What is the Graduate Visa?
The Graduate Visa, also known as the ‘Graduate Route’ is a new post-study immigration route that opened on 1 July 2021 to international students who have finished their studies in the UK.
The Graduate visa allows student visa holders to stay in the UK for at least 2 years after they have successfully completed their course of study. The Graduate route has replaced the Doctorate Extension Scheme and international students who have a PhD or other doctoral qualification will be able to stay for at least 3 years.
This visa is a post-study work visa that gives you the right to both live and work in the UK. The Graduate Visa cannot be extended but if you wish to remain in the UK after your visa expires you could be eligible to switch to the Skilled Worker Visa instead.
Eligibility requirements for the Graduate Route
To be eligible for the Graduate Visa you must be able to meet a number of certain requirements, you could be eligible if you:
- Are currently in the UK
- Hold a valid Student Visa (Including the old Tier 4 Student Visa)
- Have studied on an eligible course
- Have successfully completed your course of study in the UK
You will need to have studied at an educational institution that is a licensed sponsor and you will need to have studied for 12 months or the full length of your course, whichever is shorter.
Eligible courses include:
- Bachelor’s degrees
- Master’s degrees
- PhD or doctorates
- Law conversion courses that have been approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority
- The Legal Practice Course in England and Wales, the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland
- The Bar Practice Course in England and Wales, or the Bar Course in Northern Ireland
- Foundation programmes in medicine or dentistry
- Postgraduate Certificates in Education (PGCE)
- Postgraduate Diplomas in Education (PGDE)
How to apply for a post-study work visa
You must apply for the Graduate Visa before your student visa expires. You can apply as soon as your course provider has informed you that you have successfully completed your course of study, you do not need to wait until you have officially graduated.
You must apply online whilst you are in the UK, you can do this by using the online application form available on the gov.uk website. As well as filling in the application form, you will also need to prove your identity as part of your Graduate Visa application. If you are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein you can usually do this by scanning your passport or national identity card on the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. If you are from a country outside the EU or EEA you can prove your identity by scanning your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) in the app. If you cannot scan your BRP then you will need to attend an appointment to have your biometric information taken (your photograph and fingerprints).
Once you have completed the application form and proven your identity you can expect to receive a decision about your visa application within 8 weeks.
When making your Graduate Visa application, there are a number of documents that you will need to provide, these include:
- A valid passport or another travel document that shows your identity and nationality
- Your biometric residence permit (BRP), if you were given one when you applied for your Student or Tier 4 student visa
- Your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number from when you applied for your Student visa
If in the last 12 months a Government, international scholarship agency or other sponsor has paid for your course fees or living costs then you will also be required to submit a letter from your scholarship or sponsorship provider alongside your application.
What can you do on a Graduate Visa?
The Graduate route allows you to stay in the UK for 2 years (3 years if you have a PhD or other doctoral qualifications). Whilst in the UK, graduate visa holders can work in most jobs, be self-employed, look for work, travel freely in and out of the UK, volunteer and can continue to live with eligible family members.
The Graduate route does however come with some limitations. Graduate Visa holders will not be able to apply for most benefits or the state pension and cannot work as a professional sportsperson.
Switching from a Graduate Visa
The Graduate Visa cannot be extended, however, if you would like to continue living in the UK after your Graduate Visa expires, you could be eligible to switch to other types of UK visas such as the Skilled Worker Visa.
To be eligible for the Skilled Worker route you must have a job offer from a registered UK sponsor company, you will also need to meet other eligibility criteria like the minimum salary requirements. As a Skilled Worker, you will be able to live and work in the UK for up to 5 years, after which your visa can be extended or you could be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Other visas that you could be eligible for include:
- The Health and Care Visa – if you’re a medical professional who has been offered a job with the NHS
- The Start-up Visa – If you plan to start an innovative business in the UK
- A partner visa – if you are married to, in a civil partnership with, or in a long-term relationship with a British citizen or settled person
Graduate Visa refusal
As one of the newer UK visas, the process for dealing with a Graduate Visa refusal is similar to the other routes. Some of the most common reasons for a Graduate Visa refusal include the following:
- Applying from outside the UK (you must apply for this visa inside the UK)
- Failing to provide proof of your identity
- Not holding the correct immigration status
- Failing to submit the correct supporting documents
- The applicant doesn’t respond to Home Office requests for further information
- You do not have a job offer from an eligible Home Office-approved sponsor at the required skill level
- You cannot provide evidence that your job will meet the minimum salary threshold (typically at least £25,600 or the going rate for the job)
- You do not have the required level of English language skills (B1 on the CEFR Scale)
If your visa is refused, you may be eligible to apply for an administrative review. You must submit your request for administrative review within the given timelines in your refusal letter (usually 14 days).
The potential outcomes of an administrative review include:
- The review is successful and the Home Office withdraws their decision
- The decision is maintained for the original reasons given
- The decision is maintained but for different reasons
The best course of action could be to work with an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss your case and develop a course of action based on your circumstances. If you need support or advice with your case, contact our expert immigration lawyers today for further advice and support.
How can IAS help?
The graduate route is very new to the UK immigration system which means it can be difficult to work out exactly how to make a successful application. Here at IAS, our lawyers are trained in all the latest changes to the UK’s immigration system, including the new graduate route.
We can assist you with every step of the graduate route application process, from assessing whether you are eligible to apply, to helping you complete the application form accurately and gather all of your supporting documents. Our lawyers have a track record of success when it comes to UK visa applications, they will ensure that your application is completed to the highest standard.
For more information about the immigration services that our lawyers provide, get in touch with our team today on 0330 057 4866 .
Last modified on August 15th, 2023 at 3:48 pm
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To be eligible to apply for the Graduate Visa you must have successfully completed an eligible course of study in the UK. As well as the successful completion of a course you must also currently be in the UK on a valid student route visa, which can include both the new Student Visa and the old Tier 4 Student visa.
The application fee for the Graduate Visa is £715. As well as the application fee you will also need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which usually costs £624 per year. The Health Surcharge is a mandatory fee that will allow you to access the UK’s health service, the NHS.
You should apply for your graduate visa before your student visa expires, whilst waiting for a decision on your graduate visa application you will remain subject to the immigration rules of your student visa, this means that you can work but are limited to the hours you can work and jobs you can do. Your graduate visa will be valid from the day that it is approved, from then you can work in most jobs and switch between jobs.
Once you apply for the Graduate Visa you can expect to receive a decision about your application within 8 weeks. Once your visa application has been approved your Graduate Visa will be valid for 2 years, or 3 years for PhD students or those with other doctoral qualifications.
Yes, family members in the UK who already have immigration status as a student dependent can apply to stay as dependents on your Graduate Visa. Family members that can qualify as dependents include partners and children.
Each family member will need to complete a separate online application and will also need to pay the application fee and health surcharge.