Can I Study In The UK While I’m On A Skilled Worker Visa?

If you have a Skilled Worker visa in the UK, it is important to ensure you follow your stay’s rules. Too often, we hear about visa holders who accidentally break their visa rules. This puts them at a high risk of having their immigration leave cancelled or revoked and having to leave the country. And unfortunately, having a visa taken away can make it harder to apply for immigration in the future. Because of this, we always suggest checking with the Home Office or an immigration lawyer before making any kind of change, like changing your hours at work, switching jobs, getting a second job, or starting part-time school. In this article, we’ll talk about the immigration rules for people with a Skilled Worker visa who want to study and work in the UK at the same time.

With a Skilled Worker Visa, can I study and work in the UK at the same time?

Yes, the Home Office is pretty open to letting people with a Skilled Worker visa go to school. The rules say that people who have a Skilled Worker visa can:

  • work in an eligible job
  • study
  • bring their partner and children as ‘dependants’
  • take on additional work in certain circumstances
  • do voluntary work
  • travel abroad and return to the UK
  • apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) after living in the UK for five years

They cannot apply to access public funds, benefits, or a state pension.

Is there a limit to how much a person with a skilled worker visa can study?

The instructions say that people with a Skilled Worker visa can “study for as many hours as they want, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of their job.” So, if your study hours conflict with your work hours or if your study affects your work, this could be against the conditions of your Skilled Worker status. Aside from this, the only real rule is that if you want to study certain subjects, you need an ATAS certificate before you can start. “The Skilled Worker is allowed to study, but they must get an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate for the course or research they want to do and show it to their education provider before they start studying if:

  • they are not a national of the countries listed in Appendix ATAS 3.1
  • their course is in a subject listed in Appendix ATAS 4.1, and it either:
    • leads to a master’s degree
    • leads to a PhD
    • leads to another postgraduate qualification
    • is a period of study or research which is part of an overseas postgraduate qualification”.

What Is An ATAS Certificate?

Academic Technology Approval Scheme is what ATAS is short for. The scheme aims to ensure that all international students who want to study certain “sensitive subjects” get permission to do so. The Home Office says, “The subjects are those where students’ knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMD), or their delivery systems. Before they can study in the UK, these students must apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. According to the immigration rules (section ATAS4.1), international students who want to study in the following areas must have an ATAS certificate:

Doctorates or master’s by research

  • Subjects allied to Medicine (including pharmacology and toxicology)
  • Biological sciences (including biotechnology, biology, genetics, and biosciences)
  • Veterinary sciences, Agriculture and related subjects (including agricultural sciences)
  • Physical sciences (including chemistry, materials science, physics, and astronomy)
  • Mathematical and computer sciences (including mathematics, IT, information systems, and artificial intelligence)
  • Engineering (including civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and electronic engineering
  • Technology (including polymers and textiles, minerals, materials, and maritime technology

Taught master’s

  • Materials Science
  • Physics (including Nuclear Physics)
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Chemical, Process and Energy Engineering
  • Minerals Technology
  • Materials Technology

From this list, it’s clear that you need an ATAS certificate for a wide range of topics, not just the ones you might think of as “sensitive.”

The immigration rules also say that if a student’s course of study is delayed or postponed for more than three calendar months or if the course content changes, they must apply for a new ATAS certificate “within 28 calendar days and must give a printout of the new certificate to their education provider promptly.”

How Can I Apply For An ATAS Certificate?

On the ATAS website, you can fill out an application for an ATAS certificate. You will be asked to fill out ten sections during the application process. It is best to give as much information as you can. You will be asked about your proposed course of study, including the CAH3 code (all of this information will be given to you by your education provider), your personal information, your spouse’s information, your contact information, any previous graduate or undergraduate studies, other studies you have finished, any published papers you have written, your employment history, information about your referees, and information about any financial sponsors, if applicable. All of this information will be used to decide if you get an ATAS certificate or not. The process can take up to three weeks from when it is sent to the time a decision is made on an application.

The Home Office is pretty open-minded about letting people with a Skilled Worker visa study in the UK. This can be very helpful if you want to learn new skills for your current job or move into a completely different field. Or maybe you just want to learn something as a hobby or because you’re interested in it. No matter why you want to study and work in the UK, we wish you the best of luck!

DISCLAIMER: All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon the information on this website, you do so at your own risk. If you want to have personalised advice, please email me at donm@queensparksolicitors.co.uk.

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