The Graduate route: A guide to UK’s post-study work visa

Poorvi Chothani

Managing Partner, LawQuest, Contributor Content

Poorvi Chothani is the founder and managing partner of LawQuest, an employment and immigration boutique law firm. Poorvi, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, is admitted to the bar in India and the USA and is a registered and practicing solicitor, England and Wales. She holds senior leadership positions in the American Bar Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association and the International Bar Association.

After the UK Home Office’s announcement in July 2021 the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has been accepting Graduate Visa applications. A Graduate Visa allows eligible students completing their undergraduate or master’s degree to remain and work in the UK for up to two years.

Whether a student is eligible or not depends on the following:

  • the education provider (University/College) where the course was completed;
  • the kind of course the applicant completed;
  • how long he/she studied in the UK.

In addition, a student may apply for a Graduate Visa if he or she meets all of the following criteria:

  • The applicant is in the UK (please see the rest of the article for COVID related concessions);
  • The applicant currently holds a Student Visa or a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa (now replaced by Student Visa);
  • The applicant has acquired a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or completed another eligible course for the required period of time on a Student Visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa (now replaced by Student Visa);
  • The education provider (University or College) has informed the applicant of the successfully completion of the course.

Meeting the ‘Physical Presence in the UK’ Requirement

Studying in the UK would imply that the applicant has been in the UK physically present at the University/College – for example, attending lectures or meeting with a tutor etc. As per the requirement, the student applicant must have studied a course in the UK for at least 12 months or the full length of the course, whichever is shorter.

However, the rule of minimum requirement of 12 months does not apply if the applicant was required to study outside the UK on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If a Student Visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa has been issued for more than 12 months, any time spent by the applicant studying the course outside the UK between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will be counted as if he or she were studying the course in the UK.

To apply for the Graduate visa, the student applicant must have returned to the UK by 27 September 2021 or before the expiry of his or her student visa, whichever is sooner.

Points to Note

It is important that the Graduate Visa application is submitted to the UK Home Office before the applicant’s current Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa expires. A Graduate Visa will be issued for a duration of 2 years. For those students who hold a PHD or other doctoral qualification, the visa duration will be granted for a period of 3 years. The start date of the visa will be from the day the application is approved.

A Graduate Visa cannot be renewed. If the applicant wishes to continue staying in the UK beyond the period of two years, then an application to switch to a different visa category (such as a Skilled Worker Visa) must be made prior to the expiry of the Graduate Visa.

With inputs from Manizeh Mistry, Associate Partner at LawQuest

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