Students starting their careers in the UK should consider a Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa

11 July 2019

At this time of year, plenty of students in the UK are turning their minds to what happens next after their graduation day. For many, there is the challenge of securing suitable employment. And for those students in the UK who have a Tier 4 (General) student visa, there are further obstacles on the path to finding a job.                            

Tier 4 (General) visa students who have obtained their degree can switch, from within the UK, to Tier 2 (General) status to enable them to take up permanent employment in the UK, but it will require sponsorship from a UK employer.  This means trying to find an employer that already has a Tier 2 sponsor licence or that is willing to apply for one and incur the associated costs.  Students will often find themselves in a race against time to try to secure employment before their current student visa expires.

There are, however, alternative immigration options for students who may want to consider gaining work experience from an internship.

The Tier 5 (GAE) scheme visa is often overlooked as a potentially viable option.  Whereas a Tier 2 visa application requires the prospective employer to hold a Tier 2 sponsor licence, Tier 5 (GAE) does not have such a requirement.  Instead, the sponsorship is carried out by an ‘overarching body’ – an organisation which has already been given prior approval from the Home Office to sponsor individuals under this visa route.  There are many Tier 5 (GAE) overarching bodies which sponsor a multitude of supernumerary roles across various sectors. A full list of the approved Tier 5 (GAE) overarching bodies can be found here

Students with Tier 4 (General) visas can switch immigration status from within the UK to Tier 5 (GAE) as long as the chosen Tier 5 (GAE) scheme is related to their degree course and they can provide evidence of completion of their UK degree.  The Tier 5 (GAE) visa can be issued for up to a maximum of 12 months, and dependent family members can apply in parallel.  Unlike with a Tier 2 application, the temporary internship to be carried out under the Tier 5 (GAE) scheme should be supernumerary to normal staffing requirements and should meet the specific criteria of the relevant scheme.

Students acquiring useful work experience and internships using the Tier 5 (GAE) scheme will be well-placed to try and secure future employment, while employers will value the assistance of talented recent graduates as part of their organisation.

We regularly assist with Tier 5 (GAE) applications. For further information, please contact Zenia Chopra or Ilda de Sousa.

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