The UK government has opened the Graduate immigration route on July 1, 2021, which allows UK graduates from eligible Higher Education Providers to apply for a two- or three-year visa allowing them to work in the United Kingdom. If successful, a PhD or other doctoral applicant will be granted a three-year permit. All other applicants will be granted a two-year permit. Time spent in the United Kingdom under the Graduate route does not count toward settlement status, but applicants can switch into the Skilled Worker category from within the United Kingdom.
The Graduate route offers qualifying applicants additional time in the United Kingdom following graduation, providing a more flexible pool of candidates and a less financially and administratively burdensome visa option for employers, as compared to other immigration routes.
In order to be granted a Graduate visa, the applicant must obtain 70 points under the Points Based System. The applicant must have been sponsored by a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance and must have successfully completed the course undertaken during their last grant of permission to stay on the Student route. Additionally, the Student Sponsor must have notified the Home Office before the application date of the student’s successful course completion.
The applicant must have successfully completed a UK bachelor’s degree, a UK postgraduate degree, or a relevant qualification listed within GR 5.2 of the Immigration rules. The applicant must have studied in the United Kingdom for a minimum period of the course for which their last period of permission to stay as a student was issued. For a course of 12 months or less, they must have completed the full duration of the course; for a course over 12 months, they must have completed at least 12 months of the course.
Students who took part in remote learning overseas between January 24, 2020 and September 27, 2021 will not be prevented from meeting the study in the United Kingdom requirement if (a) they began their course in 2020 and entered the United Kingdom on or before June 21, 2021; or (b) they began their course in 2021 and entered the United Kingdom by September 27, 2021.
Applicants should download the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ smartphone app to scan their passport or Tier 4 General / Student Biometric Residence Permit. Successful applicants will be issued with an electronic immigration status which can be shared with future employers.
Family members already in the United Kingdom as a Student or Tier 4 General dependant may apply as a dependant of a Graduate at the same time. Family members outside of the United Kingdom may not apply to join a family member holding Graduate status.
The application fee is GBP 700 for the main applicant (same cost for each dependant family member). The Immigration Health Surcharge will also apply at a cost of GBP 624 per year per person. Applicants are not required to evidence maintenance funds held as part of the application process.
The introduction of the route raises several considerations for employers when deciding if the Graduate route or the Skilled Worker route is the most appropriate for new hires including cost, settlement and family members. Many employers will prefer the Skilled Worker route as it leads to settlement, despite the heavier financial and administrative burden. Nevertheless, the Graduate route offers Students additional time in the United Kingdom following graduation, providing a more flexible pool of candidates to employers.
Individuals holding Graduate status will be able to share their electronic status with employers who will be able to validate right to work using the Home Office’s Online Right to Work Check Service.