Graduate Visa Tiers Explained

Graduate Visa Tiers Explained

In the United Kingdom, the government and UK Home Office have devised a tiered visa system, separating different visa types into numbered categories from 1 to 5, this allows for a more streamlined and organised visa system.

For international students who wish to study in the United Kingdom, they must be approved for a student visa, which falls under tier 4 of the visa system. Once they have finished their studies, if they wish to remain in the United Kingdom, they must apply for a different visa. In most cases, students can apply for a graduate visa that will allow a further two years in the United Kingdom to further their studies or find employment.

In order to apply for a graduate visa in the United Kingdom, applicants must hold a valid tier 4 student visa and have completed an eligible course to be considered.

In this article, we will explore the visa tier system in more detail and discover how to apply for a graduate visa.

At Synergy Immigration Solutions, we are experts in immigration law matters. We strive to use our experience to help our clients with all types of immigration matters, including visa services, in a professional manner. For more information, call us today on 02045385124 to speak to a member of our friendly team.

Which Tier Does A Graduate Visa Come Under in the UK?

In general, the UK graduate visa falls under tier 4, the adult student category. Tier 4 visas allow students to transition into the graduate route to seek employment or further their education, resulting in securing a job in the United Kingdom or returning to their home country with their newfound education and skills.

Whilst the graduate visa is a great option and immigration route for international students, there are other visas available in different tiers that may offer a longer stay in the United Kingdom, however, these depend on personal circumstances and intentions.

Below, we will outline each visa tier and the potential options available to international students who have graduated on a tier 4 student visa.

UK Visa Tiers

United Kingdom visa tiers are devised into 5 different categories:

  • Tier 1- High-Value Migrants
  • Tier 2- Skilled Workers
  • Tier 3- Unskilled Workers
  • Tier 4- Adult Students (Aged 16 and over)
  • Tier 5- Temporary Workers

Each tier is further split into subcategories containing specific visas. But, which of these visa categories are most suited to international students who have just graduated?

Tier 1- High-Value Migrants

Tier 1 visas are offered to migrants who can add value to the United Kingdom economy, such as entrepreneurs, investors, and those with exceptional talent.

For graduates possessing skills that demonstrate that they are a high-value migrants, they can apply for one of the following visas categorised under tier 1:

  • Graduate entrepreneur visa- for international students who have graduated in the United Kingdom and have been recognised as having exceptional entrepreneurial skills.
  • Exceptional talent visa- International students or migrants who have been regnognised for their exceptional talent in science and arts.
  • Entrepreneur- Individuals who wish to set up or take over a business in the United Kingdom.
  • Investor visa- allowing international citizens to make considerable investment into the UK economy.

Tier 2- Skilled Workers

Skilled workers are invited to apply for a visa under the tier 2 category which allows international workers with a specific skill to work in the UK on a certificate of sponsorship to contribute their skill to the United Kingdom’s labour market. This includes skills such as medicine, engineering, hospitality, and sports, to name a few.

For graduates who are considered to have a specific skill, they may be able to apply for one of the following visa types:

  • Skilled worker visa- considered as a general visa for skilled workers, international graduates who have qualified for a skilled course can seek employment and sponsorship with a skilled worker visa.
  • Sportsperson visa- allowing those with exceptional sports ability to compete in the United Kingdom.
  • Health and care worker visa- allowing medical staff and carers to practice in UK care and medical institutions.
  • Minister of religion visa- for religious figures, such as priests who have been offered the opportunity to practice their faith under employment in the United Kingdom.

To access any of these visa types, you must have a valid certificate of sponsorship from a UK-based employer with a sponsor licence.

Which Tier Does A Graduate Visa Come Under in the UK?

Tier 3- Unskilled Workers

The tier 3 visa category for unskilled workers is currently closed in the UK in order to focus on the United Kingdom’s labour shortage and employ more skilled workers.

Tier 4- Adult Students

The United Kingdom is home to a series of prestigious educational facilities that attract the attention of thousands of international students a year. If you are aged 16 or over and you wish to apply to study in the United Kingdom, you must be approved for a student visa, which will allow you to remain in the United Kingdom for the duration of your studies.

Once your student visa expires, you must make alternative arrangements to remain in the United Kingdom or return home.

If you wish to remain in the UK to find work, you must apply for a tier 4 graduate visa to allow an additional two years of stay in the United Kingdom. After this time, you can apply for a different immigration route to continue your work.

Tier 5- Temporary Workers

A temporary work visa allows migrants to stay in the UK to work on a temporary basis, if you are a graduate with specific intentions to work on a temporary basis either for charity, in a creative industry, or to practice your faith, you may be able to apply for a tier 5 visa. The most common tier 5, temporary worker visas are:

  • Charity worker- for international migrants who wish to do voluntary work or work for a charity in the United Kingdom.
  • Sports and creative- For those who wish to work in the UK in sports, arts, or performing.
  • Religious workers- for those who wish to work in a faith-based job in the United Kingdom.

How to Apply for a Graduate Visa?

In order to apply for a graduate visa in the United Kingdom, you must ensure you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Hold a valid student visa
  • Be in the United Kingdom at the time of applying
  • Studied and completed an eligible course
  • Be able to provide documentation to prove your identity and immigration status

Once you have discovered that you are eligible, you can proceed to apply for a graduate visa online via the UK Government website. When you submit your application, you must pay the application fee in full along with providing documents which may include your passport, travel documents, and your biometric residence permit (BRP).

It takes around 8 weeks to process a graduate visa application in the United Kingdom. If your application is approved, you will be notified and you can remain in the United Kingdom. If your application is refused, it is important to understand why. You may be able to appeal your declined application, depending on the reason.

In Summary

The UK visa system is made up of 5 visa tiers, each with suitable options for graduates who wish to remain in the United Kingdom after their studies have been completed. The most common of these is the tier 4 graduate visa. However, those with a specific skill or intention may be eligible for a different visa type, such as a tier 2 skilled worker visa, or a tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa.

Synergy Immigration Solutions

We understand that applying for a visa can be daunting, which is why our expert team of immigration lawyers is on hand to help you through the process. Whether you require help discovering the correct visa to apply for, or to appeal a refused application, our dedicated team are ready and waiting to help you today.

For more information, get in touch on 02045385124 to speak to a team about how we can help you take the next steps.