Your questions answered on the Graduate Route
On 4 March 2021, the UK Home Office released its Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules. This introduced us to the new Graduate Route, which was first announced on 11 September 2019 with the aim to benefit the UK’s economy by attracting and retaining more bright international students.
Often referred to by students as the new ‘PSW’ visa, the Graduate Route is different from the previous Post Study Worker visa and offers more flexibility to graduates.
We have received a considerable number of enquiries about the Graduate Route since its announcement. Below is a list of the most commonly asked questions and answers for those who wish to apply.
When Can I apply for the visa?
The Graduate route will be open for applications from 1 July 2021. Applications must be made within the UK to apply.
Who can apply for the visa?
Graduates who have successfully completed an eligible course of study at UK bachelor’s degree-level or above may be eligible for the Graduate visa. The study must have been with a higher education provider with a track record of compliance. The graduates must have had their last Student visa granted in relation to the degree in question.
What are the requirements for Graduate visas?
Applicants will have to gain 70 points under the Immigration Rules to be qualified. In order to be awarded the 70 points, applicants must meet the below three requirements:
- Successful completion of the course
- Qualification requirement
- Study in the UK
a) Successful completion of the course
Applicants must have last been sponsored by a Student licence holder, which is a higher education provider with a track record of compliance. This means applicants must have current permission as a Student or Tier 4 migrant on the date of the application. Therefore, this route will not be available for students who have completed their courses in early 2021, and their visas expire before 1 July 2021. These students will have to apply for a different visa type, such as skilled worker if they wish to continue their residence in the UK.
Applicants must also have successfully completed the course of study, that they were undertaking during their last grant of leave to study in the UK. Therefore, if the last leave for the person was not in a Student/Tier 4 (General) route, then you will not be eligible for this route. Equally, if the person hasn’t completed the course they were sponsored to study and decide to drop the university/college, then they will not be able to switch either.
b) Qualification requirement
One of the most frequently asked questions is about the qualified courses for the Graduate visa. The relevant course will need to lead to an award of a UK bachelor’s or a UK postgraduate degree (Master’s or PhD etc.) . Applicants who have successfully completed a relevant qualification listed below will also meet the qualification requirement:
- A law conversion course validated by the Joint Academic Stage Board in England and Wales. Typically known as the GDL course; or
- the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in England and Wales, the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland; or
- the Bar Practice Course (BPTC) in England and Wales, or the Bar Course in Northern Ireland; or
- a foundation programme in Medicine or Dentistry; or (e) a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE); or
- a professional course required to study at the UK bachelor’s degree level or above in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority.
c) Study in the UK requirement
The applicant must have studied and lived in the UK for a minimum period of the course for which they have granted visa to study. If the course is 12 months or less, you must have studied in the UK for the full duration of your course. If the course is longer than 12 months, you must have studied for at least 12 months of your course. This means those who have studies remotely from another country despite having a UK student visa may not be eligible for a Graduate route.
As a result of COVID-19, the UK universities offer distance learning for international students. If your distance learning took place overseas between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021, you would still be eligible for the Graduate visa providing:
- You began studying your course in 2020, entered the UK by 21 June 2021, and completed your course in the UK with permission as a Student; or
- You began studying your course in 2021, entered the UK before 27 September 2021, and completed your course in the UK with permission as a Student.
How long can I stay in the UK with a Graduate visa?
For PhD or other doctoral qualifications, successful applicants will be issued a Graduate visa for three years. For all other qualifications, successful applicants can stay in the UK for two years on the Graduate visa.
For applicants with a PhD qualification, you must not have been previously granted permission under the Doctorate Extension Scheme to apply for the Graduate visa. The Graduate Extension Scheme will be closed and replaced by a more generous Graduate visa from 1 July 2021.
Do I need a sponsor to work in the UK?
The Graduate route is a non-sponsored route. Applicants can take employment in the UK without a sponsor apart from work as a professional sportsperson. The university doesn’t need to monitor graduates or track their residence in the UK after their switch into a Graduate route. The route is a one off application and does not count towards settlement.
If you are a fresh graduate but do not meet the above requirement, you may want to consider the Skilled Worker visa instead. This is a sponsored work route and also leads to settlement, as opposed to the Graduate visa.
Can my family apply too?
Those dependents who are already in the UK with as dependents of students, can apply with the main applicant. Therefore, if your family members are in the UK with you, but on a different route, they are only eligible if they have a UK dependent visa with you. However, no new dependents can join the main applicant in the UK on a dependent visa, apart from children born in the UK.
Can EEA students apply to the Graduate Route?
EEA or Swiss students without settled or pre-settled status in the UK can also apply for the Graduate route. If you already have a pre-settled or settled status in the UK, then you don’t need to apply for the Graduate Route. This is because your right to reside in the UK is protected under the EU provisions.
How can we help?
Taylor Hampton’s immigration solicitors have assisted numerous clients in securing their UK visas. If you need legal assistance with your applications or wish to know more about the Graduate visa, please contact Taylor Hampton’s immigration today on 020 7427 5972 or submit an enquiry HERE.