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Graduate Route Work Visa

The UK Government has confirmed that the Graduate route will open for applications on 1 July 2021. This will allow the UK to retain the brightest and the best international students to contribute to society and the economy post-study.

Students are expected to undertake their studies in the UK to be eligible for the Graduate Route. However, if students are required to either continue their current studies or commence a new programme of study by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, they will still be eligible providing they enter the UK before 21 June 2021 and complete the final Term of their studies in the UK.

The Graduate route will be available to international students who have successfully completed their course and have valid Tier 4 or Student permission at the time of submitting  the graduate route visa application. Successful applicants on this route at bachelor’s or master’s level will be able to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level for two years. Doctoral students will be able to stay for three years.

Those who graduate and whose Tier 4 or Student visa leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible, they are able to apply to a number of other routes, for example Skilled Worker, Start Up, Innovator or Global Talent, among others.

Individuals who already have permission as a dependant of a Student who is applying on this route can also apply to extend their permission as a dependant – however new dependants are not permitted on this route.

How do I apply for the Graduate Route Visa?

The current UKVI guidance suggests that a student must have an existing Student Visa (Tier 4) and must have entered the UK before 21 June 2021 to complete the final Term of their studies in the UK to be eligible to apply for the Graduate Route. You will need to complete identity, criminality and security checks as well as pay an application fee and an Immigration Health Surcharge payment. You will not need any sponsorship to apply for the Graduate Route.

Students will also need to know the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) they used for their most recent Student (or Tier 4) application in order to apply for the Graduate route.

Students intending to apply for the Graduate Route should note that UKVI are currently suggesting that Student Visa applications take 15 working days to process following a visa appointment, but some application may take longer. Students should be mindful of any local restrictions that may cause delays in securing visa centre appointments and TB tests. Students should consider all the above and allow ample time from a CAS request to arrival in the UK.

Will there be a fee for the Graduate Route visa?

Yes,  It will incur a payment of a visa fee of £700 and the Immigration Health Surcharge at the full rate of £624 per year.

Will I need to apply if I already have a Student Visa (Tier 4)?

Yes, you will need to apply for a separate Graduate Route visa before your Student Visa (Tier 4) expires.

Will the Graduate Route replace the doctorate extension scheme for students?

Yes, the Graduate Route will replace the Doctorate Extension Scheme for PhD students who graduate from summer 2021. This is good news for PhD/DrPH visa holders as the new option provides a much more generous post-study work period (three years rather than one) and a simpler application process.

What will this mean for EU students?

The Graduate Route will be available to students on Student Visa. EU and EEA students arriving in the UK to study from 1 January 2021 or after will require a visa. The Graduate Route will therefore be available to EU and EEA students as well as other international students on a Student Visa (Tier 4).

What will happen if I don't find a job after my degree?

You don't need to be in work to qualify for the Graduate Route and periods of unemployment won't have any impact on the length of your post-study work visa.

What will happen when my Graduate Route Visa expires?

At the end of the two-year period after a master's or three-year period after a PhD/DrPH degree, you will need to leave the UK or apply for a different visa, such as a Tier 2 General work visa. The Tier 2 visa requires you to have an employment offer with a minimum skill and salary level, but your time on the Graduate Route should make it much easier to work towards this.

Will the Graduate route require a new application?

The Graduate route will require a new visa application, which will only be possible from inside the UK.

Will universities be expected to act as sponsors for those students on the Graduate route after they have graduated?

Individuals applying to the Graduate route will not need a sponsor. Student sponsors will not need to fulfil any sponsorship duties for their students once they switch onto the Graduate route and students will not need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to apply under this route. However, students sponsors will need to notify the Home Office that a student has successfully completed their course.

Will this route count towards settlement?

The route is non-extendable and does not count towards settlement. However, graduates who find an appropriate job and meet the requirements will be able to apply to work routes, including the Skilled Worker, which is a route to settlement.