New Graduate Visa Route launched

The UK is home to some of the best universities in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that it draws thousands of international students to its shores in pursuit of their higher education each year. In 2019-20 there were 538,615 international students studying in the UK; 142,985 of these were from the EU and 395,630 were non-EU, said government data.  Despite this, it was fairly difficult for international students to pursue work opportunities in the UK after completing their studies.  This is beginning to change.

The Government’s long-awaited Graduate Visa route finally launched on 1 July 2021. The revival of the post study work visa (which ended in 2012) is a welcome boost to both the UK’s international student sector and to UK employers grappling with post Brexit recruitment.

Available only to international students in the UK, successful Graduate Visa applicants will be able to remain in the UK to work full time in any job role – or look for work – for up to two years (or three years for PhD students). It is hoped that the new Graduate Visa will help the UK position itself as a first-choice study destination in a competitive –and highly lucrative – international student market.

The Graduate Visa route is an attractive hiring option for UK employers as it does not require sponsorship and there are no restrictions on salary or skill level.

In a post Brexit UK, this new visa route is a gratifying respite from the higher visa costs associated with hiring graduates under the new Skilled Worker visa route (formerly Tier 2 General).

The key eligibility requirements for a Graduate Visa application are as follows:

  • Applicant must hold current Tier 4 General or Student visa permission as at the date of their Graduate Route visa application
  • Applicant can only apply from within the UK and the application must be made before the expiry date of their Tier 4/Student visa permission. It is not possible to switch to the Graduate visa from any other type of immigration permission, although an individual can apply if they have been granted a period of exceptional assurance
  • Applicant must hold a degree (undergraduate, Masters or a PhD) or other relevant qualification (including Legal Practice Course, PGCE, PGDE, Foundation Programme in Medicine or Dentistry)
  • Applicant must have completed the course during their current period of Tier 4 or Student permission when they apply for a Graduate Visa. This must be the same course for which their Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) was assigned, subject to limited exceptions
  • Applicant’s qualification must be awarded by an approved UK Higher Education Provider, listed on the Home Office’s approved Student Sponsor Register as a ‘Student Sponsor – Track Record’
  • Study must have taken place in the UK. For courses less than 12 months long, the applicant must have been in the UK studying the whole course. For a course of 12 months or more, the applicant must have been studying in the UK for at least 12 months
  • Student Sponsors will need to notify the Home Office via their sponsor licence account that a sponsored student has successfully completed their degree course on or before the date of their Graduate Visa application. Students should therefore check with their Student Sponsor that this notification of course completion has taken place before they make a Graduate Route visa application. However, universities do not need to act as sponsors for the Graduate Visa (nor do UK employers)
  • There is no financial requirement nor English language requirement for the Graduate Visa Route. Partners and/or children under 18 already in the UK as a Tier 4 or Student dependant can apply to extend their stay in the UK as a Graduate Route dependant
  • Applicants can only have permission under the Graduate Route once. It is possible to switch from the Graduate Route back to the Student Route but an individual could not then apply again for a Graduate Visa based on a new qualification.

This route does not count towards settlement. However, graduates will be able to apply to other UK visa routes at the end of their two or three year Graduate visa stay – for example, the Skilled Worker, Global Talent or Innovator routes.


If you are thinking of applying to a UK university, we will be happy to assist you in finding the best solution. Please contact us for professional advice: [email protected]

Tel. +44 79307 32407

Elena Colquhoun, MSc, PGCE, ACIL,

Director Best Start Education, qualified teacher and examiner