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Insights & Events > The Graduate visa  – A quick overview

The Graduate visa  – A quick overview

student holding diploma

The Graduate visa, also known as the post-study work visa, allows international students who have finished a UK-qualifying degree to apply in-country for permission to remain in the United Kingdom for two to three years.

The Graduate route is unsponsored; employers do not make any commitment through documentation, payment of visa fees or immigration health surcharges. Applicants do not need a job offer to be eligible. Graduate visa holders are free to switch jobs and develop their careers.

Who can apply?

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • They must hold valid Student or Tier 4 Student status at the time of application. Applications can only be made from within the UK.
  • They must have completed a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree, or other qualified programmes.
  • They must have attended a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance as a student sponsor.
  • They must not have previously held Doctoral Extension Programme (DES) or Graduate permission.
  • They must not fall for refusal on the grounds of suitability. For example, applicants must not have been convicted of an offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial or non-custodial sentence that is recorded on their criminal record.

International graduates of UK higher education institutions whose Tier 4 (General) or Student leave ended prior to 1 July 2021 are not eligible for the Graduate Visa.

An applicant’s spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner and children who joined the applicant on their student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa can apply to stay in the UK as dependants on the graduate visa. The dependant’s immigration permission will expire on the same day as the applicant’s immigration permission.

How long can you stay?

A graduate visa is valid for two years but can be extended to three years for those with a PhD or other doctoral degree.

Those who are not eligible to extend their graduate visa may be able to switch to an alternative visa route.

Benefits for individuals

The Graduate Visa affords international students the option to live in the UK after they graduate from their studies. The Home Office reported that 72,893 main applicants were granted Graduate permission in the year ending in December 2022, with a total of. These statistics demonstrate the popularity and effectiveness of the Graduate visa. 

International students now have an easier time exploring various fields and sectors whilst gaining useful work experience. Over 60% of applicants who have been accepted have come from STEM fields, i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Benefits for employers

Only 3% of companies surveyed by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) in October 2022 expressly opted to use the Graduate visa. More than a quarter (27%) claimed they were unaware of the process. These figures show how unpopular the route is to employers. Employers should consider the Graduate visa. There are advantages to recruiting an international graduate who has obtained permission to remain in the UK on a Graduate visa.

Advantages include free access to the international graduate labour market and the freedom to employ a graduate and integrate them into their organisation, whilst deciding whether to sponsor the graduate as a Skilled Worker in the longer term. Businesses and employers can access the employment market without restriction using the graduate visa route. Additionally, there are no constraints on the type of job or the wage level for workers on a Graduate visa. Employers can now hire graduates for entry-level or lower-skilled roles that are not eligible for work visa routes such as the Skilled Worker route.

Recent updates

On [date], the Times reported that Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, has developed a plan to change the Graduate visa route so that graduates would be required to leave the UK if they did not secure a skilled job within six months of graduating from university.

Another proposal under consideration would only permit international students enrolled in postgraduate research-based courses to bring dependant family members with them. Although the Home Office refuses to comment on the matter, a government spokesperson said that the points-based system is intended to be flexible in order to meet the needs of the UK, including attracting top talent from around the world.

Reducing Graduate permission from two years to six months may deter international students from coming to the UK and impede the expansion of the UK economy. The six-month period would also not be sufficient for graduates to secure a sponsor and switch to a different visa route, like Skilled Worker. Overall, the Graduate route is proving to promote the UK as a place where international graduates may launch their careers. Recent statistics from the Home Office show that in the year ending December 2022, there was just a 1% refusal rate for Graduate visas. This demonstrates that the Graduate visa route is accessible to the majority of students who choose to apply.

Please contact Anna Asumadu, Trainee, for further information or support in making a Graduate visa application.

Publication Date: 19/06/2023


Author avatar
Anna Asumadu
Trainee @ Changes Immigration
+44 (0)77 4552 5573