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Maintaining the brightest and best – the new Graduate immigration route opens on 1 July 2021

01 July 2021 Clara Smeaton Blog


As part of the significant changes in UK immigration law recently, the Home Office have created a new immigration route to allow international students to stay in the UK after completing their university studies here. The Graduate route opens on 1 July 2021.

The Graduate route will allow graduates to work, or look for work, in the UK for two years after the end of an eligible course (or for three years if they have completed Doctoral studies).

The government has said that the Graduate route is designed to encourage the “brightest and the best” international students to stay and contribute to the UK’s economy upon completion of their studies.

This new route will be made available to students who finished a degree in the UK, at undergraduate level or higher. The sponsoring university will have to confirm with the Home Office that the Graduate applicant successfully completed their course prior to lodging an application under the Graduate route.

Applicants must have a valid Tier 4 or Student visa at the time of their application to the Graduate route and a person will only be granted one Graduate route visa – multiple applications following different degrees will not be possible. The term of the visa is fixed and cannot be extended or renewed. At the end of the two or three year period of leave, an applicant may be eligible to switch into the Skilled Worker route instead.

Although the Graduate route is not a route to settlement, it does offer some advantages to new graduates over a Skilled Worker Visa route. For example, the Graduate route does not require that the applicant has a job offer already in place to apply, and the applicant will not require to be sponsored by a particular employer, nor paid a minimum amount.

This means that someone on the Graduate route will be free to change jobs and work with a degree of flexibility not afforded by the Skilled Worker Route, which requires sponsorship by a particular employer and has other eligibility tests to be met.

A successful application under the Graduate route will also allow the applicant to be self-employed, and to carry out some studies – but, importantly, it cannot be used as an alternative to a new Student visa.

An application under the Graduate route is comparatively cheap, costing £700 for an application plus the Immigration Health Surcharge. A person who had dependents here in the UK whilst on their Tier 4 / Student visa can apply to have those dependents remain in the UK with them. New dependents are not permitted to enter the UK under the Graduate route but children born in the UK during the period of leave under the applicant’s Tier 4 / Student visa will be eligible to apply to stay.

The Graduate route is sure to be well received by international students who hope to remain in the UK after their studies, but are unclear on their job prospects in an uncertain market. The fixed two or three years leave will allow a period of post-study stability to migrant students without commitment to, or dependency on, a particular employer and is a welcome addition to UK immigration law.


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