The much-anticipated Graduate visa route launched at 9am on 1 July 2021.

This new route will allow international students to remain in the UK for up to 2 or 3 years after they complete a course of study, to work, or look for work, at any skill level.  

Who is eligible?

Applicants must hold a Tier 4 visa or other student permission and have completed an eligible course at a Higher Education institute with a track record of compliance to apply under this route. Eligible courses include:

  • UK bachelor or UK post-graduate degree;
  • Law conversion course valid in England and Wales;
  • Legal Practice Course (LPC) or equivalent;
  • Bar Practice Course or equivalent;
  • Foundation programme in medicine or dentistry;
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE); and
  • Professional course requiring study at UK bachelor level or above in a profession with reserved activities regulated by UK law or a UK public authority.

Applicants will need to make their application from within the UK and should have spent 12 months in the UK whilst studying their course. There are concessions for students who began their studies in 2020 to account for international travel disruptions caused by Covid-19. Students who began their course in autumn 2020 or January / February 2021, will need to enter the UK by 27 September 2021 with permission as a student to be eligible for this route.

Students who graduate before the launch of this route on 1 July 2021 won’t be eligible to apply. 

What does “a track record of compliance” mean?

The Home Office has specified that a Higher Education institute will need to have “a track record of compliance” as a Tier 4 sponsor. This essentially means that Higher Education institutes will need to show a history of “immigration compliance” and “educational oversight” to enable their graduates to apply under this route.

In practice, this could mean that an individual loses out on the opportunity to apply under this route because of a compliance mistake made by the institute they are studying at, rather than any fault of their own.

What are the features of this route?

  • Those with a visa under this route will be able to remain in the UK for 2 or 3 years (depending on their course) after they have graduated.
  • They will be able to look for work at any skill level and will not require sponsorship to undertake employment. Not only does this provide individuals with an opportunity to freely access the UK labour, but it also offers organisations a cost effective solution to hire new graduates.
  • They can also continue to study, provided their course does not normally require sponsorship as a Student.
  • They will be able to switch into other routes, such as the Skilled Worker or Global Talent route, from within the UK at the end of their 2 – 3 year stay. They will of course need to show that they are eligible under that route.
  • This route doesn’t count towards settlement so some individuals may prefer to switch to a visa that starts the clock for settlement.
  • Dependants of a Student can also apply to extend their stay under the Graduate route. However, new dependants are not permitted to apply under this route.

Will the Graduate route be a success?

The launch of this route will be welcomed by students and employers alike. It will afford graduates unfettered access to the UK labour market. Employers will also benefit from having access to a broader pool of talent, without having to apply for a sponsor licence and develop internal processes for ongoing compliance with sponsor duties. Employers will be able to engage graduates with a visa under this route for 2/3 years and can then make an informed decision about whether to sponsor them.

Get in touch with our Immigration team if you think you may be eligible to apply.

The contents of this article were originally published in Personnel Today.