Tier 5 sponsorship

The College is an approved licensed sponsor under the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) scheme. This means the College can issue Certificates of Sponsorship to Non EEA students in order for them to complete the Scheme for Registration in the UK.

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Students wishing to apply for the Certificate of Sponsorship from the College must have:

  • graduated from a GOC approved university with a 2:2 or above in optometry
  • secured a pre-registration placement.

 

Information for trainees

Switching from a Tier 4 visa to a Tier 5 visa

If you plan to switch from a Tier 4 visa to a Tier 5 GAE visa, please notify the College at least twelve weeks before your current visa expires. You will not be able to enrol or start your pre-registration period until your visa application has been approved and you have notified the College and provided evidence of such. If you are already enrolled on the Scheme for Registration when your visa expires, you will not be able to continue until you have a current visa.

This is because:

  • You are not permitted to work in the UK in any capacity without a valid visa.
  • It is illegal to test sight and fit or carry out aftercare on contact lens patients without being enrolled on the pre-registration scheme and taking up the position of a pre-registration optometrist.

Requirements

If you have a temporary contract as a support member of staff in a practice, whilst you wait for your Tier 5 GAE visa, then you will be able to carry out those functions appropriate to a support member of staff e.g. dispensing to other than exempt groups, pre-examination screening etc. but as this will not have been carried out whilst you were in pre-registration training, it cannot count towards any of your pre-registration targets i.e. patient episodes or dispensing numbers.

Before you can apply for a CoS you must have secured a pre-registration placement. We will require evidence of this and we will verify this with your employer.

When you apply for the CoS you will need to send us the following information:

  1. Completed Scheme for Registration enrolment form 
  2. Payment of £525; this can be paid by cheque (to the College of Optometrists), or credit/debit card by calling 0207 766 4354. We are unable to proceed with your application until the fee has been paid
  3. Your passport (you can make an appointment to come to the College or send it by post).
  4. Proof of your University final grade (final transcript or degree certificate)
  5. Contract/agreement from your employer for your pre-registration placement
  6. Proof of address (utility bill, bank statement or rent agreement).

The CoS is only valid for three months so it is essential that you apply to UKVI for your tier 5 GAE visa within 3 months of your CoS being issued. You will not be able to start your placement with the CoS, You can only start work when UKVI issue your visa.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the changes in immigration rules and how will these affect me as a migrant student?

At the beginning of 2012 the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) outlined a number of changes to immigration rules which came in to effect from 5 April 2012. This included the closure of tier 1 (post-study visa). These changes also meant that in order to complete the Scheme for Registration, students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) would not be able to switch from a tier 4 (general) visa to a tier 2 (general) visa unless their employer was prepared to act as a sponsor and pay them a salary of at least £20,000.

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What is the College doing in response to these changes?

The College is a licensed sponsor under tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) scheme. The College issues Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to migrant trainees wishing to complete their pre-registration placement in the UK. Once a certificate has been issued the trainee will be able to apply to the UKVI for a visa under tier 5 (GAE).

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How does the tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa work?

The College issues Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to migrant trainees who meet the criteria as set out below:

  • Gained a 2:2 in optometry degree from one of the GOC recognised universities in the UK
  • Have secured a pre-registration placement with a UK employer.
     

You will need to apply to the College for a CoS by submitting the:

  • Scheme for Registration enrolment form
  • Certificate of Sponsorship application fee,
  • your passport (for us to copy and send back) and
  • confirmation of the pre-registration placement from your employer.
Once the College has issued a CoS you can then apply through the UKVI for a tier 5 GAE visa.

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How much will the visa cost?

There are two separate fees for applications under tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa. The first is in relation to the issuing of the Certificates of Sponsorship from the College of Optometrists. The cost of the application for a Certificate of Sponsorship is £525 and this will need to be paid before the application can be progressed. This can be paid by cheque to the College of Optometrists or over the phone with a credit or debit card by calling 0207 766 4354.
The second cost relates to the visa fee to UKVI for tier 5 (GAE) visa. The current costs are available on the UKVI's website.

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How long will it take for my application to go through?

The College aims to issue Certificates of Sponsorship within 5 working days of receipt of the application and fee. The UKVI will then issue the visa. The time required to process the visa will depend on the country where you are making your application. Visit the UKVI website to see how long processing times are in your country.

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Will my application be successful?

You must first meet the following criteria to apply for a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the College of Optometrists:

  • Gain a 2:2 in optometry degree from one of the recognised universities
  • Have secured a pre-registration placement with a UK employer.
Once a CoS is issued the application for the visa must then be submitted to the UKVI. An important part of the application to the UKVI is to show you have the necessary funds to support yourself during the pre-registration period. More detail on maintenance funds required can be found on the UKVI website. Please note that by acting as your sponsor, the College is not certifying your maintenance (the funds required to support yourself) for any time you are in the UK.

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When can I start my pre-registration period and work in the UK legally?

Before you can start the UKVI will issue you a visa. If you are applying from outside of the UK you can enter the UK up to 14 days before you start date of your job. The start date of your job is the one given by your sponsor in your Certificate of Sponsorship. Your first date of your time on the Scheme for Registration will be your first day in the placement. If you start before this date, regardless of when you are issued with the visa, then you would be breaking the conditions of the visa and could face enforcement action from UKVI and jeopardise the College’s status as a sponsor.

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Can I apply from inside the UK?

Yes, you can switch from a Tier 4 visa to a tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa whilst you are in the UK.

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Will I need a guaranteed pre-registration placement before applying under tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa?

Yes, in order to meet the requirements of the visa you will need to have secured a pre-registration placement with a UK employer and be able to evidence this through confirmation from the employer. The College will then verify this with the employer directly. The College will not be able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship unless you have guaranteed employment in order to meet the UKVI requirements under this visa.

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How will my pre-registration period be affected under tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa?

The format of your pre-registration period will not change; you will be subject to the same assessments and procedures as detailed in your handbook. However, the tier 5 GAE visa is only valid for up to 2 years and therefore you will be required to complete the scheme within this time frame. The 2 years will commence from the date your leave to remain is granted. There are no provisions for an extension under this visa.


You will also be required to keep your supervisor and the College up to date with your contact details. If any changes occur which may affect the continuation of your pre-registration period this must be reported to your supervisor and the College immediately.

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What happens if I run out of time on the Scheme?

The Tier 5 GAE visa is valid for a maximum of 24 months; there is no provision to extend the visa if you fail to complete the Scheme in time.

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Can I apply under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme for my pre-registration period?

This is a separate scheme to tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) and one in which the College has no involvement. Your country’s government is responsible for issuing the visas. The Youth Mobility Scheme is only available to trainees from specified countries and there is a limit to the number of visas awarded. Please refer to the UKVI website for more information about this.

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If I finish my pre–registration placement within the 24 months can I stay on and work in the UK?

No, upon completion of your pre-registration period your entitlement to stay in the UK under tier 5 GAE is no longer valid. You will be required to return to your home country or apply for a different visa type.

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What will happen when I qualify as an optometrist?

The Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa is intended for migrant students to undertake their pre-registration placement in the UK and subsequently return to their home country to register and practice. The visa does not give any provision for trainees to stay in the UK after the visa expires; continued employment in the UK as an optometrist is subject to UKVI rules and is beyond the scope of the tier 5 GAE visa.

If you wish to stay in the UK and work as an optometrist there is the option of switching to a tier 2 (general) visa. You will be required to return to your home country to submit an application. Your intended employer would act as your sponsor under this visa. Further information can be found on the UKVI website.

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Essential documents

 

Information for supervisors

Information for supervisors who will be supervising a trainee undertaking the Scheme for Registration under a Tier 5 GAE visa sponsored by the College.

Essential documents

 

 

Do you have any further questions?

 

 

 

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