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The UK’s new Graduate route: post-study work visa requirements

International students in the UK now have the option to stay longer after graduation. 

Back in March, the UK’s Home Office announced the Graduate route. This will let students continue living in the UK for two to three years after finishing their studies. It’s a big deal, giving students the opportunity to begin their careers, as well as set long-term goals for themselves abroad.

“As we rebuild from the global pandemic we want the world’s brightest talent, who aspire to a career at the highest levels of business, science, the arts and technology to see our United Kingdom as the natural place to fulfill their aspirations,” said Minister for Future Border and Immigration Kevin Foster in a statement.

In this article, we’ll take a look at everything graduates and prospective students need to know about the new UK visa.


The Graduate route: how will it work?

The UK hopes to welcome 600,000 international higher education students per year by 2030. The Graduate Route contributes to this plan. It is designed to attract students to study in countries throughout the UK. In fact, since the route was announced back in 2019, enrolments from students outside the EU hit a new high – increasing 17% year-over-year.

So, how will the new UK visa work? International students who’ve completed an undergraduate degree (or above) should be able to apply. With the route, bachelor’s and master’s students will be able to stay in the UK to work or look for work for two years after graduation. Doctorate students will be able to stay for three years.

The new Graduate route within the UK immigration system is meant to be flexible. That means you won’t need a job offer to apply. There’s no salary limit and you can change jobs whenever you want. However, if you find a job you like, you can apply for a Skilled Worker visa from inside the UK.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Graduate route doesn’t count for settlement. So if you want to stay in the UK permanently, you may consider applying for a work visa which does count toward settlement sooner. You might be interested in Things you need to know to work in the UK.


Who is eligible?

If you’ve finished your undergraduate, master, or doctorate degree and have a valid student visa when you apply, you are likely to be eligible for the Graduate route.

People studying remotely outside the UK during the pandemic are also eligible, at least for a time:

  • If you began university in fall 2020, you’ll have until June 21st of this year to enter the UK on your Student visa. Do so and you will be eligible for the Graduate route later on.

  •  If you started in winter 2021, you’ll have until September 27th.

How can you apply?

The cost to apply to the Graduate route is £700 for both two and three-year Graduate route applications. On top of this, there will be an extra Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 each year. This gives you access to the UK’s National Health Service on generally the same basis as a UK permanent resident.     To discover more about the visa application process and the UK visa requirements, be sure to check the UK Visas and Immigration website.

Other visa options

The Graduate route is welcome news for international students in the UK. However, it’s not the only option when it comes to UK work visas. For example, after graduating you might also be able to apply for a:

Start-up or innovator visa

If you have an innovative business idea and plan, you might be eligible for a Start-up visa. This lets you stay in the UK for up to two years. To apply, you need to be endorsed by either a UK university or a business organization. There’s also the UK Innovator visa, which lets you stay in the UK for three years.

Global Talent visa

The Global Talent visa is made for people who are leaders (or potential leaders) in digital technology, arts and culture, and academia.

Getting this type of visa isn’t easy. You need to apply for an endorsement through the Home Office, which experts in your industry will review. If you get granted the visa, you’ll be able to stay in the UK for up to five years. You will only be required to renew your visa each time you want to stay longer.

Skilled Worker visa

The Skilled Worker visa lets you stay in the UK for up to five years to work for a UK employer. To apply, an employer needs to sponsor you. Your job will also need to be eligible for the visa. That said, there is a long list of occupations in the UK that need filling including nurses, teachers and engineers so if you work in these jobs, you’ll have a big advantage when applying. Learn more on our blog, “The great UK skills shortage:5 occupations that can help you move abroad.”

Why stay to work in the UK?

There’s no doubt that having a UK degree is valuable. But getting UK work experience afterwards? That’s priceless.

The UK is also an excellent place to settle. According to the OECD Better Life Index, the UK ranks above average in important areas like health status, civic engagement, jobs and earnings, education and skills, and environmental quality.

Not to mention, people who work 5 days a week get lots of holiday time – 5.6 weeks a year!

If you want to move to the UK to study and work, PTE Academic can help you get there. Our computer-based, unbiased English language proficiency test at PTE Academic is approved by the UK Home Office for all visas including student and post-study work visas.

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