UK Graduate Visa Route opens for applications

Willans’ business immigration experts update members on recent news concerning graduate visas and working in the UK.

On 1 July 2021, the UK Graduate Visa Route opened for applications. The visa enables international students who have completed an eligible UK degree to stay in the UK to work (or look for work) after completing their studies.

If you are an employer, it is important to know the basic rights and limitations of this visa, particularly if you are interviewing international graduates. Read on for more information about the eligibility criteria and rights under this visa, along with some specific COVID-19 considerations.

Requirements for eligibility

To be eligible international students must have:

  • completed a UK bachelor’s or postgraduate degree at a Higher Education Provider which is a student sponsor with a track record of compliance; or
  • completed 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 law; or
  • been sponsored to undertake a role as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer following the completion of an eligible qualification in their most recent grant of permission to study.

Students must:

  • be in the UK at the date of application; and
  • have a valid student or Tier 4 student visa; and
  • have spent a minimum period of time studying in the UK

Rights under the visa

Under this visa, international graduates are permitted to:

  • stay in the UK for 2 years (for those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree) or 3 years (for those with a doctorate)
  • look for work
  • once employment has been found, work flexibly
  • undertake roles at any skill level with no salary requirement
  • switch jobs

Impact of COVID-19

There are concessions in place for international students who have been unable to travel to the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Where distance learning has taken place outside of the UK as a result of COVID-19, the following concessions apply:

  • studies which began in autumn 2020 or spring 2021: students can switch into the Graduate Immigration Route if they enter the UK by 27 September 2021;
  • studies beginning autumn 2021 or spring 2022: student can switch into the Graduate Immigration Route if they enter the UK by 6 April 2022.

If your prospective employee is an international graduate, Willans LLP solicitors can help you understand the rights and limitations their visa has.  Additionally, we can help you make an application for a Certificate for Sponsorship to employ graduates whose visas are coming to an end.

Willans LLP has extensive experience in advising a wide range of businesses on all aspects of business immigration law in the UK. If your business would benefit from advice on the above or another related matter, please call (01242 514000) or email us for support. Contact


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Willans LLP Solicitors

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