UK Graduate Route Post-Study Work Visas – Information & FAQs for Postgraduate Students
There’s great news for anyone considering studying in the UK, as the government has announced new post-study work visas for international students.
The new Graduate Route will be available to anyone completing a UK degree. It will allow you to stay in the UK for up to two years after you graduate, with no restriction on the type of work you can do.
We can’t tell you how pleased we are to see these changes and we want to make sure you understand what they mean for Masters and PhD students.
There’s also good news for anyone worried about the impact of Corona Virus on UK student visas. The Government has confirmed that the Graduate Route will be introduced as planned and students who have been unable to complete all of their degree on campus in the UK will still be eligible.
The following is a quick explanation of how the new post-study work visas will work, with a particular focus on postgraduate students (that’s what we do, after all).
There are still a few details to confirm, but we’ll be keeping a very close eye on things and making sure our newsletter subscribers are up to date.
What is the Graduate Route?
The Graduate Route is a new UK post-study work visa to be introduced for international students. It will allow you to live and work in the UK for up to two years after a Masters, or three years after a PhD.
Who will be eligible for a Graduate Route visa?
The Graduate Route is intended to be available to anyone graduating from a UK degree who holds a Tier 4 visa when the system is introduced in 2021.
The new Graduate Route will be available to postgraduate students who hold a valid Tier 4 visa at the end of one of the following courses:
- A one-year Masters beginning in the 2020-21 academic year or later
- A two-year Masters beginning in the 2019-20 academic year or later
- A three-year Masters (or longer) or a PhD beginning in the 2018-19 academic year or later
Students completing other postgraduate (or undergraduate) degree-level courses will also be eligible, provided they graduate in the summer of 2021 or later.
Unfortunately this means that the Graduate Route isn’t available to you if you began a one-year Masters in the 2019-20 academic year. This is because your programme will finish and your Tier 4 visa will expire before the route is introduced. You may still be able to apply for a Tier 2 (skilled worker) visa, or benefit from the Graduate Route after completing a PhD.
Will my university need to sponsor my application?
No. You will not need any sponsorship to apply for the Graduate Route.
How many people can access the Graduate Route?
There will be no cap on the number of people who can benefit from the Graduate Route.
Will there be any restriction on the work I will be able to do with a Graduate Route Visa?
There will be no minimum salary level for the Graduate Route. You can seek advanced roles related to your degree, or develop your CV and experience in other positions.
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 when my Graduate Route Visa expires?
At the end of the two-year period 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 does require 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.
You won’t be able to apply for a second Graduate Route visa if you aren’t eligible for a Tier 2 visa.
Will I need to apply again if I already have a Tier 4 visa?
Yes. You will need to apply for a separate Graduate Route visa before your Tier 4 visa expires.
Will there be a fee for the Graduate Route visa?
Yes. You will need to pay a separate visa fee to access the Graduate Route. You will also need to pay another Immigration Health Surcharge to cover each additional year you spend in the UK.
What will the application deadline be?
You will need to apply to the Graduate Route before your Tier 4 student visa expires. This is currently four months after the end of your course (six months for Masters students under the Tier 4 visa Pilot).
However, it isn’t clear whether the new two-year duration of the Graduate Route will be in addition to the post-study period allowed by the Tier 4 visa. It is possible that you may need to apply to the Graduate Route before your course finishes (and not be able to combine the two periods of post-study work allowance).
Will the Graduate Route replace the Tier 4 visa pilot for Masters students?
Currently, the Tier 4 pilot is available at 27 institutions and allows students to stay for six months (rather than four months) after their Masters. The Tier 4 pilot also makes it easier to apply for a student visa by reducing the amount of information students must provide.
The Graduate Route will replace the post-study work entitlement of the pilot (by extending this period to two years for all students). But the simplified Tier 4 application process could remain at some universities.
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 visas 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 Tier 4 visas. EU and EEA students do not currently need a visa to study in the UK, but this may change as a result of Brexit. If so, the Graduate Route would be available to EU and EEA students as well as other international students.
Is the Graduate Route affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
The Graduate Route remains on course to be introduced from summer 2021. You may still be eligible if you are forced to complete part of your degree via distance learning, provided you arrive in the UK before 6 April 2021 to complete a semester of study through face-to-face learning at your university.
- The new immigration route will be open to international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Institution with a track record of compliance
- Successful applicants on this route will be able to stay and work (in any sector or at any level), or look for work, in the UK for a maximum period of two years. The visa is not extendable but graduates will be able to switch into skilled work once they have found a suitable job
- It is expected that students entering the UK in the 2020-21 academic year intake will be eligible for this route. The UKCISA website mentions that students who have current Tier 4 leave when the new route is introduced may also be able to benefit from it. Students whose Tier 4 visa expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible for the post-study work visa.
- The route will require an in-country application. A (so far unspecified) application fee and an Immigration Health Surcharge payment will be applicable. Applicants will be subject to identity, criminality and security checks.