ArticleMastering UK Graduate visa process in 2024

The UK Graduate Visa offers an invaluable opportunity for international students to extend their stay post-graduation. Introduced as part of the government’s strategy to retain the brightest and best global talents, this unsponsored work route allows graduates to seek or undertake employment without the constraints of a specific job offer or sponsorship. Here, we explore the key facets of the Graduate Visa, including recent changes and eligibility criteria.

The Graduate Visa is designed for students who have successfully completed a degree at the bachelor’s level or higher at a Home Office-approved UK higher education institution. Unlike other work visas, applicants do not need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer. This freedom enables holders to work in any role, facilitating a smoother transition into the UK job market. Depending on the level of qualification, the visa can be granted for a span of 2 or 3 years.

2024 rapid review by the Migration Advisory Committee

In response to policy critiques, the government commissioned a rapid review of the Graduate route by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in 2024. The review focuses on multiple areas, including potential abuses of the visa and its impact on the UK’s higher education system. The results of this review are pending and are expected to influence future policy adjustments.

Eligibility and requirements

To qualify for a Graduate Visa, applicants must meet several criteria:

  • Successful completion requirement: Applicants must have completed the course for which they were issued their last Student Visa. Confirmation from the educational institution regarding course completion is crucial.
  • Qualification requirement: The visa applicant must have obtained a recognized UK bachelor’s, master’s, PhD, or professional qualification.
  • Study in the UK requirement: Applicants must have studied in the UK for a minimum duration during their course. Specific provisions apply to those who studied remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Application process and costs

Applying for a Graduate Visa involves an online application form, accompanied by a fee of £822. Applicants must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, granting them access to the NHS. This process does not require proof of financial means or English language proficiency, as these are assessed during the initial student visa application.

Changes to dependant rules

Significant changes came into effect in Spring 2024, aligning the Graduate route with the Student route regarding dependants. Now, Graduate visa holders are unable to bring family members to the UK as dependants, a shift from previous regulations which allowed this under certain conditions.

Post-Graduate Visa pathways

Graduate Visa does not lead directly to settlement or an extension. Upon expiry, visa holders must transition to another immigration route, such as the Skilled Worker visa, to remain in the UK legally. This transition requires securing a job with a Home Office licensed sponsor that meets specific skill and salary thresholds.

The UK Graduate Visa serves as a stepping stone for international students aspiring to develop their careers in the UK. While the route offers flexibility and opportunity, it is surrounded by stringent requirements and lacks a direct path to permanent residency. As policies evolve, particularly following the MAC’s review, potential applicants must stay informed to handle the complexities of post-study work options in the UK effectively.

Get in touch:  For a comprehensive understanding of your options or queries on UK immigration matters, contact GigaLegal Solicitors at 02074067654 or click here to book a no-obligation consultation with an immigration expert.