Return of the post-study work visa

Last month the Home Office announced new proposals which would allow international students to stay in the UK for up to two years after graduation in order to work or find a job. In effect, this is a revival of the International Graduates Scheme which ran from 2007 to 2012 before being closed when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Now, the Home Office has provided more details on what the proposed new route will entail via a fact sheet.


Tier 4 Students who will graduate in the summer of 2021 or later from a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance will be eligible for the scheme. However, students who are currently in their final year of university or whose Tier 4 visa expires before the route launches in the summer of 2021 will not be able to benefit.

Students applying under the new route will not require sponsorship from either an employer or a Higher Education Provider. They will be granted a personal status giving them permission to stay in the UK for up to two years, to work or look for work at any skill level. After which, they will be required to switch into the as yet undefined new skilled work immigration route in order to continue living in the UK.

Applicants will be required to pay a visa application fee as well as the Immigration Health Surcharge (though the government has not yet set out these fees). Given that students do not need a job to apply to the scheme, it will be interesting to see whether the current high level of these fees needed to be paid at the outset will be a barrier to those looking to benefit from this route.

The route will also not count towards settlement in the UK. As Tier 4 student leave does not count towards settlement either, it is foreseeable that there will be people who have been present in the UK for five or six years without any of this time making them eligible for settlement under these immigration routes. Instead they will need to stay for a further five years under a skilled work route. Although there is a 10 year continuous residence route to ILR, anyone who has spent a total of 18 months outside the UK throughout the 10 year period will not be eligible. Given that many students return home or travel during the long university vacation periods, it may well be that students benefitting from this proposed route become frustrated when the time comes to potentially apply to settle in the UK.

Although the reintroduction of this route is welcome, it must be said that none of these proposals have yet passed into law. Given the current political situation and the possibility of a future general election, it may be that these proposals go through more changes before coming into effect (if at all).

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Matthew James, Solicitor in our Immigration Department.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of October 23, 2019.