may ask for an initial deposit (check if this is refundable if your application is unsuccessful)

You should not be asked for full fees upfront

Ask for advice about the most suitable Masters or MBA Programme based on your last course of study

 C. Study a Private College Course (CFA, ACCA, ACA etc.)


If you are tired of academic studies and wish to refine a skill set, get a professional qualification that will help your future career i.e. CFA, ACCA etc.

REMEMBER: You will not be able to switch to a Tier 2 Visa

You may be asked to leave the country and apply for your Tier 4 out of country (once you have been given a CAS)

Qualification Levels

This is any qualification which is NQF Level 6+ and at a college not a affiliated with a recognised Highly Trusted Sponsor (HEI) (University)

ACCA = Level 7 ( Completed)

ACA = Level 7 (Completed)

For both ACA and ACCA the first 6 papers are only NQF Level 6

CFA = Level 7 (Completed) However CFA Level 1 is Level 6

D. Study a PhD

Of course you can choose to go to the final level of Qualification: A PhD which is NQF Level 8.

This will set you on course to either high level research jobs or a senior level job (however this are highly competitive and few and far between)

You will be paid to do a PhD in some cases but you have to balance whether this will be more than you would get paid in a full time job (general pay rates for a PhD vary between £14,000- £22,000) 

IV. What next?

We hope you find this Tier 2 Visa And Tier 4 Visa Report informative and helpful for your career orientation. If you want to speak to us about your options, send your CV with the title “What next?” to hr@careerinteractive.org 

We wish you best of luck and success in your future endeavor!

Please feel free to download a copy of this report below to distribute to anybody you know who could find this information useful

*Terms & Conditions Apply. See Terms of Use, Privacy Statement and Cookie Notice for more information.

Subscribe to our Newsletter