NEWS: On 4 March 2021, the UK Government confirmed that the Graduate route will open for applications on 1 July 2021. This will allow the UK to retain the brightest and the best international students to contribute to society and the economy post-study. For Key facts and FAQs please see below.

Key Points
  • The Graduate route will be available to international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance, and who have valid Tier 4 or Student permission at the time of application.
  • Successful applicants on this route at bachelor’s or master’s level will be able to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level for two years. Doctoral students will be able to stay for three years.
  • Graduates will be able to apply to the Skilled Worker route from within the UK, once they have found a suitable job.
  • Due to COVID-19, we have also put in place concessions for students unable to travel to the UK due to the pandemic, recognising the continued disruption many face in international travel. Applicants who began their studies in autumn 2020 have until 21 June 2021 to enter the UK with permission as a Student (updated from the previous date of 6 April 2021) in order to be eligible to apply to the Graduate route. Students who began their studies in January or February 2021 will need to be in the UK by 27 September 2021.
  • The launch of the route demonstrates the Government’s support for our education sector, and commitment to the International Education Strategy, which sets out an ambition to increase education exports to £35 billion and the number of international higher education students in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.
  • Individuals who already have permission as a dependant of a Student who is applying on this route can also apply to extend their permission as a dependant – however new dependants are not permitted on this route.
  • The route does not count towards settlement – however Graduates will be able to apply to other routes at the end of their 2-3 year stay, for example the Skilled Worker, Global Talent or Innovator routes.
  • Those who graduate and whose Tier 4 or Student visa leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible, however, most of these students will have had no expectation of benefitting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK. They will also be able to apply to a number of other routes, for example Skilled Worker, Start Up, Innovator or Global Talent, among others.

 

Qualification requirement

When you apply, you must have already successfully completed a relevant course.

There is no requirement to have started the relevant course in any specific year. The first government press release about the Graduate route on 10 September 2019 said that eligibility "includes students who start courses in 2020-21 at undergraduate level or above". This was initially misunderstood by some to mean that only those starting in 2020 or later were eligible, but that was never the case nor the intention. It was specifically clarified in Times Higher Education on 17 September 2019 that 2021 graduates of relevant courses, who have Student or Tier 4 permission when they apply, will be eligible regardless of the course start date. 

The relevant course must be either

  • an undergraduate degree
  • a Masters degree
  • a PhD degree or other doctoral qualification

or one of these qualifications listed in paragraph GR 5.2 of Appendix Graduate of the immigration rules:

  • a law conversion course validated by the Joint Academic Stage Board in England and Wales
  • the Legal Practice Course in England and Wales, the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland
  • the Bar Practice Course in England and Wales, or the Bar Course in Northern Ireland
  • a foundation programme in Medicine or Dentistry
  • a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)
  • a professional course requiring study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority.

Normally you must have completed this course during your current period of Tier 4 or Student permission and it must be the same course for which your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) was assigned. There are some exceptions:

  • If your CAS was assigned for an integrated programme, and you successfully completed an undergraduate or postgraduate degree as part of that programme, you can use that degree as the relevant qualification. This is only for degrees, not for other types of course.
  • If you were allowed to switch to a different course without applying for new Tier 4 or Student permission, you can use that new course as the relevant qualification.
  • If GCU changed the name of your course without changing the content, or if they added an assessed work placement or study abroad programme, this does not stop you meeting the qualification requirement
  • If your last period of Tier 4 or Student permission was granted to work as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer, it is fine if the relevant qualification was gained during your period of Student or Tier 4 permission immediately before it.

In all cases the qualification must have been awarded by a Higher Education provider which is listed in listed on the Register of Student Sponsors as a "Student Sponsor - Track Record". GCU is included in this list. GCU will notify the Home Office of your qualification on or before the day you apply, but the exact system for this has not yet been announced.

If you are not sure whether your qualification is eligible, check directly with the VISA Team.

Current immigration status ("visa")

When you apply on or after 1 July 2021, you must have valid permission as a Student. Paragraph 6.2 of the Immigration Rules explains that "Student" means someone with permission under Tier 4 or under the Student route.

You cannot switch to the Graduate route from any other type of immigration permission. If you are studying with a different permission, and you have not yet finished your course, it may be possible to switch to the Student route for the remainder of your studies: see Making a Student route application in the UK.

If you have, or previously had, permission under the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) you cannot apply under the Graduate route. 

The rules for the Graduate route (paragraph GR 5.4) allow someone with permission as a Student Union sabbatical officer to apply based on a qualification they obtained in their current period of Student permission or "in the period of permission immediately before [it]" . There is no provision to apply based on a qualification obtained further back, for example if you have extended twice as a Student Union sabbatical officer since obtaining your qualification. 

There is nothing to stop those who have previously had permission under the old Tier 1 (Post Study Work) route, or under any other work route, applying under the Graduate route.

You can only have permission under the Graduate route once. While it is possible to switch from the Graduate route back to the Student route, you could not then apply again under the Graduate route based on a new qualification. This only applies to the applicant themselves, not to any dependant who has previously had permission under the Graduate route.

Study in the UK, including Covid-19 concessions

Paragraph GR 6.1 in Appendix Graduate explains that for a course of 12 months or less you must have studied the whole course in the UK, and for a course of more than 12 months, you must have studied in the UK for at least 12 months. This is called the "relevant period".

As written, paragraph GR 6.1 can be interpreted in different ways. One interpretation is that you must have held Student permission for the whole of the "relevant period", not just at the point you apply under the Graduate route. Unless we hear otherwise from the Home Office, we are now advising that it is safer to assume that a minimum period of Student permission, as well as study in the UK, is required. 

If you are applying in 2021 and you do not meet this minimum "relevant period" requirement because you have been distance learning outside the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may still be eligible to apply. The original 6 April 2021 deadline for returning to the UK was extended when the details of the Graduate route were announced on 4 March 2021. Your personal deadline for entering or returning to the UK after distance learning now depends on when your course started and how long it was.

 Please see below to establish your eligibility for the route under the COVID-19 concessions:

If your course started in 2020 and was 12 months or less:

If you have been distance learning in your home country for the whole course so far, you need to come to the UK under the Student route on or before 21 June 2021. If you need to apply for a Student route visa, or if you already applied for one but you did not travel, contact the VISA Team for advice.

If you already came to the UK under your current Student route permission but then you switched to distance learning from home, you just need to return to the UK on or before the end date of your course. This is confirmed in paragraph 3.25 of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students.

We understand that if your actual course length as stated on your CAS is slightly over 12 months, but still a "one year course", the Home Office may treat this as a 12-month course, with these deadlines for returning to the UK. We advise you check this directly with the VISA Team if you are unsure.

If your course started in 2021 and was 12 months or less:

If you have been distance learning in your home country for the whole course so far, you need to come to the UK under the Student route on or before 27 September 2021. If you will need to apply for a Student visa, or if you already applied for one but did not travel, contact ythe VISA Team for advice.

If you came to the UK under your current Student route permission but then you switched to distance learning, you need to come back to the UK on or before the end date of your course. This is confirmed in paragraph 3.25 of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students.

If your course started at any time and was more than 12 months:

Paragraph 3.26 of the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students explains that if your overall course is longer than 12 months, but you would only have been sponsored under the Student route for the final academic year (for example a top-up degree or articulated programme), this is seen as a course of 12 months or less, and you should use the above deadlines for such courses.

On a course of longer than 12 months, any time that you spend outside the UK distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will not prevent you meeting the "Study in the UK" requirement. The Rules say that you must have held Student permission throughout such an absence, but the COVID-19 guidance does not include this requirement. 

Appendix Graduate and the COVID-19 guidance give no specific deadline for returning to the UK for those whose course is or was longer than 12 months. However, you will need to return to the UK while your Student permission is still valid, in order to enter the UK under that permission and apply under the Graduate route on or before its expiry date. 

Where and when to apply

You can only apply in the UK. There is no provision to apply in your home country or in any other country other than the UK. If you are currently outside the UK with valid Tier 4 or Student permission, you will need to travel to the UK before it expires in order to apply under the Graduate route. See also the information above on Study in the UK, including Covid-19 concessions.

Your deadline for applying is the expiry date of your Tier 4 or Student permission. As long as you apply by this date, your current permission is automatically extended until the outcome of your application, even if its original expiry date has passed. This is a general principle of UK immigration law known as 3C leave.

The Immigration Rules have some very limited provision for overstayers to make late applications in the UK. You must apply within 14 days of becoming an overstayer, and you must include details and evidence of a good reason that you did not apply in time. It is highly unlikely that just having permission that expired before Graduate route applications open on 1 July 2021 would meet that criteria.

Anyone who stays in the UK after the end date of their immigration permission, including someone who applies late for permission to stay, is an overstayer which is a criminal offence. Becoming an overstayer means you have no right to work, and it can affect other aspects of your life. It can also have serious consequences for any future immigration applications that you make, including applications for countries other than the UK. We advise seeking immigration legal advice on any application as an overstayer, or on any application to vary an existing application to a Graduate route application.

Money and fees, knowledge of English

There is no requirement to show you have a certain amount of money (known as the 'maintenance requirement'). See also the information below about Applying in 2021: extra considerations

The Home Office's factsheet about the Graduate route says that the application fee will be £700. Nationals of the 26 European countries that come under the CESC agreement will have a £55 discount.

You will pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) at £624 per year of permission that you are applying for. That is 3 years for PhD graduates, 2 years for others.

The application has no specific test of your knowledge of English. It is assumed from your successful completion of the relevant qualification taught in English, and having previously satisfied the English language requirement for your Tier 4 or Student route application.

Studies sponsored by a government or scholarship agency

If your tuition fees and living costs have been paid by a government and/or an international scholarship agency within the 12-month period before you apply, you must provide a letter showing the financial sponsor's consent to this application under the Graduate route.

The Immigration Rules do not require sponsor's consent to the application if you had a partial scholarship from a government and/or an international scholarship agency, or if you were sponsored for fees alone, or living costs alone.

Financial sponsor’s consent is not required if you are or were sponsored by a university, an international company, an independent school, or any other type of financial sponsor.

Separate from this requirement of the Graduate route application, you should also check whether the terms and conditions of any financial sponsorship that you have received from any source for any part of your studies will allow you to extend your stay in the UK without a financial penalty. 

Applying in 2021: extra considerations

Given the current pandemic, we advise that you plan carefully.

Make sure you understand the full implications of travelling to the UK under the restrictions of the current pandemic.

For those arriving in Scotland, it is likely that you will need to isolate in a hotel or at home in Scotland for at least 10 days after you arrive. Travellers, by law, must have proof of a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test before travelling to Scotland from abroad. More information on testing for people travelling to Scotland and quarantine is in the international travel guidance. The situation is evolving worldwide, so it is important that you check all guidance before you travel.

For those arriving in England, as well as the general requirements for all travelers, people arriving from a “red list” country must pre-book a 10-day stay at a designated “quarantine hotel” at their own expense. It costs £1750, including COVID tests on days 2 and 8. See the separate arrangements for those arriving in Wales or Northern Ireland (although we do not expect that any GCU students would be arriving in Wales or Northern Ireland).

While the application does not require any evidence of your money, you will still need money to pay your living costs. As with your Tier 4 or Student permission you will not have access to public funds, including any welfare benefits aimed at those who are not working or who are earning a low income.

We also recommed that you seek advice from the Careers Service at GCU and check the information about Job Hunting in a pandemic.

Dependants

Your partner and/or child under 18 who is already in the UK as your Tier 4 or Student dependant can apply to extend their stay as your Graduate route dependant. They can only apply in the UK.

A partner or child who is outside the UK cannot apply for a visa as your Graduate route dependant. They will need to apply as your Student dependant, if eligible, and come to the UK on that basis, then apply for permission to stay in the UK as your Graduate route dependant.

We asked the Home Office to allow everyone to bring dependants under the Graduate route, not just those who could already bring dependants under their Student permission. The Home Office did not agree to this. This leaves all those switching in from a part-time postgraduate course and most applicants switching in from an undergraduate course unable to bring dependants.

If this affects you, and if it is important to bring your dependants to the UK, you may want to prioritise switching from the Graduate route into another work route, for example Skilled worker, as soon as possible. Or your dependant may be able to apply for a long-term visa in their own right for study or work, or a Standard Visitor visa to visit you for a maximum of six months.

Your Graduate route dependant will have the same work conditions as you. The only prohibition is on working as a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

Travelling and re-entering the UK during the application period

Before you apply

You can travel and re-enter the UK on your Tier 4 or Student leave before you apply under the Graduate route.

The Home Office's Student route caseworker guidance confirms this on page 90:

Students are able to travel outside of, and re-enter, the UK whilst they hold valid permission as a Student, including in the period after they have completed their course and still hold permission under the route.

After you apply

If you apply in the UK to switch to the Graduate route you should not travel until the outcome of the application. This is because travelling outside the Common Travel Area automatically withdraws your application.

If you need to travel very urgently while your application is pending, your application will be automatically withdrawn when you leave the Common Travel Area, but if your Tier 4 or Student visa is still valid you can re-enter the UK after your travel. You will then need to apply again under the Graduate route and pay the application fee again. Only the Immigration Health Surcharge from your first application would be refunded.

Work

While your Graduate route application is pending, you can continue to work under the conditions of your Student or Tier 4 permission. For those with a work prohibition, including part-time postgraduates, this means you cannot start work until your Graduate route permission is issued.

When your Graduate route permission is issued you can do any work, either employed or self-employed, except working as a professional sportsperson or coach. You can take work at any level of salary or skill, but if your plan is to find a job for which you can eventually be sponsored under the Skilled Worker route, you should check which jobs are eligible for that.

Employers should know about the new Graduate route, and they should understand that with this permission you can take any work you wish without sponsorship and without any special actions for the employer. However you may be their first employee with Graduate Route permission, and they may not fully understand the route at first. You can refer their HR to this very basic guidance from the Home Office for employers.

If you want to set up as self-employed, see the detailed guidance from the UK government about all the steps and requirements.  If you want to continue your business when your Graduate route permission expires, you will need to meet the requirements of an extension under the Start-up or innovator schemes.

Study

Study is restricted under the Graduate route. The study condition states that you cannot study any course which could in theory be sponsored under the Student route.

Examples of permitted study therefore include:

  • Part-time undergraduate course
  • English language courses
  • Some professional courses
  • Any study at a college or university that is not a Student route visa sponsor
  • Online study
  • Evening classes
  • Recreational courses

If you are unsure whether you can study a specific course under the Graduate route, check with the provider whether they offer international students Student route visa sponsorship for it. If they do, you cannot study the course.

Graduate route dependants do not have this study restriction.

Alternatives to the Graduate route

If you cannot apply under the Graduate route, or if you choose not to apply, remember that there is no deadline for applying in your home country under the Skilled Worker route for sponsored skilled work.

A helpful change from the old Tier 2 route that it replaced is that for the first two years after you return home you only need to meet the lower "new entrant" minimum salary for a Skilled Worker application. Even after two years, you can still be a "new entrant" if you are under 26 years old.

Furthermore, some of the aspects of the old Tier 2 route that made an application in your home country trickier than applying in the UK have been removed in the changeover from Tier 2 to Skilled worker. Specifically, an employer does not need to run the resident labour market test nor use one of their limited supply of Certificates of Sponsorship.

You may also wish to read more about the following visa types:

Health and Care Worker visa

Start-up visa

Doctorate Extension Scheme (this is being replaced by the Graduate route on 1st July 2021).

Please speak with VISA if you have any questions.

Extending your stay

You cannot extend your stay under the Graduate route, but you can switch into most of the routes on this page to continue working. You will need to meet all the requirements of the specific route. Where permission as a Graduate has a bearing on eligibility, we have included the details in the information on this page.

You can also switch back into the Student route for further studies, but completing those studies would not make you eligible for further leave under the Graduate route.

Permission under the Graduate route does not in itself lead to settlement, except as part of the Long Residence provision

 

The Graduate route UKCISA Training Session Video

This training session explains who is eligible, how to apply, and what the new Graduate route allows you to do. The new Graduate route is a new work visa that will allow new graduates to stay and work in the UK, initially for 2 years (3 years for PhD graduates). Applications for the visa for international students open on 1 July 2021.

https://vimeo.com/529120817