University Marking Boycott and Graduate Visa Applications
Across the UK, 145 institutions have been impacted by the University and College Union’s boycott which began on 20 April 2023. This has meant that marking and assessment activities have been limited across the board.
Many students currently in the UK on Student visas will intend to switch into the Graduate visa upon the completion of their studies. However, it is a requirement of the Graduate visa that an applicant has successfully completed an eligible course of study in the UK.
Graduate Visa Requirements
The Graduate visa has a ‘successful completion’ requirement. The Rules set out that:
- The applicant must have successfully completed the course of study which was undertaken during their last grant of permission to study on the Student route (where the applicant was allowed to change their course of study without applying for further permission as a Student, this requirement only applies to the course to which they changed).
- The student sponsor must have notified the Home Office, by the date of application, that the applicant has successfully completed the course of study.
Home Office’s Discretionary Arrangement
The Home Office have shared the following to help mitigate concerns:
- UKVI will consider exercising discretion and will hold Graduate route applications made before the applicant’s results have been received, provided that the results are received within 8 weeks of the application being made.
- Students who do not know when they will receive their results due to the boycott will be able to apply to extend their permission whilst they wait for their results. They will be exceptionally exempt from meeting the academic progression requirements. Sponsors should include a note on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) that the extension is due to the marking boycott.
The Home Office has made it clear that this is a discretionary arrangement and not a concession. It can therefore be assumed that these are temporary provisions designed in light of the instability caused by the boycotts.
Applying for a Graduate Visa With Pending Results
This is permitted under the above arrangement if your results and degree approval are delayed due to the boycott.
This is applicable if UKVI can be notified of your successful completion of your course within 8 weeks of the application being made. If this does not occur within 8 weeks, the Graduate visa application may be refused.
The application may take longer than the 8 weeks standard processing time. Following your application submission, UKVI will put on hold the application until they have been notified by your university that you have successfully completed the course.
You should consult with Student Services at your university to gauge whether course completion is likely to be reported soon, within the 8 week period. Since there is likely to be a level of uncertainty as to when confirmation may come through from your Sponsor, you may wish to apply as close as possible to the expiry of your current permission.
When to Apply for a Graduate Visa
You need to submit your visa application prior to the expiry of your current visa. Your current BRP card will state when this is, though please note this blog post, or your grant letter. You may also apply where you have subsisting Student permission under section 3C.
Applications for the Graduate route can only be made from inside the UK.
Section 3C of the Immigration Act 1971
Your permission will automatically be extended beyond the expiry date of your permission whilst you have a pending immigration application, known as section 3C leave.
You should note that you cannot travel overseas with a pending application, which is particularly important for international students. If you were to leave the UK with a pending immigration application, it would be deemed withdrawn.
Student Visa Extension
Alternatively, you can apply to extend your Student visa. Typically, people on Student visas are not able to apply for a Student visa extension. This is because of the academic progression requirement. However, UKVI will permit exemption from the academic progression requirement due to the boycott delaying degree approval. All other requirements bar academic progression must be met at the date of application. This concession is aimed at students who eventually intend to switch onto the Graduate route, not the Skilled Worker route or onto another course for example.
It may be appropriate to extend your Student permission if your results are not likely to be available within a few weeks of your permission expiring.
A Student visa extension can be done by Sponsors issuing a new Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to be used in the new application. The Sponsor would need to provide justification for the additional CAS required.
You will need to consult with Student Services at your university to see if they are willing to pay the application costs for the extension.
At a later date, once you have obtained degree approval, you could then apply for a Graduate visa. The extra step of extending inevitably increases the cost of obtaining permission as a Graduate eventually.
There are conditions attached to your Student visa and certain activities you are not permitted to do. Further information on this can be found here.
What if My Application Is Refused?
For both Student and Graduate visa applications, you have a right to an administrative review. It would be challenged typically on the basis of caseworking errors by the decision maker.
What Will Happen to My Student Dependants’ Applications?
Student and Graduate dependant applications which were made at the same time as the Student or Graduate will be treated in line with their application. This means that the discretionary arrangement applies to dependants too. However, please note the recent changes in the Immigration Rules regarding Student dependants.
Contact Our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice in relation to an application for a Graduate visa or immigration law issues resulting from the boycott, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.