If you hope to work in the UK after graduation you will have to obtain a new visa. A Student Visa/Tier 4 visa will expire two or four months after the end of your course, depending on the length of the course, and has restrictions on your ability to work. Obtaining a work visa will allow you to work more freely.
You may find the information on working after your studies published by the UK Council for International Affairs (UKCISA) particularly helpful.
View UKCISA's advice on working after your studies
Graduate Visa (opened 1 July 2021)
A new Graduate visa route opened on 1 July 2021. The Graduate visa enables international graduates to remain in the UK to work, or look for work, for two years. For Doctoral students, the Graduate route replaced the previous Doctoral Extension Scheme and allows students to remain in the UK for three years.
The Graduate route is unsponsored, meaning applicants do not need a job offer to apply. There is no minimum salary requirement nor cap on numbers. Graduates on the route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their career as required, including self-employment. There is no restriction on working as an 'entertainer' (performer). Applicants can begin working on their Student visa while an application is being processed, but the Graduate work conditions only start when the new visa is received.
It is not permitted to study on a course that is normally sponsored in the Student route. So this visa is not suitable for graduates progressing to further study, either at the RCM or elsewhere. These graduates should apply for further leave in the Student route.
To apply, students must have successfully completed an eligible course at a sponsoring institution with a track record of compliance.When a student successfully completes an eligible course, the RCM will report this to the Home Office via their online system. Courses leading to a degree qualification (BMus, MPerf, MComp, MMus, DMus, PhD) are confirmed as being eligible. The caseworker guidance published at the launch of the visa indicates that Diploma qualifications will not be eligible. This includes the Artist Diploma and Graduate Diploma. There is still some conflicting information circulating about this and the RCM and other conservatoires are seeking further clarification from the Home Office. However, we recommend that students graduating in 2021 follow the current published guidance. If you are a current student or prospective student on the Graduate Diploma or Artist Diploma courses, and hope to work in the UK after study, we recommend that you explore other possible visa routes, such as Global Talent, T5 Youth Mobility or the new BN(O) visa for people from Hong Kong. Students who leave a course early with an early-exit qualification (e.g. CertHE, DipHE, PGCert, PGDip) are not eligible to apply.
Applications must be made inside the UK before the student's current Tier 4 / Student visa expires. Normally students must have been studying in the UK throughout the course (other than periods of interruption or time overseas on an exchange). However, due to COVID-19, the Home Office has put in place concessions for students who are due to graduate in summer 2021:
- If your Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa was more than 12 months long, any time spent studying your course outside the UK between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will be counted as if you were studying your course in the UK.
- If you started your course in 2020 or 2021 and your student visa was 12 months long or less, you must be in the UK by 27 September 2021 or before your current visa expires, whichever is sooner.
We are advised that applicants will need the CAS number for their current visa to apply, so students should make sure they have this available.
Overview information about the Graduate route can be found on the UK Government website.
In addition, the Home Office has published an information booklet for graduating international students. We encourage you to read this, as it has helpful guidance on the application process.
Skilled Worker visa (formerly Tier 2 General Visa)
To apply you need an offer of a full-time, permanent or fixed-term skilled job from an employer with a licence to sponsor migrants to work in the UK. Some of the conditions for Skilled Worker visas are made easier for recent graduates switching from Student Visas/Tier 4 visas. Students interested in this route should speak to the HR department of their prospective employer for further information, or refer to information published by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Skilled Worker visas
Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting (T5)
This category allows employers to bring workers to the UK for temporary contracts, which can be anything from a few days up to a year, with the possibility of extending for up to a further year. This visa allows graduates to accept shorter term performance engagements or contracts, provided the employer is licenced to sponsor migrants in this category. More information is provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting (T5) visas
Youth Mobility Scheme (T5)
This scheme currently allows nationals of the following countries to work in the UK for up to two years:
- New Zealand
- Hong Kong
- Republic of Korea
In addition, the scheme is open to British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Nationals and British Overseas Citizens. It is not possible to switch into this category in the UK, so applicants must return home to apply. There are no restrictions on performance work or self-employment on this visa. More information is provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Youth Mobility Scheme (T5) visas
The Global Talent visa replaced the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent route with effect from 20 February 2020.
The Global Talent route permits individuals of exceptional talent, who are emerging world leaders in their field, to live and work in the UK without being linked to a specific employer. Endorsement for musicians must be obtained from the Arts Council and there are strict criteria. Only a limited number of endorsements are available per year for all areas of the arts, including music, dance, literature, film. More information is provided by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
View UKVI information on Global Talent visas