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What Can I Do (And Not Do) With a Graduate Visa?

The new Graduate Visa route has now been open for four months. This route is designed to allow Students who have completed an eligible UK qualification to stay in the UK to work or to look for work. The Graduate Visa allows individuals to stay in the UK for two years (or three years, for those being awarded doctorates) after the successful completion of their studies.

The Graduate Visa is a route that allows you the freedom to explore your options, work, or look for work while you are in the UK. It is also permitted to be self-employed or even to establish your own business. 

In this post, we will look at the conditions attached to a Graduate Visa, and set out what you are able to do as a Graduate Visa holder in the UK, as well as what you are unable to do. 

What Kind of Work Can a Graduate Visa Holder Do?

A Graduate Visa will allow you to undertake any work in the UK, including: 

  • paid and unpaid employment;
  • voluntary work;
  • self-employment;
  • engaging in business or any professional activity.

The only restriction placed on a Graduate Visa holder’s ability to work is a prohibition on working as a professional sportsperson. This means that as a Graduate Visa holder, you are not permitted to engage in professional sport (including coaching). However, you are permitted to participate in amateur sport. An amateur is defined in part 6 of the Immigration Rules as “a person who engages in a sport or creative activity solely for personal enjoyment and who is not seeking to derive a living from the activity.”

The Home Office Guidance sets out that any of the following activities may be considered to constitute engagement in professional sport, which would not be permitted with a Graduate Visa: 

  • providing services as a sportsperson, playing or coaching in any capacity, at a professional or semi-professional level of sport;
  • receiving payment, including payment in kind, for playing or coaching that is covering all, or the majority of, their costs for travelling to, and living in the UK;
  • being registered to a professional or semi-professional sports team – this includes all academy and development team age groups;
  • representing a national team within the previous 2 years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards;
  • representing a state or regional team within the previous 2 years, including all youth and development age groups from under 17’s upwards;
  • established an international reputation in their chosen field of sport;
  • engaging an agent or representative, with the aim of finding opportunities as a sportsperson, and/or developing a current or future career as a sportsperson. 

Am I Required to Work While in the UK With a Graduate Visa?

No, there is no requirement to work while on a Graduate Visa. The Graduate Immigration route is designed to allow Students who have successfully completed an eligible UK qualification to look for, and undertake, work in the UK. Therefore, you do not need to have a job offer or a Certificate of Sponsorship to be eligible to apply, and there is no condition that requires you to work while in the UK with a Graduate Visa. 

Am I Allowed to Work Full-Time/Part-Time?

The conditions of the Graduate Visa contain no reference to any maximum or minimum number of hours you may work. Accordingly, the route allows for complete flexibility for working arrangements and even allows you to work for multiple employers. 

What if I Don’t Find a Job? 

As outlined above, there is no condition attached to the Graduate Visa that requires you to work or to find a job. The Graduate Visa is not a route that leads to settlement in the UK, and it is not possible to extend your Graduate Visa at the end of the two- (or three-) year period. Therefore at the end of this period, you will be required to either leave the UK or to apply to switch into another immigration route, if you qualify to do so, before the expiry of your grant of leave. 

Am I Allowed to Study With a Graduate Visa?

Study is permitted on this route, but it is not permissible to study with an education provider which is  a Student Sponsor and which would meet the approved qualification and level of study requirements of the Student route. If you wish to study on such a course,  you must apply for leave as a Student. It is also worth noting that it is not beneficial to do so in any event, as you can only have leave in the Graduate route once. Therefore, if you are considering further study in the UK, it is beneficial to first apply to study in the UK as a Student and to switch to the Graduate visa at a later date. 

You are allowed to study if your chosen course is not eligible for a Student visa. 

Are My Dependants Allowed to Work?

Family members in the UK, who already have permission to stay in the UK as a dependant of a Student, are able to switch to become a Graduate dependant at the same time as the Student extends their stay on the Graduate Visa Route. However, new dependants (those who have not previously been the dependant of a Student) are not permitted to switch into the Graduate Visa route as a dependant, except where a dependent child is born in the UK during a period of Student or Graduate leave.

People who are granted leave as dependants of a Graduate Visa holder are allowed to work in the UK, apart from as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach). 

Are My Dependants Allowed to Study?

People who are granted leave as dependants of a Graduate Visa holder are allowed to study in the UK (subject to the ATAS condition of Appendix ATAS, if they are over 18 when they commence study). 

Contact Our Graduate Immigration Route Lawyers

For expert advice and assistance for an application for a Graduate visa, please contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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