What Is a Graduate Visa in UK?

What Is a Graduate Visa in UK?

The UK’s visa system can be unnecessarily complicated with many different visas for different things and allowing people to stay in the UK with different rights for varying lengths of time. Only graduates from abroad who have studied courses in the UK can apply for the Graduate visa, but what is it and how do you get it?

We’ll discuss what the UK’s Graduate visa is, who can apply, how to apply and what to do when yours runs out.

What Is a Graduate Visa?

What Is a Graduate Visa?

Student visas are usually given for the length of a course plus a month or two to allow the student to make arrangements to leave the UK. However, rather than leaving right away, some students are eligible to stay for another 2 to 3 years with the Graduate visa. The Graduate visa enables international graduates to live and work or find work for the length of their visa. If the student had family staying with them in the UK, their family members can also apply to continue living with them with a Graduate visa.

The Graduate visa allows eligible graduates to:

  • Look for work
  • Work in most jobs
  • Be self-employed
  • Do voluntary work
  • Travel to and from the UK

The application fee for the Graduate visa is £822 per person and each applicant must also pay the immigration health surcharge to enable them to access NHS services, which is:

  • £2,070 for 2 years
  • £3,105 for 3 years

If your dependants are applying with you, they must each pay the application fee and immigration health surcharge.

Who Can Apply for the Graduate Visa?

Who Can Apply for the Graduate Visa?

International students who have studied and completed a course in the UK that’s equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate (e.g. PhD) are eligible to apply for a Graduate visa, if they also:

  • Are in the UK at the time they apply
  • Have studied for at least 12 months in the UK

The educational institute is required to inform the Home Office that the student has completed their course before the student can apply. You can check with your course provider before starting your application to ensure your eligibility. You don’t have to wait until you receive your graduation certificate or attend your graduation ceremony before you can apply for the Graduate visa.

How Long Can You Stay with the Graduate Visa?

The Graduate visa permits most international students to stay for another 2 years in the UK after completing their degree. However, graduates of PhDs and other doctorates or equivalent courses can stay in the UK for 3 years with a Graduate visa.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Graduate Visa?

How Long Does it Take to Get a Graduate Visa?

You should apply for a Graduate visa as soon as you’re able to ensure you have enough time left on your visa to complete the application and allow the Home Office to process it. Once the visa application is complete, the Home Office will take up to 8 weeks to process the application and return to you with a response. If your visa application is rejected, you will receive a letter explaining their decision and your right to appeal.

If your Student visa expires before you receive your Graduate visa, you may have your visa rejected and be asked to leave the country. You cannot apply for a Graduate visa from outside the UK and you will not receive a refund, so you must ensure you have enough time left on your visa for the application to go through to avoid complications.

Your Student visa will give details of what work you are permitted to do, but in most cases, you can work full-time while you’re waiting for your Graduate visa to be processed as you’ll have finished your course and therefore outside of term time.

The Home Office has been experiencing delays in processing visas since th Covid-19 pandemic and has seen a surge of applications for UK visas, so be prepared for delays to take place. It can be helpful to apply with the assistance of a specialised visa agency to ensure you complete the application correctly to avoid delays and can help you manage any delays on the side of the Home Office.

What to Do When Your Visa Expires

You cannot extend a Graduate visa so if yours expires then you will have to leave the UK. However, you can apply for different visas to stay in the UK if you’re eligible.

Some visas you can apply for include:

  • Family visas
  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Innovator Founder visa
  • Health and Care Worker visa

Family visas are for partners, parents, child dependants and adult dependant relatives of British citizens or residents, so you can only apply for these visas if you intend to live with a partner or is a resident or citizen.

Work permits have strict eligibility requirements so you must ensure you have a job offer in a relevant industry from an approved sponsor, or have a suitable business plan before applying.

Any time you have spent on a Student visa or Graduate visa does not count towards indefinite leave to remain (ILR), also known as permanent residency, despite this usually needing 5 years spent legally in the UK. Even if you have spent 5 years or more in the UK as a student and graduate, you are not eligible to apply for permanent residency. However, in some cases you can apply for ILR after 10 years spent in the UK, so check if you are eligible if this is a route to staying in the UK you would like to pursue.

Switching to a Skilled Worker Visa

Switching to a Skilled Worker Visa

Switching to a Skilled Worker visa is a popular option for many international students and graduates as they are usually issued for 5 years and count towards the necessary 5 years in the UK for permanent residency. The government has published a list of eligible occupations for the Skilled Worker visa which changes according to needs in the job market, so those with specialist skills or expertise can find suitable work in the UK.

For a Skilled Worker visa, you need:

Skilled Worker visas are valid for a range of different jobs and industries, although primarily in senior positions or ones that require extensive training or experience, so, for example, most hotel work is not eligible, but a hotel manager might be.

Once you have received your certificate of sponsorship from your prospective employer, paid the application fee, and immigration health surcharge and submitted your supporting documents, the Home Office will process your application.

Changes in 2024

As part of their plans to reduce net migration, the government announced several changes to the UK immigration system to take place in Spring 2024, including changes to the Student visas and Skilled Worker visas.

As of the beginning of 2024, most Student visa holders have been unable to bring their dependants (partner or children) to the UK with them. Those already in the UK could continue to stay and can continue to stay with a Graduate visa, however new family members cannot apply.

For Skilled Worker visa applicants, the minimum salary threshold was moved in April 2024 from £26,000 to £38,700 so applicants must earn this or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher. There are exceptions for eligible healthcare and education workers, as the minimum salary was only raised to £29,000.

Need Visa Help? Contact Synergy Immigration Solutions

With regular changes to the immigration system in the UK, it can be difficult to go through visa applications alone. Fortunately, specialist visa agencies like Synergy Immigration Solutions are on hand to help individuals with their applications and employers to get their sponsorship licences.

Contact us today for advice from our expert team, or read our privacy policy to learn how we process your information.

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