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Working abroad after your degree isn’t easy, if there is no 20-hour-work rule, your employer probably has to jump through hoops to hire you, but the United Kingdom is now a refreshing exception to that. “Why?” you ask.

Graduate Route Visa is an exciting development in the UK’s immigration system that allows international students to advance in their careers the way they want to instead of how their visa allows them to. This blog answers all your questions about Graduate Route Visa and more. Let’s go!

What is Graduate Route Visa, UK?

The Graduate route visa is a post-study work visa that was announced in 2020 by the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel as part of the immigration scheme. This post-study work visa came into effect on July 1st and is now open for applications for all recent international graduates from any recognised UK university.

This new Graduate route work visa offers international students an opportunity to stay and work or look for work after finishing their course study in the UK for a minimum of 2-years (3 years for PhD students), effectively transitioning into the UK job market and Skilled Worker Route for an extended stay.

What work can you do and do you need a job offer to apply for Graduate Route Visa?

You don’t need to have been offered a job in the UK to apply for Graduate Route. Students can simply apply for Graduate route before their Student Visa Expires. As far as the work is concerned Graduate route offers a lot of flexibility, this includes self-employment, voluntary work, part-time, fixed-term, or casual contract.

Who is Eligible for Graduate Route Visa?

You can apply for the Graduate route visa if you satisfy all the following conditions:

  • You currently reside in the United Kingdom.
  • You hold a valid regular Student visa or Tier 4 Student visa.
  • You have undertaken a Bachelor’s degree or a Postgraduate degree, or any other eligible course in the UK for a minimum required period through your Tier 4 Student visa.
  • You have successfully completed your coursework in the UK as of or after 1 July 2021

Which Courses Qualify for a Graduate Route Visa?

  • If you have been pursuing your course virtually from your home country due to covid, you can still apply for the Graduate visa provided other conditions are met.
  • Students who began a maximum of 12 months distance education course in 2020 or 2021 who did not previously enter the UK to study can apply for the visa provided they enter the UK before the visa terminates or by 27th September 2021, whichever is earlier.
  • Students who are pursuing a course for a maximum of 12 months or less in 2020 or 2021 who have existing permission to study the course as a student can apply for a visa provided they are in the UK before their permission date expires.
  • Students who are pursuing a distance education course from the UK for a duration of over 12 months between 24 Jan 2020 and 27 Sept 2021 cannot apply for the Graduate route.

How long can you stay on a Graduate Route Visa?

A Graduate Route visa is valid for 2 years but if you have a PhD or a doctoral degree, it is valid for 3 years. Your visa will begin to take effect from the day your application is approved.

If you wish to stay longer in the UK, you cannot extend your graduate route visa, but you can shift to a different visa such as a Skilled Worker visa or Start-Up visa.

What are the Documents Required to Apply for a Graduate Route Visa?

To apply for the Graduate visa, you will need:

  • A valid passport or any other travel document that proves your nationality and identity.
  • Your biometric residence permit, from when you applied for the Student visa or Tier 4 Student visa.
  • Your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies or CAS reference number from your Student visa or Tier 4 Student visa application.

Some other documents you may need are:

  • Proof of relationship with your children or spouse if they are applying with you.
  • A letter from the sponsor approving the application if they paid your course fees or living costs in the last year.

How to Apply for a Graduate Route Visa?

Once you get your documents ready, you must apply for the Graduate visa online by filling up the application form and submitting the supporting documents. Typically, you will receive an email regarding the decision within 8 weeks.

Once your application is approved, it serves as proof of your right to live and work legally in the UK.

How much does Graduate Route Visa cost?

You will typically incur the following costs when you apply for the Graduate visa:

  • Application fees are usually £700.
  • The Healthcare surcharge is usually £624 for each year you stay in the UK.

What Happens After Graduate Route Visa Expires?

Once the UK Graduate Route visa expires after the allotted 2 years, you must leave the country or try to secure another type of visa such as a Tier 2 or General Work Visa to continue your stay.

The work experience gained during the tenure of the Graduate Route visa will help you in securing the Tier 2 visa. If you are not eligible for the Tier 2 visa, you cannot apply for the Graduate route visa for the second time.

What are the benefits of Graduate Route Visa?

  • Once you secure the Graduate Route visa, there are no restrictions on the kind of work you can do, the number of hours, or the salary limit. You can spend any time you need looking for work and can switch or leave jobs without impacting your visa.
  • There is no maximum limit or a cap on the number of people who can apply for the Graduate Route visa.
  • Your university does not need to offer any kind of sponsorship for your Graduate Route visa.
  • EU students (also EEA and Swiss) can apply to the Graduate route in the same manner as international students.
  • The Doctorate Extension Scheme is incorporated into the Graduate Route so that the PhD students get three years of post-study entitlement instead of two.

Can students studying outside the UK during pandemic apply for Graduate Route Visa?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government is permitting students who are studying outside the UK to apply to the Graduate Route once they complete their course. But to avail of this facility, the students must have entered the UK before:

27th September (if their course began in the 2020-21 academic year).

6th April (if their course begins in the 2021-22 academic year)

The Graduate route program is the initiative by the UK government to increase the influx of international students pursuing higher education in the UK. This immigration rule also enables startups and big companies to recruit the talent they need to grow and is definitely a step in the right direction.

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