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Graduate Visa Route Open for International Students

The UK Graduate Visa Route has opened for applications today (1 July 2021).  The Graduate Visa is a new post-study work visa route which allows international students who have completed an eligible UK degree to stay in the UK to work, or look for work, for two years (three years for those being awarded doctorates) after completing their studies.

In this post we look at the requirements for a Graduate Visa, the length and conditions of stay on the Graduate Immigration Route, as well as how international students whose leave expired before 1 July 2021 or who have been unable to travel to the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic will be treated.

Graduate Visa Requirements

Graduate Visas are available to international students who have successfully completed a UK bachelor’s or postgraduate degree at a Higher Education Provider which is a student sponsor with a track record of compliance.

Also eligible are international students who have completed a professional course requiring study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above, in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority, as are international students who have been sponsored to undertake a role as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer following the completion of an eligible qualification in their most recent grant of permission to study.

Graduate Visa applicants must be in the UK at the date of application and have valid leave as a Student or Tier 4 Student.  International students who apply from outside of the UK will be rejected and refused entry to the UK.

Applicants for the new post-study work visa must have spent a minimum period of time studying in the UK.  Graduate Visa applicants who have completed a course lasting 12 months or less need to have studied the whole course in the UK.  If the course lasted more than 12 months, the applicant needs to have been granted permission for at least 12 months on the Student route and have spent that time studying in the UK.

The Graduate Visa Route is an unsponsored route, meaning that applicants do not need a job offer or a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) in order to be eligible.  However, applicants must not previously have held permission on the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES), or the Graduate route.

There is no cap on the number of international students who can qualify for a Graduate Visa.

Graduate Visa Post-Study Work

International graduates on the Graduate Visa Route are permitted to look for work and, once employment has been found, work flexibly.  They can undertake roles at any skill level and do not need to be sponsored or satisfy any minimum salary requirement.  Successful applicants are also able to switch jobs.

Graduate Visa Length of Stay 

Graduate Visa holders who have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree are able to stay in the UK for two years.  Those who have been awarded a doctorate can stay in the UK for three years.

It is not possible to extend permission to stay or qualify for settlement on the Graduate Immigration Route.  However, Graduate Visa holders may extend their stay by switching into other work-based routes, such as the Skilled Worker route, the Global Talent route and the Innovator Founder route, all of which can lead to settlement.

Graduate Visa Dependants

Family members in the UK who already have permission to stay in the UK as a dependant of an international student are able to extend their stay at the same time as the international student extends their stay on the Graduate Visa Route.

However, new dependents are not permitted on the Graduate Visa route, except where a dependent child is born in the UK during a period of Student or Graduate leave.

Graduates Whose Tier 4 or Student Leave Expired Before 1 July 2021

International students who have graduated with a degree from a UK higher education institution and whose Tier 4 (General) Student leave or Student leave expired before 1 July 2021 are not  eligible for a Graduate Visa.  However, students who fall into this category may qualify to switch into another immigration route, such as the Skilled Worker routeStart-up route, Innovator Founder route or Global Talent route, among others.

COVID-19 and the Graduate Immigration Route

Although it is not possible to apply for a Graduate Visa from outside the UK, the Home Office has put in place concessions for international students who have been unable to travel to the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Where distance learning has taken place outside of the UK as a result of Covid-19, the following concessions apply:

  • If you began your studies in autumn 2020 or spring 2021, you will be eligible to switch into the Graduate Immigration Route if you entered the UK by 27 September 2021;
  • If you begin your studies in autumn 2021 or spring 2022, you will be eligible to switch into the Graduate Immigration Route if you enter the UK by 6 April 2022.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance regarding an application to extend your stay in the UK on the Graduate Visa route, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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