Graduate route

Graduate visa

The UK Government has helpfully announced a new immigration route for international students that will allow them to build their careers with the UK on graduation. Here is what we know so far.

What is the Graduate route?

On 4 March 2021, the Immigration Rules were laid in Parliament. Within it, the UK Government announced the new Graduate route to allow the UK to ‘retain the brightest and the best international students from around the world’.

In their announcement, the Home Office stated that:

‘The launch of the route demonstrates the Government’s support for our education sector, and commitment to the International Education Strategy, which sets out an ambition to increase education exports to £35 billion and the number of international higher education students in the UK to 600,000 by 2030’.

Therefore, the aim of the new route is to make the UK attractive to international students who may not only plan to study in the UK but who may also wish to build their careers in the UK at the end of their studies. International students will be entitled to remain in the UK to work or look for work.

When can I make an application under the Graduate route?

The new Graduate route will open to applications on 1 July 2021.

Will all international students be eligible for a visa under the Graduate route?

The route is open to all international undergraduate and postgraduate students who have successfully completed their degree, Master’s degree, or another permitted qualification.

The student must have attended a Higher Education Provider with a track record of immigration compliance and hold a valid Student or Tier 4 (General) visa at the time of application.

Where the Student or Tier 4 (General) visa expires prior to 1 July 2021, the date that the Graduate route opens, the international student will not be eligible to apply for leave to remain under this route. Instead, such students may apply to stay in the UK under a different immigration category, such as the Skilled Worker, Start-Up, Global Talent, Innovator, or other route.

What type of work can I take up or look for in the UK?

Under this route, the international student may work flexibly at the end of their studies, change job roles, and generally develop their working career. The y will not be required to have a job offer or meet a minimum salary requirement at this stage.  

Will I be required to submit another visa application?

International students must apply for permission to stay in the UK under the Graduate route.

Can I apply under the Graduate route from outside of the UK?

No. The Graduate route is only open to international students that have successfully completed their studies in the UK and hold a valid Student or Tier 4 visa.

Will my university be required to act as a sponsor after I graduate?

International students applying under the Graduate route will not need a sponsor, be it a university or potential employer, though the university will be obligated to notify the Home Office that the student has successfully completed their studies.

Further, the student will be required to provide details of the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) used for their most recent Student or Tier 4 (General) visa.

What happens if I started studying in the UK and left due to COVID-19?

Fortunately, the Home Office has recognised the significant disruption caused by COVID-19, As such, the Home Office has introduced some concessions for students who may have been unable to return to the UK to continue their studies.

No, the Home Office has not asked the Department of Education to review the fees paid by international students during the pandemic. Instead, students who started their studies in the UK in autumn of 2020, and subsequently left the UK due to COVID-19, will be eligible to apply to the Graduate route if they enter the UK by 21 June 2021. The proviso is that the international student must have permission to enter the UK as a Student and meet the other requirements.

Overseas students that began their studies in January or February 2021 will need to be in the UK by 27 September 2021.

How long will the visa be valid for?

The length of the visa will depend on the type of studies undertaken by the international student.

The visa will be issued for 2 years, though international doctoral students will be issued a visa for 3 years.

What is the cost of a visa under this route?

An application under the Graduate route will carry a fee of £700.

In addition, the international student must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 per year.

How long with the visa be valid for?

The length of the visa will depend on the type of studies undertaken by the international student.

The visa will be issued for two years, though international doctoral students will be issued a visa for three years.

Can I apply to extend the visa under the Graduate route?

A visa under the Graduate route is non-extendable. At the end of the visa, be it 2 years for degree students, or 3 years for doctoral students, the international graduate may apply for leave to remain in the UK under a different immigration category.

For instance, should the international student find a suitable job, they may go on to apply for a Skilled Worker visa from within the UK. It may also be possible for the student to apply for a Start-Up, Global Talent, Innovator, if eligible.

Can my dependant apply under the Graduate route?

Dependant family members of a Student or Tier 4 (General) visa holder may extend their permission to stay in the UK under this route. Therefore, the family member must already hold a dependant visa in the UK.

Unfortunately, new dependant family members will not be permitted to apply for leave under the Graduate route.

Will I be eligible for settlement?

Leave to remain under the Graduate route will not count towards settlement. This mirrors the Student and Tier 4 (General) route. Instead, the Graduate route, the international student will be given the opportunity to look for work over a 2-to-3-year period.

At the end of the visa, the student may apply for leave to remain under another immigration category, one that has a route to settlement. These include the Skilled Worker, Global Talent, and Innovator immigration categories.

Conclusion

The Graduate route offers the flexible approach that many international students and immigration professionals have been calling for. At the end of their studies, international students will gain sufficient time to further their career in the UK and move into a work visa category, with a view to settlement and even British nationality.  


Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.

Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.

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