The UK Graduate visa allows international students to remain in the UK for a limited period after completing their studies. This route enables graduates to work, look for work, or start a business in the UK at any skill level for either 2 or 3 years depending on their qualification.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the Graduate route including:
What You Learn
Eligibility Requirements to Apply Graduate Visa
To be eligible for a Graduate visa, applicants must meet requirements in 3 areas:
- The applicant must have successfully completed a course at bachelor’s degree level or above at a Home Office approved education provider with a track record of compliance for graduate route visa.
- Successful completion means receiving final results showing the qualification was awarded. Graduation is not required.
- The education provider must notify the Home Office that the course was successfully completed.
- Applicants can qualify if they completed the course specified on their CAS from their Tier 4 visa.
- The applicant must have been awarded a UK bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.
- Professional qualifications like a PGCE or LPC are also eligible if they are at degree level or above.
- The degree must have been completed during the validity of the Tier 4 visa.
Study in the UK
- Applicants must have studied in the UK for at least 12 months or the full course duration if less than 12 months.
- Permitted study abroad programs can count towards the time spent in the UK.
- Distance learning undertaken during COVID-19 restrictions can also count in certain circumstances.
Meeting these 3 requirements will qualify graduates for 70 points needed to apply under the points-based system.
Applying for the UK Graduate Visa
Here is what you need to know about submitting an application for apply graduate route.
When to Apply
- Apply once your education provider has notified the Home Office that you completed your course.
- Apply before your Tier 4 visa expires. You can stay in the UK while the application is processed.
- If your Tier 4 expires, you can still apply if you have Exceptional Assurance status.
- Submit an online application – this is completed through the GOV.UK website. Have your CAS number ready.
- Prove your identity – this is usually done by scanning your BRP using the UK Immigration ID Check app. EU nationals can scan their passport. If you cannot use the app, you will need to attend an appointment at a UKVCAS service point.
- Pay the fees – the application fee is £822 and you must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
- Biometric residence permit (BRP)
- CAS number
- Proof of qualifications
- Bank statements
- Application fee: £822
- Immigration Health Surcharge:
- £624 per year for 2 years (bachelor’s degree)
- £936 per year for 3 years (PhD)
- Standard processing time is 8 weeks
- Do not travel outside the UK until you receive a decision
Conditions of the UK Graduate Visa
If your application is approved, here are the conditions you must comply with:
Length of Stay
- 2 years permission for bachelor’s and master’s graduates
- 3 years permission for PhD graduates
- Work in any type of job, at any skill level, for any employer
- Self employment and voluntary work permitted
- Cannot work as a professional sportsperson
- Short courses and recreational studies permitted
- Cannot study with a Student sponsor or on a course eligible for the Student route
- Graduate visa cannot be extended
- Can switch from within the UK to a work visa like Skilled Worker
- From Spring 2024, dependants will no longer be allowed on the Graduate route
- Current visa holders can apply, if they already have dependant status
Here are answers to some common questions about the Graduate visa:
Can I travel outside the UK after applying?
No, you cannot travel outside the UK until you receive a decision on your Graduate visa application. Leaving the UK will cause your application to be withdrawn.
When will my Graduate visa start and end?
Your 2 or 3 year visa will start from the date a decision is made on your application, not the date you applied. It cannot be extended
Can I work while my Graduate application is pending?
Yes, you can keep working under the conditions of your Tier 4 visa until a Graduate visa decision is reached, unless you applied for Tier 4 after 6 April 2022 in which case you can work full-time.
What happens if my Tier 4 expires before I apply for the Graduate route?
You can still apply if you get Exceptional Assurance status. This allows you to stay in the UK while your Graduate application is processed.
Can I switch from the Graduate route to another visa?
Yes, you can switch to a work visa like Skilled Worker from within the UK to continue living and working here after your Graduate visa expires.
Do I need a job offer to get the Graduate visa?
No, the Graduate route is unsponsored so you do not need a job offer to qualify. You can work or look for work once you get the visa.