Graduate visa

29 September 2021

On 1 July 2021, the Graduate Immigration route was launched. The Graduate visa will allow eligible international students to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing a UK degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance.

This category applies to international students wishing to remain in the UK after successfully completing their UK bachelor’s degree, post graduate degree or other eligible course.

This route will allow applicants to remain in the UK for a further two years in most cases or three years if the applicant completed a PhD or other doctoral qualification. The Graduate visa cannot be extended and does not lead to settlement, however, it does allow for applicants to switch into other categories in the UK, such as Skilled Worker, Innovator or Global Talent, among others.

There is no maintenance or English language requirement for this route. 

Spouses and children under 18 are eligible to apply to remain in the UK only if they already hold a valid dependant visa. New dependants are not permitted under this route, except for children born in the UK during the last grant of Student/Tier 4 (General) student leave.

Visa requirements

The application must be made in the UK while the applicant holds a valid Student or Tier 4 (General) student visa.

The applicant can apply to switch into this visa as soon as they have received confirmation from their educational provider that they have successfully completed their course. They therefore do not need to wait to attend their graduation or be issued with a degree certificate.

In order to qualify for a Graduate visa, the applicant must:

  • hold a valid Student or Tier 4 (General) visa;
  • successfully completed a UK Bachelor’s degree, post graduate degree or other eligible course at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance;
  • have studied in the UK for at least 12 months or the full length of the course, whichever is shorter – remote/distance learning courses are not eligible (note, studying in the UK means that the applicant was in the UK when the education provided needed them to be, for example, to attend lectures or meet with a tutor); and
  • pay a fee for the visa of £700 per applicant and pay the immigration health surcharge, which is £624 per year of leave granted per applicant.

Provided the application is successful, the applicant will be granted leave to remain in the UK as a Graduate migrant for either two years or three years.

Conditions of the Graduate visa

Under this route applicants can take up employment, be self-employed, be a job seeker or do voluntary work in the UK for the duration of the visa.

This route also allows applicants to study in the UK if their chosen course in not eligible for a Student visa. However, if the course they wish to study is eligible for a Student visa, they will need to apply to either extend their existing Student visa or apply for new entry clearance to the UK as a Student.

Applicants can only hold a Graduate visa once.

Applicants are not eligible for public funds and cannot work as a professional sportsperson.


The Graduate visa category is a great route for those wishing to remain in the UK after completion of their course to gain work experience without requiring them to switch straight into the Skilled Worker category. 

This category allows new graduates to work or look for work, in any sector and at any level as well as be self-employed with the idea that those who become eligible to switch into a new category will do so as soon as applicable.

It is important that applicants wishing to apply under the Graduate category understand that it does not lead to settlement and that any time spent in the UK on the Graduate visa will not count towards time in the UK once an applicant has switched into a new route with the possibility of settlement. Applicants must apply to switch into a new category before their Graduate visa expires if they wish to remain in the UK longer term.

This article was co-authored by Anske Venter, Immigration Trainee Solicitor.