UK work visas – what’s changing in April, 2013, and what do these mean for your chances to work in the UK?

From 6th April, 2013, two key visa changes will come into place affecting international students: –  “Lower minimum salaries for visa sponsorship”  and “a new working visa opportunity for PhD students”.

1) Lower minimum salaries for visa sponsorship – Last year the Government reviewed the minimum salaries that are in place for a company to sponsor a work visa for an international applicant. In response to that review, a new minimum salary ( a “new entrant rate”)  will be introduced from 6th April, 2013 for international graduates; those under 25 or trainees switching countries with their firms. This is welcome news, as some of the minimum salaries were very high ( £42,500 for some career areas). However, the overall minimum (the point at which the minimum salaries for visa sponsorship cannot fall below) has gone up to £20,300.iStock_000018416955Medium Girl ticking checklist

The current minimum salaries can be found on the “Codes of Practice” on the Border Agency website, but it can take a very long time to load each pdf. They are also likely to still list the old salaries, until 6th April. To easily access the new salaries take a look at:   Although the document is long (over 100 pages) and includes lots of changes happening in April, the salaries start from point number 281 and the salaries are listed by career area and much quicker to load.

It’s not all good news though, as the minimum salaries for renewing the visa after 3 years have not changed, so your employer will also have to consider whether that is a realistic salary if they want to keep you on. Also, it is very unlikely that these salary changes will be well known by employers (although it has been covered in the national press this weekend) – so you may want to include a sentence about them in a cover letter?  Perhaps something like:  “Owing to the changes in April 2013, the minimum salaries for visa sponsorship have been reduced making the sponsorship of international applicants more practical. For example, the new minimum salary for sponsorship of “trainee management consultants” is “£22,300 per year“.

2) New work opportunities for PhD studentsNow, this is good news!  From 6th April 2013 a new opportunity for PhD students to have their Tier 4 student visa extended for a year after their doctorate is awarded, comes into force. This extension enables a doctoral student to stay on in the UK and look for work for up to 12 months from the time of the extension. During this time, it is also possible for the individual to work during their time on this Tier 4 visa.

If you find a job and wish to stay on to work in the UK after this 12 months, though, you will have to be sponsored under Tier 2, so all the usual conditions will apply – (such as the firm being on the sponsor register, the role meeting the minimum salary requirements and the post being graduate level).

The University will be emailing all PhD students (on their university email accounts) next week to tell them more about the changes and how they can take part in this through The University of Manchester – so ensure you check your emails if this could be relevant to you. The timing of your application is crucial – it cannot be too early, or too late, so do research this carefully and time your application. You will also be able to find out more on the University’s International Advice Team webpages from next week at:  in particular “Working in the UK” section.

 If you would like to know more now about what is coming, you can find out more information on the UKCISA website ( an excellent source of advice for international students):


What do these changes mean for your chances to work in the UK? Person Holding Hire Me Sign in Crowd

Unfortunately, this answer varies depending on what career area you are looking for, and what experience you have already.

There is no doubt that the PhD / doctoral extension scheme is good news, as it allows doctorates to gain some UK working experience without the need for a visa. It may not get you on a graduate programme (as the firm is likely to be considering if they can keep you for 2-5 years), but it could get you some fixed term experience to make an application more competitive.

The minimum salary changes will affect international students differently as follows:

If you are applying for graduate training programmes with major organisations who are on the sponsor register and you have a good CV that includes evidence of skills/work experience and commercial awareness….. then the minimum salary changes could be just the thing to enable these companies to sponsor you. This may apply for career areas such as finance, consultancy, engineering, IT. However, take care with roles such as marketing / HR where it may be the competitive nature of posts, than the minimum salaries that have been a major hurdle.

If you are applying for graduate training programme with firms who are not on the sponsor register… then this will probably not help. It currently takes a company “at least” 6 months to be considered to go on the Sponsor Register. If your visa is likely to expire within the next 6 – 9 months, it may be more effective to target firms on the register only. Remember too,  firms who are not on the register are under no obligation to go on it -and often reflects their ability to source talent from the UK/EEA market effectively.  This may apply for  career areas like teaching, government roles, working for charities and NGOs… where employers are not so commonly on the sponsor register.

If you are applying for graduate programmes with firms and you have little experience on your CV  (no work experience / part time jobs / volunteering etc that demonstrates evidence of skills such as leadership, team working, use of initiative) then you are unlikely to get through to the next stage of selection for graduate schemes whatever the minimum salaries. You may find it more productive to spend time seeking short-term experience than applying for graduate roles.


Where to find out more about the new changes to work visas and your common queries?

The UKCISA website is an excellent source of information and covers many of the common queries that students ask. Take a look at:

You can also contact the International Advice Team at The University’s Student Service Centre (close to the Learning Commons) for one to one advice. Their website also includes important tips and comments at:

One response to “UK work visas – what’s changing in April, 2013, and what do these mean for your chances to work in the UK?”

  1. Really useful post – will tweet and facebook it for the benefit of our own students and staff at the University of Cumbria

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