Your Guide to Graduate Visa for International Students
If you haven’t heard much about the new UK graduate visa immigration route for international students, this is likely because it has not yet been formally launched, although a reasonable amount of information is available regarding how it will work. There have been unsuccessful attempts to bring in a post-study graduate visa in past years, but on 11th September 2019, the UK Government made an announcement that it would be introduced. In this article, we will look at what we know so far of the new UK post-graduate visa for international students.
What Was Announced By The Home Office?
On 11th September 2019, when announcing the new post-graduate visa scheme, the Home Office stated, “The new ‘Graduate’ route will be open to all international students who have valid UK immigration status as a student and have successfully completed a course of study in any subject at undergraduate level or above at an approved UK Higher Education Provider. The visa will allow eligible students to work, or look for work, in any career or position of their choice, for two years after completing their studies”. At this point, it was unclear when this would apply from, however, it is expected to apply for graduates who started their studies in September 2020. A more recent Home Office statement said, “We also want to ensure we retain the brightest and the best students to continue to contribute to the UK post-study, which is why we are launching the Graduate route in the summer of 2021”. Home Secretary, Priti Patel, stated, “The new Graduate Route will mean talented international students, whether in science and maths or technology and engineering, can study in the UK and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers. It demonstrates our global outlook and will ensure that we continue to attract the best and brightest”.
What Will The New Post-Graduate Visa Offer?
The new post-graduate visa will enable international students who have completed a degree at a UK Higher Education provider, to stay in the UK for two years (this is three years for PhD graduates) and to work at any skill level, and to switch into work routes if they find a suitable job. This means that those who have come to the UK to complete a degree can remain for two years to find work. While the new visa will not be extendable and nor will the time on this visa count towards settlement, when a post-study visa holder finds work, they can extend their stay by switching to a Skilled Worker visa before their post-graduate visa expires. This will allow them to start accruing time in the UK towards indefinite leave to remain (typically five years for those on a Skilled Worker visa). It is also significant that the visa allows graduates to work at any skill level as this will provide greater flexibility than a UK work visa, allowing them to find temporary employment to ‘pay the bills’ while they secure a more suitable long-term skilled role, or enter a profession at a lower level and build up.
The Government have also committed to making the application process straightforward, however, some checks will be carried out; “The application process to apply for the Graduate route will be simple, although we intend that all applications will need to be made in-country and a fee will be applied. They will also be subject to identify, criminality and security checks”.
Will Existing International Students Who Started Their Course Before September 2020 Be Eligible For The New Post-Study Work Visa?
Based on the information provided by the Home Office to date, it has not been confirmed that existing international students who started their course before September 2020 will be able to apply for the post-study work visa. The UK Council for International Student Affairs believes that this will be the case; they say, “Existing students and those who start their course this autumn  will benefit from these changes, once they have been introduced in 2021. This makes logical sense as there would seem to be no reason to exclude those in their second and subsequent year, and means that 2021 graduates can start to benefit from the scheme immediately.
With regard to those who will graduate before the visa is available, the Home Office has confirmed, “Those who graduate and whose leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible for it, however, most of these students will have had no expectation of benefitting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK”.
Will students need to apply for the new post-study visa?
Yes, a new application will need to be made before your existing Tier 4 student visa expires. The fee amounts will be set once the route is formally launched. Applicants will also need to pay the healthcare surcharge for themselves and any of their dependant family members with them in the UK. It is unclear whether this will be £624 per year as it is for those on a Skilled Worker visa, or £470 per year as it is for students.
The application process, eligibility criteria, fees, and form will be launched in the new year on the Home Office website.
The new post-study graduate visa for international students will offer a fantastic opportunity for those who wish to stay in the UK to kick-start their new careers. Having worked hard to complete their studies and finals, the last thing students need is to be put under enormous pressure to secure the job of their dreams. This new visa will remove this pressure by allowing graduates to stay for up to two years to live, travel, study, and work. By allowing those graduates to work in roles at any level, they will have the flexibility to find an entry-level job to build up their experience or to simply find work to provide an income while looking for a more suitable long-term role. We will keep you up to date with the latest on the post-study visa as it becomes available.