Most students who move abroad to study want to work there for a few years before returning home. If you’re planning on a course in the UK, there’s good news – the country has a new graduate immigration route that benefits international students – The UK graduate visa route.
The UK graduate visa route allows international students to work and stay in the UK for up to 2 years after graduation from an accredited UK university or school. Applications are now open for prospective students from all countries.
What Is The UK Graduate Visa Route?
When an international student completes a graduation course in the UK, this route allows him/ her to look for a job in the country and live there for up to 2 years. It is not tied to employer sponsorship in any way and hence gives the individual flexibility to switch jobs if required. You can also be self-employed and live in the UK.
What You Can And Cannot Do With The Graduate Visa
- Look for work
- Work in most positions
- Become an entrepreneur and be self-employed
- Do voluntary work
- Travel abroad and return to the UK
- Live with your partner and children if they meet the eligibility criteria
- Apply for public funds
- Apply for state pension
- Be a professional sportsperson
Eligibility Criteria For The UK Graduate Visa Route
The following criteria must be met to be eligible for a graduate visa:
- The applicant must be in the UK
- The applicant must hold a valid student visa or a Tier 4 (general) student visa
- The applicant must have successfully completed a bachelor’s / Master’s /postgraduate degree course in the UK
- The education provider must be a licensed sponsor
- Other courses that meet the eligibility criteria are:
- Foundation program in medicine/dentistry
- Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)
- Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
- Law conversion course approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority
- Legal Practice Course in England and Wales
- Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland
- Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland
- Bar Practice Course in England and Wales
- Bar Course in Northern Ireland
UK Graduate Visa Route – Eligibility Criteria For Students Affected By COVID-19
Typically, to be eligible for this visa, the applicant must have spent 1 year or the duration of the course in the UK. However, this rule may not apply to students who needed to complete their courses from their home countries because of COVID-19 restrictions. They must prove that:
- The course started in 2020 or 2021
- Their student visa or Tier 4 student visa was valid for up to 12 months
To apply for the graduate visa, students must return to the UK before their current visa expires or by 27 September 2021.
How Long Is A Graduate Visa Valid?
Graduate visas are valid for 2 years from the date they are issued. In the case of Ph.D. holders, this visa is valid for 3 years. It cannot be renewed or extended.
Documents Required For The UK Graduate Visa Route Application
- Valid passport
- Biometric residence permit as issued when you received a student visa/ Tier 4 (general) student visa
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number
- A scholarship or sponsorship letter if applicable
- Certified translation of documents if they are not in English or Welsh
If your partner and children will be accompanying you, you will also need proof of relationship.
Apply Online For A UK Graduate Visa
You can complete and apply for a UK graduate visa here. Your partner and children will need to apply separately for their visas.
Students from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein can prove their identity by scanning their passports through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app.
Students from other countries can prove their identities by scanning their biometric residence permit (BRP).
Alternatively, students can get their photographs taken and submit fingerprints at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point.
UK Graduate Visa Route Application Fees
An application fee of £700 and a healthcare surcharge of £624 each year is payable. Visa holders working in public sector healthcare may be able to get a refund of the healthcare surcharge.
Citizens of the following countries need to pay a reduced application fee of £645:
- Republic of Cyprus
- Czech Republic
- North Macedonia
UK Graduate Visa Route Wait Time
The application can take up to 8 weeks to be processed and approved. Further documentation may be asked for if the supporting documents need to be verified or because of the applicant’s personal circumstances.
An application may be canceled by the applicant. This will be eligible for a refund only if the application has not been processed as yet.
Regulations For Dependents
A graduate visa’s partner and children can live in the UK as dependents. The following are eligible:
- Husband/ wife
- Civil partner
- Unmarried partner
- Children under the age of 18
- Children born in the UK
- Children over the age of 18 years who are currently residing in the UK
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