New Restrictions on Switching to Certain Work Routes Announced

The Home Office announced a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules on 17 July 2023, with rules barring students from transferring onto the Skilled Worker route.

In an anticipated move following an announcement earlier this year, the Home Office has enacted the change to take effect at 15:00 GMT on the same date. Typically, changes to immigration rules are announced at least 21 days before they are adopted. However, on this occasion, the modifications to the rules surrounding students switching were implemented immediately in a bid to reduce the possibility of a large number of applications being submitted within the 21 day period. The Home Office described this departure from the typical convention to be ‘necessary and proportionate’ and that sufficient notice had been provided to all those affected.

What does this mean for students who wish to switch to the Skilled Worker Route?

Students are now only permitted to switch onto employment routes (including but not limited to the Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility, Global Talent, Scale-up, Minister of Religion, Innovator Founder, Government Authorised Exchange, and Creative Worker routes) providing the following conditions are met:

  • The student must have completed their course;
  • The student must be enrolled in a full-time degree programme at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance, and the certificate of sponsorship start date cannot be sooner than the course completion date;
  • The student must be enrolled in a full-time course of study leading to the award of a PhD at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance, and the start date of the certificate of sponsorship cannot be more than 24 months after the start date of the course.

Employers who wish to recruit students before the completion of their course may be permitted to do so if the employment start date on the certificate of sponsorship is issued after the student has completed their studies.

Documentary Evidence

When establishing whether a student has finished their studies, the Home Office will look at the end date on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). There may be instances where this date does not correlate to the actual course completion date and for those occasions it is recommended that supplementary proof be submitted alongside the application. This might be in the form of a university letter, official transcript or degree certificate confirming that the course has ended.

What about dependents?

From 1 January 2024, international students will no longer be permitted to bring dependent family members unless they are participating in postgraduate programmes that are currently classified as research programmes or PhDs. In effect, this implies that Masters students may no longer be permitted to travel with dependents and it is likely the rules will be updated to clarify this.

Since the amendment restricting students from being accompanied by dependents will only apply to students who are commencing studies on 1 January 2024, individuals applying for programmes beginning in August 2023 will remain unaffected. International students will be allowed to bring dependents only if they are government-sponsored or studying for a Ph.D., doctorate, or research-based higher degree beginning on 1 January 2024. Dependents who are already in the UK may seek to extend their stay if they meet the criteria.

The topic of whether the existing dependents of students who have not yet completed their studies are able to transition onto the skilled worker route themselves has yet to be resolved. Although it is believed that it will be addressed in future updates to immigration rules.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries about switching to the Skilled Worker route or if Borderless can assist you with hiring candidates or finding employment in the UK.

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