UK Graduate Route Visa – Now Open – Guide & FAQs for Postgraduate Students |
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Posted on 2 Jul '21

The UK Graduate Route – Information & FAQs for Postgraduate Students

There's great news for anyone considering studying in the UK, as the new Graduate Route visa officially opened on 1 July 2021.

You can apply if your degree finishes after this date, even if you've had to study part of it by distance learning from outside the UK. How long you can stay on the Graduate Route depends on your qualification:

  • Masters graduates (and Bachelors graduates) can live and work in the UK for up to two years
  • PhD graduates can live and work in the UK for up to three years

You don't need to be in employment to stay on the Graduate Route and there's no restriction on the kind of work you can do.

Here are the answers to common questions you may have, including those specific to Masters and PhD study (it's what we do, after all).

UK Government immigration update

The new immigration update from the UK Goverment has no effect on the duration of the Graduate Route visa yet. Students currently applying for the visa will continue to get two or three years depending on their qualification. We will keep updating this page with the most up-to-date information on Graduate Route visas.

UK Government immigration updates

You may have heard that the UK government will be updating immigration policy for international students from 2024. The good news is that this won't have any impact on the Graduate Route.

It will prevent Masters students from bringing dependants with them to the UK and prevent them from switching to a full work visa before completing their studies. However, there will be no changes to the length of the Graduate Route, You will still be able to stay in the UK for two years after finishing your Masters while you seek work.

Who is eligible for a Graduate Route visa?

The Graduate Route is available to anyone who graduates from a UK degree with a valid visa (Tier 4 or Student Route) on or after 1 July 2021.

Eligibility isn't restricted by subject area or nationality.

Do I need a job offer?

No. You don't have to have been offered a job in the UK to apply to the Graduate Route.

What work can I do?

There's no restriction on the kind of work you can do and no minimum salary level. You can spend as long as you like looking for work and you're able to leave or switch jobs without any effect on your visa.

How many people can access the Graduate Route?

There will be no cap on the number of people who can benefit from the Graduate Route.

What will happen when when my Graduate Route Visa expires?

At the end of the two-year period you will need to leave the UK or apply for a different visa, such as a Tier 2 General work visa.

The Tier 2 visa does require you to have an employment offer with a minimum skill and salary level, but your time on the Graduate Route should make it much easier to work towards this.

You won't be able to apply for a second Graduate Route visa if you aren't eligible for a Tier 2 visa.

Do I need to make a new application for the Graduate Route?

Yes. You will need to apply for a separate Graduate Route visa before your student visa expires.

Does my university need to sponsor my application?

No. You will not need any sponsorship to apply for the Graduate Route.

Is there be a fee for the Graduate Route visa?

Yes. You will need to pay a separate visa fee to access the Graduate Route. You will also need to pay another Immigration Health Surcharge to cover each additional year you spend in the UK.

UK Government immigration updates

The UK Government has announced that the immigration surcharge and visa fees are set to increase. The Immigration Health Surcharge will increase by 66% from £624 to £1,035. Whereas, visa processing fees are set to increase by at least 15%.

The Government has not announced when these changes will come into effect but it could be as early as this year!

When is the application deadline?

You will need to apply to the Graduate Route before your current student visa expires.

Exactly when this is will depend on your course. A Tier 4 or Student Route visa will normally last for the duration of your Masters or PhD plus an additional four month grace period. Masters students who applied through the Tier 4 pilot scheme (before October 2020) will have a slightly longer grace period of up to six months.

You can find out exactly how long your visa lasts by checking your Confirmation of Acceptance for Study (CAS) or asking your university.

Does the Graduate Route replace the Tier 4 visa pilot for Masters students?

The Tier 4 pilot scheme allowed Masters students at 27 UK universities to benefit from a simpler visa application process and a longer grace period after their degree ended. It closed to new applicants in October 2020.

The Graduate Route now allows all international students to remain in the UK for a much longer period after their degree.

Does the Graduate Route replace the doctorate extension scheme for students?

The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) allowed PhD graduates to extend their student visa for 12 months. It has effectively been incorporated into the Graduate Route for PhD students, which offers doctoral graduates three-years of post-study entitlement instead of two.

From July 2021 you only need to apply to the Graduate Route. You don't need to apply to the DES as well (and won't be able to).

Can EU students apply to the Graduate Route?

EU (and EEA and Swiss) students without settled or pre-settled status in the UK can also apply to the Graduate Route in the same way as other international students. You won't need a post-study work visa to remain in the UK if you have settled or pre-settled status.

Note that, following Brexit, EU students are no longer automatically entitled to live and work in the UK without a visa.

There's more information in our guide to studying in the UK as an EU student.

Is the Graduate Route affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

You will normally need to have studied your degree in the UK in order to apply to the Graduate Route. However, due to coronavirus, the UK government is temporarily allowing students who are studying remotely (from outside the UK) to apply to the Graduate Route when their course finishes. In order to do so you'll need to have arrived in the UK before:

  • 27 September 2021, if your course began in the 2020-21 academic year
  • 6 April 2022, if your course begins in the 2021-22 academic year

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more about the Graduate Route in our full guide.

We're always keeping an eye on important news for international postgraduate students. You can get the latest updates (and much more!) by subscribing to our free postgraduate study newsletter.

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Last updated: 22 August 2023