The government has announced that the new Graduate Immigration Route will open for applications from 1 July 2021. The route will enable international students who have completed an eligible course of study to remain in the UK to work, or look for work, with a track record of compliance to the government’s immigration requirements – after completing their studies.

In this article, immigration partner Christine Chiew looks at what international graduates can expect once the Graduate Immigration Route opens.

To read the Chinese version of this article, please click here.

Who is eligible for the Graduate Immigration Route?

The key requirements applicants need to meet are that:

  • They have successfully completed a UK degree, or other eligible course;
  • They have studied at a Higher Education Provider which is a student sponsor with a track record of compliance;
  • They are applying from within the UK and have valid leave as a Student or Tier 4 Student at the date of application;
  • They have not previously held permission on the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES), or the Graduate route;
  • They do not fall for refusal on grounds of suitability.

Individuals who are not currently studying on a Tier 4/Student visa, will not be eligible for the Graduate Immigration Route.

International students who have graduated with a degree from a UK higher education institution and whose Tier 4 (General) Student leave or Student leave expires before 1 July 2021 will not be eligible for the Graduate Immigration Route.

Do you need a job offer to secure a Graduate visa?

The Graduate Immigration Route will be an unsponsored route, meaning that applicants will not need a job offer to be eligible. There will be no minimum salary requirements nor caps on numbers. Graduates on the route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their career as required. Successful applicants will also be able to switch jobs.

How long can you stay in the UK on a Graduate visa?

Successful applicants on the Graduate Immigration Route who have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree will be able to stay in the UK for two years. Doctoral students will be able to stay in the UK for three years.

It will not be possible to extend permission to stay on the Graduate Immigration Route.

Can students currently studying via remote learning due to COVID-19 still apply?

It is currently NOT possible to apply for a Graduate visa from outside of the UK.

The Home Office is putting in place concessions for international students who have been unable to travel to the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Where distance learning has taken place outside of the UK as a result of COVID-19, the following concessions will apply:

  • If you began your studies in Autumn 2020, you will be eligible to switch into the Graduate Immigration Route if you enter the UK by 21 June 2021;
  • If you began your studies in January or February 2021, you will be eligible to switch into the Graduate Immigration Route if you enter the UK by 27 September 2021.

Does the Graduate Immigration Route lead to settlement in the UK?

The Graduate Immigration Route will not lead directly to settlement. However, once on the Graduate Immigration Route you will be able to extend your stay by switching into other work-based routes, such as the Skilled Worker Route, Global Talent Route, Innovator, all of which can lead to settlement. Applicants will of course need to satisfy the requirements of the route.

What about dependants and family members?

New dependants will not be permitted under the Graduate Immigration Route.

If you have family members in the UK who already have permission to stay in the UK as your dependant, then they will be able to extend their stay when you apply to enter the Graduate Immigration Route.

If you have children born in the UK during your most recent Student or Tier 4 visa, they will also be able to apply for a visa as your dependant.

If you would like more information of the Graduate Immigration Route or advice on how to apply after 1 July 2021, please contact Christine Chiew.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.