Spotlight On: The new
graduate route

On 13 July, the Home Secretary unveiled further details on the UK’s new points-based immigration system which will come into effect on 1 January 2021.

The 130-page document lays out future visa routes and rules for EU and non-EU citizens coming to the UK to work, study and visit.

As part of the government’s commitment to improving the UK’s appeal as a top destination for study for international students, the Home Secretary has confirmed a new graduate immigration route will be available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer 2021.

What will the new graduate route look like?

Successful applicants to the graduate route will be granted a post-study work visa, enabling them to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level after completing their studies. Undergraduates and master’s degree students will be granted two years’ leave under the new route, whilst PhD students will be allowed to stay for three years.

The route will be unsponsored, and the two or three year period granted will be a one-time, non-extendable leave period. Graduates will be able to apply in-country to switch into other routes such as work routes if they meet the requirements.

The new graduate route will replace the current Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) open to international students who have completed a PhD in the UK. The new route is a significant improvement on the DES, which only allows PhD graduates to remain in the UK for 12 months after completing their studies.

Who can apply to the new graduate route?

The graduate route will be open to all international students graduating from a UK university who hold a valid Tier 4 student visa when the route opens in 2021.

Applicants must:

  • Have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a UK Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance
  • Have completed the entirety of their degree in the UK, except for permitted study abroad programmes or when remote learning has been required due to COVID-19
  • Have valid and extant leave as a student at the point of application
  • Pay the application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge
  • Pass all security, identity and criminality checks

What are the conditions and requirements of the graduate route?

There will be no maintenance requirement under this route, nor will applicants need to demonstrate they can speak English to an acceptable standard, as successful completion of a degree in the UK evidences this.

Graduate visa holders will not have access to public funds and will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge at the usual rate for the points-based system routes in order to access free healthcare in the UK.

Once the period of leave has expired, graduates will not be able to renew or extend their stay under this route and must apply for a different visa, such as a Tier 2 (General) work visa, or leave the UK.

UK visa advice for postgraduates

If you are an international student currently studying for a degree in the UK and need advice on the new graduate route and post-study work options, Smith Stone Walters can help.

Our team of immigration consultants can advise you on the visa options available to you once you graduate, and assist you with filing your visa application. Contact us today for an informal discussion with one of our friendly advisors.

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