UK Graduate Visa: How To Stay In The UK After Graduation

Personal Immigration
· 09 Jul 2024
· 11 mins read
Author: Jay Moghal
The UK Graduate Visa allows international students who have successfully completed their course the permission to remain in the UK post-graduation in order to start their careers or look for employment in various sectors. 
UK Graduate Visa

Table of Contents

Personal Immigration
· 09 Jul 2024
· 11 mins read
Author: Jay Moghal

What is the UK Graduate Visa?

The UK Graduate Visa allows international students who have successfully completed their course the permission to remain in the UK post-graduation in order to start their careers or look for employment in various sectors. 

This visa is suitable for individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited UK university. It is an unsponsored route, allowing applicants to qualify without needing a job offer or a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). 

Graduates are allowed to stay in the UK for two years, or three for doctoral degree holders, and may work in any role, providing the flexibility to gain diverse experience without the constraints of specific skills or salary requirements. 

Although the Graduate Visa does not directly lead to permanent residence, it enables holders to transition to other visa categories that may offer a path to settlement.

MAC’s 2024 Rapid Review of UK’s Graduate Visa Route

UK Graduate Visa News

The UK Government has commissioned a rapid review of the Graduate route by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC). This assessment aims to ensure the route’s effectiveness and alignment with national policies. The MAC’s review focused on several key aspects:

  • Examining if there are misuses of the route.
  • Understanding the profile of individuals utilising the route, including their universities of graduation, to gauge the route’s reach and impact.
  • Analysing the demographic details and trends of students transitioning from the student visa to the Graduate route, helping to identify any patterns or significant findings in this transition.
  • Evaluating the economic impact of those who switch from student visas to the Graduate route, particularly their contribution to the UK economy through employment and other economic activities.
  • Considering whether the Graduate route is affecting the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system, potentially influencing admission standards, student quality, or other aspects of the educational sector.

Key Recommendations from the MAC on the UK Graduate Route (May 2024 Update)

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has reviewed the Graduate route and offered several key recommendations to ensure its continued effectiveness and alignment with the objectives of the UK government:

  1. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommends keeping the Graduate Route unchanged, recognising that it has effectively achieved the government’s goals.
  2. The committee recommends introducing mandatory requirements for universities, including a new registration system for agents, to maintain the integrity of the UK Higher Education system.
  3. Universities should be required to confirm course outcomes, like the class of degree, in addition to verifying successful course completion for Graduate visa applications.
  4. The MAC advises against further restrictions on the Graduate route, warning it could worsen the decline in international student numbers and harm university finances. The government is urged to consider the broader effects of policy changes, not just net migration figures.

Eligibility Criteria 

To be eligible for the Graduate Visa, several criteria must be met.

Firstly, applicants must accumulate a minimum of 70 points under the UK’s points-based immigration system. 

Points are allocated for:

  • successfully completing a UK degree or an equivalent qualification
  • studying at an accredited Higher Education Provider known for compliance
  • having legally resided in the UK with a Student or Tier 4 Visa at the time of the Graduate Visa application. 
  • last but not least, the applicant should not have previously been on the Doctorate Extension Scheme or the Graduate route.

Applicants do not need to secure a job offer, nor do they need to demonstrate financial stability or English language proficiency if these were already confirmed during their Student Visa application process.

Qualifications for the UK Graduate Visa

To qualify for the UK Graduate Visa, applicants must also complete a recognised UK degree at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level or a professional qualification that meets similar standards. 

Eligible qualifications include:

  • a law conversion course
  • the Legal Practice Course for solicitors
  • the Bar Practice Course for barristers
  • foundation programmes in medicine or dentistry
  • Postgraduate Certificates or Diplomas in Education

These courses prepare graduates for professions regulated by UK law or public authorities.

Additionally, graduates who have served as Student Union Sabbatical Officers are also eligible, provided they have completed a qualifying degree before their tenure. 

Application Process

To be eligible for the UK Graduate Visa, applicants must have held permission as a Student for a specific period, contingent on their course duration. 

For courses lasting 12 months or less, student permission must cover the entire course duration within the UK. 

For courses longer than 12 months, eligibility requires that applicants have held Student permission for a minimum of 12 months and have spent this time studying in the UK.

Applications for the Graduate Visa are submitted online, and applicants must be within the UK and hold valid leave on the Student route. The application can be initiated once the education provider confirms the course completion to the Home Office. Using the CAS number from their current Student Visa, applicants do not need to wait for their degree certificate to apply. 

Identity verification might require using the ‘UK Immigration ID Check’ app or attending an in-person appointment for biometric enrolment.

How Much Does The Graduate Visa Cost

Applying for a UK Graduate Visa involves specific fees that applicants need to be aware of:

Application Fee: The fee for submitting a Graduate Visa application online is £822. This amount is consistent across all levels of academic achievement, whether for degree or postgraduate-level applicants. It’s important to note that even though doctoral students are granted a longer visa duration, the application fee remains the same.

Immigration Health Surcharge: In addition to the application fee, applicants are required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. This surcharge grants them access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) under the same conditions as permanent residents. The total amount of the surcharge depends on the duration of the visa and must be paid in full at the time of the application.

Graduate Visa Application Processing Time

Applying for a UK Graduate Visa involves several steps, with a typical processing time that can extend up to 8 weeks. Here’s what applicants can expect during the application process:

  1. Application Submission and Fees: After submitting the online application and paying the necessary fees, including the Immigration Health Surcharge, applicants may need to provide biometric information.
  2. Biometric Information: The processing timeline often hinges on how the biometric information is submitted:
    • UKVCAS Service Point: If required to visit a service point, the 8-week processing time starts from the date of the appointment.
    • UK Immigration ID Check App: For those eligible to use the app, the 8-week period begins once the applicant’s identity has been verified online and all supporting documents have been uploaded.
  3. Visa Outcome and eVisa: Once the application is approved, the applicant receives a digital immigration status, known as an eVisa. Visa nationals additionally receive a new Biometric Residence Permit, which is necessary for international travel.
  4. Right to Work: Individuals granted a Graduate Visa are permitted to work in the UK without the need for sponsorship. However, they must prove their right to work to potential employers. This is typically done by providing a share code that employers can use to verify the applicant’s immigration status through the online Right to Work Checking Service.

Changes to Dependant Rights on the UK Graduate Visa

Starting in Spring 2024, a significant policy change has affected the UK Graduate Visa: holders are no longer allowed to bring family members to the UK as dependents. This amendment has aligned the Graduate Visa rules more closely with those of the UK Student route. 

Until the new rules take effect, the existing regulations allow for the following:

  • Partners and dependent children of Graduate Visa holders may apply to stay in the UK if they are already in the country under the Student route as dependants.
  • Dependents must meet specific relationship criteria and, for children, additional age and care requirements.
  • Each dependant must apply separately, with an application fee of £822. They must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
  • If the application is successful, a dependent partner’s visa will expire on the same date as the primary visa holder’s. For dependent children, the visa will expire on the date the first parent’s permission ends.

Job-seeking and Employment Flexibility

The Graduate Visa is unsponsored, meaning applicants do not need a job offer or Certificate of Sponsorship to qualify. Graduates can seek and undertake employment in any role at any skill level, providing significant flexibility in job choice and mobility. Successful applicants can also switch jobs without restriction.

Duration of Stay and Extensions

Graduates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree can stay in the UK for two years, while doctoral graduates can stay for three years. Extensions are not possible under the Graduate Visa route; however, it offers a pathway to longer stays through other work-based visa routes like the Skilled Worker, Global Talent, and Innovator Founder routes, which may lead to settlement.

Transitioning After the Expiry of the UK Graduate Visa

The UK Graduate Visa, with its non-extendable nature and lack of a direct path to settlement, requires holders to plan their next steps before their visa expires—typically after 2 or 3 years, depending on their qualification level. Here’s what needs to be considered:

  1. One of the common transitions is to the Skilled Worker route, which not only allows for settlement but can also accommodate new dependants coming to the UK.
  1. To qualify for the Skilled Worker Visa, the main applicant needs a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a UK employer who is recognised as a licensed sponsor. The job offer must meet the route’s minimum skill and salary thresholds.
  1. Dependants of the principal applicant, whether existing or new, must also meet specific eligibility requirements, including proving their relationship and meeting financial requirements.

Employment and Compliance Considerations:

Employers are obligated to perform regular right-to-work checks. As the Graduate Visa nears expiration, these checks are crucial to ensure that employees remain legally employed.

Employers looking to support a Skilled Worker Visa application must have a valid sponsorship licence from the Home Office. They need to demonstrate that the employment offer is genuine and meets all regulatory requirements.

How We Can Help 

We can assist you with completing the online application and advise you on the documents required.

Useful Resources

British Council: Stay in the UK after Graduation
UK Government: Graduate Visa Route


 How long does it take to get a Graduate Visa?

The typical processing time for a UK Graduate Visa can extend up to 8 weeks. This timeline may vary depending on how quickly the applicant submits their biometric information and whether it is done in person at a UKVCAS Service Point or via the UK Immigration ID Check app.

What is a Graduate Visa?

The UK Graduate Visa is a post-study work visa that allows international students who have completed an eligible degree at a UK institution to stay in the UK for up to 2 years (3 years for doctoral graduates) to work in any role at any skill level. This visa does not require a job offer or sponsorship and does not directly lead to permanent residence but can serve as a stepping stone to other work-based visa categories.

How do you qualify for a Graduate Visa?

To qualify for a Graduate Visa, applicants must:
Have successfully completed an eligible UK degree or a professional qualification at a recognised higher education provider.
Have accumulated 70 points under the UK’s points-based immigration system, which includes points for having a valid Student Visa at the time of application, completing a degree at an accredited institution, and not having previously been on the Doctorate Extension Scheme.
Apply from within the UK while holding a valid Student Visa.

Can a Graduate Visa be rejected?

Yes, a Graduate Visa application can be rejected if the applicant fails to meet the eligibility requirements, such as not accumulating enough points under the points-based system, failing to prove they have successfully completed their course, or applying from outside the UK. Incomplete applications or incorrect documentation can also lead to rejection.

How long can you stay outside the UK on a Graduate Visa?

The UK Graduate Visa does not have strict travel restrictions, allowing visa holders to travel outside the UK. However, it’s important to note that spending extensive time outside the UK could impact future immigration applications, especially those seeking settlement, as continuous residence is often a requirement. Therefore, while short trips are permitted, extended absences might be scrutinised if they appear to disrupt the applicant’s continuous residence in the UK.

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About the Expert
Jay Moghal
Founder and Managing Director
With over 15 years of immigration law experience at top London firms, Jay Moghal established Rove Legal in 2020 to offer prompt, personalised services without the bureaucratic hurdles associated with larger firms.
+44 (0) 203 146 0900

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