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The Graduate route: What you need to know

Last Updated: 23 May, 2021

From 1 July 2021, international students who have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or higher will be able to remain in the UK for up to 3 years after graduation.

This summer, the UK government will be launching the new graduate immigration route, a new work route for international students. Under the Graduate route, international students will be able to remain in the UK for 2 years after successfully completing an undergraduate or master’s degree, or 3 years after completing a PhD.

At this time, the exact procedure for application has not yet been determined, however the UK government has already outlined a number of important rules regarding the new immigration route.


How and when can I apply?

Applications for the Graduate route will open on July 1 2021 at 9:00am. Submission will take place online and you will need to be in the UK at the time of filing. You are not able to apply in your home country or in any other country other than the UK. Your deadline for applying is the expiry date of your immigration permission.

One of the good things about the Graduate route is that you do not need to provide an offer letter from an employer or university, nor do you need to provide evidence of living costs (‘maintenance requirement’).


Who can apply?


To be eligible for the Graduate route, you must hold a valid Student or Tier 4 permission. If your student permission is due to expire before July 1 2021, you cannot apply for the Graduate route.


When you apply, you must provide a proof of completion of a UK degree or other relevant qualification. Your UK course must be either an undergraduate degree, master’s degree or a PhD or other doctoral qualification. Your course can also be a different qualification, such as a law conversion course, the Legal Practice Course, Bar Practice Course, foundation programme in Medicine and Dentistry, as well as a number of other qualifications. If you are not sure if your qualification is eligible, check directly with your Student route sponsor.

Study in the UK

If your course started in 2020 and was 12 months or less, for example a master’s degree, and you have been distance learning in your home country for the whole course so far, you will need to come to the UK on or before 21 June 2021 to be able to apply for the Graduate route. If you have already been in the UK but switched to distance learning, you will need to return to the UK on or before the end date of your course. You can find the exact end date of your course on your CAS form. If you have any queries regarding your personal deadline to return to the UK, check with your course provider.


How much does it cost?

The graduate route application fee is £700. There is a £55 discount for CESC nationals. In addition, you are required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) at £624 per year, which will be £1248 for those graduating from bachelors and master’s and £1872 for PhD and doctoral graduates.

What work can I do while on Graduate route?

On the Graduate route, you can do any work, paid or unpaid, employed or self-employed. You can be a volunteer, freelancer, intern, work full-time or part-time, or even start your own business. You can also study a higher education programme that cannot be sponsored under the Student visa route, including part-time undergraduate study, online, evening or recreational courses.


Are there any potential problems?

The new Graduate route has some potential hurdles that you should consider if you are thinking of applying.

  • After your graduate route visa expires, you will not be able to apply again, however, you can switch to any other visa category, such as the Skilled Worker visa.
  • If you have dependents, only those who are in the UK as your student dependent can apply. Any dependents located outside of the UK cannot apply.
  • Your time spent in the UK under the graduate route will not count towards your UK settlement period.
  • All study that can be sponsored under the Student route is not allowed under the Graduate route. If you are not sure whether you can study a specific course under the Graduate route, check with the course provider.

What can I do after the Graduate route?

Although the Graduate route visa cannot be extended, however you have the opportunity to switch to another visa category or return to your home country and come back at a later date.

  • You can switch to the Skilled Worker visa for sponsored skilled work. In order to apply, you will need sponsorship from a licensed employer, who may be the same employer you worked for while on the Graduate route.
  • Switch to a spouse or partner visa.
  • You can switch back to a Student visa to complete a higher level of study.
  • You can leave the UK and come back on the Skilled worker route.
  • Develop an idea for a start-up and apply for a Tier 1 Innovator visa for 3 years. The main requirements for application are a minimum B2 level of English, a business plan that meets the requirements of a new or existing market, required qualifications and an investment of £50,000.


To keep up with any new developments about the Graduate route, check the UK government website and the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

If you are considering applying for the Graduate route and need help with your application, contact UK Study Centre.

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