Do you qualify for
the new Graduate

On 4 March 2021, the UK government published a new Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, highlighting a number of key amendments to the rules regulating people’s entry and stay in the UK. The statement confirmed that on 1 July 2021, the UK will begin accepting applications to the new Graduate route, a post-study immigration route for international students.

The new Graduate route has been designed to improve the UK’s appeal as a top study destination for overseas students, and will allow the UK to retain the ‘brightest and best’ international students to contribute to society and the economy after completing their studies. The scheme is set to help the government achieve its aim of increasing the number of international students in higher education in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.

Who is eligible to apply under the Graduate route?

The Graduate route is open to international students who have successfully completed an eligible course as a sponsored student at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance. Applicants must have current permission as a Student or Tier 4 migrant and must not have previously held permission on the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) or the Graduate route.

The course undertaken must have:

  • Led to the award of a degree at UK Bachelor’s or Postgraduate level, or a professional course requiring study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above, in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority.
  • Been completed during the applicant’s most recent grant of permission as a Student (including permission under Tier 4).
  • Been undertaken in the UK for a minimum period based on the total length of the course:
    • The entirety of the course must have been studied in the UK if the course lasted 12 months or less.
    • For courses lasting longer than 12 months, applicants must have been granted permission as a Student for at least 12 months and have spent that time studying in the UK.
    • Where distance learning has taken place outside of the UK due to COVID-19, students will still be eligible depending on the start date of their course and the date by which they enter the UK as a Student to complete the course.

Applicants will not need a sponsor in order to apply, and student sponsors will not need to fulfil any sponsorship duties for their students once they switch onto the Graduate route. However, student sponsors will need to notify the Home Office that a student has successfully completed their course before an application to the Graduate route is made.

Those who graduate and whose Tier 4 or Student visa leave expires before the route opens on 1 July 2021 will not be eligible to apply.

What does the Graduate route offer?

Under the new route, successful applicants will be granted permission 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, 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. If a Graduate visa holder finds suitable employment during this time, they will be able to switch to a Skilled Worker visa providing they meet the requirements of the route.

Dependant family members will also be permitted, as long as those family members are in the UK and had last been granted permission as dependants of the main applicant. New dependants will not be permitted, except where a dependent child was born in the UK during a period of Student or Graduate permission.

The Graduate route will replace the current Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) open to international students who have completed a PhD in the UK. The DES will close on 1 July 2021, upon opening of the new Graduate route. The new route is seen as a significant improvement on the DES post-study scheme, which only allows PhD graduates to remain in the UK for 12 months after completing their studies.

The application process

Applications to the Graduate route must be made from within in the UK. Those who have been distance learning overseas due to COVID-19 must return to the UK with permission as a Student in order to apply.

Applicants who began their studies in autumn 2020 have until 21 June 2021 to enter the UK, whilst those who began their studies in January or February 2021 will need to be in the UK by 27 September 2021.

Applicants will need to pass all security, identity and criminality checks and pay the relevant fees as part of their application. Currently, the visa application fee is £700 and the Immigration Health Surcharge is payable at the full rate of £624 per year.

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 about your options.

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