Following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union and, therefore, the end of free movement, there have been questions as to how and when a postgraduate visa would be available to help international students currently studying in the UK. In September 2019, the UK government announced plans for a post-study work visa for international students as part of a new points-based immigration system. This new route, the Graduate visa, opened on 1 July 2021.
In order to be eligible for the Graduate visa, an applicant must already be in the UK on a Student visa or a Tier 4 (General) Student visa. An applicant must also have successfully completed a UK bachelor’s, postgraduate or other eligible course prior to applying for the Graduate visa.
Duration of Visa
The Graduate visa will last for two years, but an eligible individual with a Ph.D. or doctoral qualification will be granted a three-year Graduate visa. The period of the visa will start from the day that the UK Home Office approves the application.
The Graduate visa is not extendable and time spent on the visa will not count toward settlement in the UK. Once a Graduate visa holder secures employment, the visa holder can extend a stay in the UK by switching to the Skilled Worker visa prior to the expiration of the Graduate visa. The Skilled Worker visa would allow the visa holder to start accruing time toward indefinite leave to remain in the UK (typically five years for a holder of a Skilled Worker visa).
As the Graduate visa permits work at any skill level, it allows greater flexibility than another type of work visa. This means Graduate visa holders can find temporary employment to pay the bills while they secure more suitable long-term skilled roles, or they can enter professions at lower levels, build over two years, and apply for the Skilled Worker visa.
In addition, on the Graduate visa, applicants may look for work, do voluntary work, travel abroad and return to the UK, and be self-employed. It does not permit recourse to public funds, and it is not available to professional sportspeople.
Individuals must apply for the Graduate visa before their Student visa/Tier 4 (General) student visa expires. Due to the requirement of having successfully completed a course of study in the UK in order to be eligible, applicants must wait until they have received confirmation that they have passed their course, but it is not necessary for applicants to wait until they have graduated or received certificates in order to apply for the Graduate visa.