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UK Graduate Immigration Route Announced: What to Know

On 4 March 2021, the Home Office announced that applications for the United Kingdom’s new Graduate Immigration Route will open on 1 July 2021. The Graduate route will permit eligible international students, who have successfully completed their studies at UK Bachelor’s degree-level or above, to stay in the UK after graduation to either work or look for work. Those who successfully completed their Bachelor’s or Master’s from an accredited UK educational institution on or after 1 July are eligible to apply for the graduate route visa and stay in the UK for two years post-graduation, while those who have successfully completed their doctoral studies can stay for up to three years post-graduation.

As I have alluded to, the new Graduate route will require a visa; therefore, it is not a natural extension of the Tier 4 Student visa. International students who hold a valid Tier 4 visa on or after 1 July 2021 must make a new application to switch to the Graduate route visa. According to the Home Office Blog, the application ‘will include the payment of a visa fee of £700 and the Immigration Health Surcharge at the full rate of £624 per year’. For those international students on a Tier 4 visa who were unable or unwilling to move to the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic but ‘began their studies in Autumn 2020 will now have until 21 June 2021 to enter the UK (updated from 6 April 2021) in order to be eligible for the Graduate route. Students who began their studies in January or February 2021 will need to be in the UK by 27 September 2021’.

The most exciting aspect of this Graduate route, in my opinion, is that it does not require applicants to have a job offer from a company willing to sponsor the applicant. Prior to the Graduate route, in order for international students – or any international immigrants for that matter – to apply for the UK work visa, one needed to be sponsored by their future employer. This can be a difficult task, especially for newly graduated students who have far less work experience than someone ten years their senior. As a young graduate, this was a very daunting prospect for me, especially in the midst of a pandemic and national lockdown. In addition, graduates holding the new visa are permitted to ‘switch jobs and develop their career as required’.

When setting out the new route, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster stated, “The changes announced today will ensure once [graduates] have received a gold standard qualification from one of our world leading education institutions, they can easily secure the status they need to continue living, working and fulfilling their dreams in the UK”.

As an international student who has lived and studied in the UK for five years, I am thankful to be given the option to continue my life and begin my career here in the UK. During such a challenging year, it gives me great peace of mind to know that even if I do not secure a sponsor-worthy job by the time my visa expires in January 2022, my life and relationships will not be forcibly uprooted. I am immensely grateful for this privilege.






This article was written on the 8th of March 2021.



Julia is a postgraduate student studying International Conflict Studies at King's College London. Originally from the Greater Boston area, she enjoys English weather but will always be a sucker for the cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers of New England. She wouldn't mind spending her career behind a computer, whether researching and writing about past and present events in the international sphere, or writing more fun and creative lifestyle pieces.
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