From 17 July 2023, international students can only switch into a sponsored work route (the Skilled Worker or Scale-up Worker) after they have completed their course of studies. PhD students can switch into the sponsored work route 24 months after the start date of the course.
The emphasis in this new rule is not conditional but temporal.
The new rule requires that the student must have "completed a course of study for which the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies was assigned" or if they are "studying a full-time course at degree level or above with a higher education provider which has a track record of compliance and the certificate of sponsorship must have a start date no earlier than the course completion date".
It is noticeable that there is no requirement to have completed the course of study successfully or to have passed the exams. The Home Office guidance states that whether the student has completed the course will normally be determined by the end date on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. This implies that after this date there will be an assumption of completion of the course.
The new requirement prevents international students from switching midway during their course or before the termination date on their CAS (unless they completed the course early and have evidence to prove this). It is thus not a condition that the student should finish the course successfully, rather a requirement to wait until after the end of study period before applying to switch into sponsored employment.
Also, the changes do not mean that an application for leave to enter as a Skilled Worker or a Scale-up Worker cannot be made from abroad if the student wants to make the application as early as possible. The sponsored worker visa will supersede the Student visa, but you may still be able to continue your studies if this is possible in practice.
It is worth mentioning that the new rule will not affect the students' right to work – only the option of switching into a sponsored route leading to settlement.
As previously, employers may engage students during their period of study without closely monitoring the student's progress or attendance at the University. The employer has to follow strict guidelines on the right to work checks and have a letter from the University confirming the term time for the academic year which determines when the student can work full time (outside the term), and when there is restriction (10 hours per week or 20 hours per week if the course is at degree level or above). Correctly carried out right to work check and keeping on file the required documents provide the employer with a statutory excuse in case of any irregularity they were not aware of.
The sponsoring University has a duty to report to the Home Office students who dropped out or stopped attending the course and the Home Office has the power to curtail the student visa. In practice, this does not always happen.
The new requirement to have completed the course may put additional pressure on the employers to check if the student has finished the course before offering sponsorship. It is quite possible that many employers will be unnecessarily requesting evidence of successful completion of the course.
Where the student has completed the course earlier than the end date on the CAS, they can provide results transcripts or another document confirming that they have completed the course.
Students enrolled from January 2024 will not be able to bring their dependants to the UK unless they are studying at PhD level.
Since Graduate route does not allow dependants to join the main applicant unless they were in the dependent category when the main applicant was a student, there will be additional pressure on students with families to switch into a sponsored route which allows for dependent partner and children.