Graduate Visa

Studying in the UK is a wonderful opportunity that isn’t limited to UK nationals. Thanks to the Student visa and Child Student visa, international students can come to the UK to get some of the world’s best education. However, you don’t have to leave the UK as soon as you’ve graduated, thanks to the Graduate visa, available to graduates over the age of 18 who have completed their courses. 

Who exactly is eligible, what the application process is like and what to do at the end of your Graduate visa, we’ll discuss in detail now in our Graduate visa guide.

About the Graduate Visa

International students in the UK on a Student visa, formerly Tier 4 (General) Student visa, have to leave the UK before their visa expires unless they switch their visa category to grant them more time in the UK. One option is the Graduate visa

The Graduate visa gives eligible international students the right to reside in the UK for a further 2 to 3 years after they complete their course. To be eligible, students must be in the UK when they apply, and meet the other eligibility requirements regarding the type of course they studied and how long they studied for. 

Who Can Apply for the Graduate Visa?

British nationals do not need a Graduate visa after completing their studies in the UK. After foreign nationals study in the UK, in order to stay on, they must switch to a different kind of visa. 

To be eligible for the Graduate visa, applicants must:

  • Be in the UK at the time of the application
  • Be in the UK with a Student visa (formerly Tier 4 (General) Student visa
  • Have studied a course at RFQ level 6 or above e.g. Bachelor's, Master’s or Postgraduate degree to completion or the minimum time period
  • Your educational institution has informed the Home Office of the successful completion of your course

In most cases, you will need to have completed your course successfully, however, for postgraduate degrees e.g. PhDs, you must have studied for at least 12 months before you can apply for a Graduate visa. You should also ensure your course and course length entitle you to apply for the Graduate visa before starting your application, as some courses are not eligible. 

Synergy Immigration can help you learn if your course is eligible for the Graduate visa and help you gather the right documents for your visa application. If you’re not eligible for the Graduate visa but wish to stay in the UK after your studies, there may be another type of visa that you can apply for instead. 

For example, doctors, nurses and social care workers who have recently graduated may be eligible for the Health and Care Worker visa instead, which also has several other benefits.

How Long You Can Stay on a Graduate Visa?

Most Graduate visas are given for up to 2 years, however, graduates of postdoctorate qualifications such as PhDs can stay in the UK with a Graduate visa for a further 3 years. Applicants must apply while they’re still in the UK on their Student visa. The Graduate visa will then start from the day that the visa is approved. 

What You Can and Can’t Do with a Graduate Visa?

Getting a job immediately after graduating isn’t always easy as you will have been focusing on your studies and not necessarily had time to explore the UK job market, or you may wish to have a break from your hard work and explore the UK for a month or two instead. Either way, the Graduate visa can be a great option if you wish to stay in the UK after your course. There are rules about what you can and can’t do with a Graduate visa, however, there are many activities that are permitted on this visa type. 

Graduate visa holders can:

  • Work in most employed jobs excluding those specifically for UK citizens such as standing as an MP
  • Search for work and attend interviews
  • Work as a self-employed person
  • Work in a voluntary capacity
  • Study eligible short-term courses
  • Travel to and from the UK

If you do wish to continue studying in the UK, you can only study with a Graduate visa if your course is not eligible for a Student visa. If it is, you must apply for a Student visa instead. 

With a Graduate visa, you cannot:

  • Receive benefits (public funds such as unemployment benefits or the State Pension)
  • Work as a professional sportsperson (there is a special visa for this)

After you have completed your application, you will have to wait for the Home Office to make a decision. If your application is successful, you will receive notice of your new visa with a full list of activities you can and can’t do while in the UK with a Graduate visa. 

Graduate Visa

Graduate Visa Requirements

The main visa requirements for the Graduate visa are that you’re an international student who has just completed an eligible course in the UK and currently holds a Student visa while still in the UK. 

However, you must ensure that your education provider, course type and course length also meet the requirements so that you are eligible to apply for the Graduate visa, as not every international student is eligible. 

Education Provider

When applying for your Student visa, you will have had to provide your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) reference number with your application which would have been given to you by an eligible sponsoring institution. Only education providers with a sponsor licence can sponsor international students to study in the UK.

For the Graduate visa, your sponsor must have maintained their sponsorship licence as well as a track record of compliance, referring to the institution meeting the terms of their licence. Check with your course provider that they have a track record of compliance before applying for your Graduate visa. 

Type of Course

The type of course i.e. the level of study you have completed in the UK is also integral to your eligibility for the Graduate visa. In the UK, there are 9 RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework) levels. A Bachelor’s degree is level 6, a Master’s degree is level 7 and a doctorate is level 8. 

You must have completed a Bachelor’s degree, or equivalent RQF level course or higher to be eligible to apply for the Graduate visa. For example, those studying at A level in the UK are not eligible for the Graduate visa as this is RQF level 3.

Anyone who has completed any of the following courses is also eligible to apply for the Graduate visa:

  • An approved law conversion course
  • The Legal Practice Course (or the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland)
  • The Bar Practice Course
  • A foundation medicine or dentistry programme
  • a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
  • a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)

If you’re not sure if your course makes you eligible to apply for the Graduate visa, you can ask your education provider, or get in touch with Synergy Immigrations. 

Length of Course

The length of your course also determines your eligibility for the Graduate visa.

  • If your course is less than 12 months, you need to have completed your course
  • If your course is more than 12 months, you need to have studied for at least 12 months

You must have been present in the UK for the entirety of your course, or eligible period, during term time. For example, if your course lasted 12 months but included term breaks in summer or winter, any time spent out of the UK during those breaks or at weekends does not affect your eligibility for the visa. 

Applying for the Graduate Visa

You must apply for the Graduate visa while you are still in the UK on your Student visa. Most Student visas are given for the length of the course, plus one month to allow time for international students to settle in the UK and make arrangements to leave, extend or switch their visas when they have completed their studies. 

You cannot apply for the Graduate visa before you have completed your course, however, you can apply before your graduation ceremony or before you receive your certificate. Your education provider must inform the Home Office that you have completed your course before you can start your application. 

All visa applications must be submitted online alongside supporting documents to prove your identity and eligibility. If you need an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) Centre to be able to prove your identity, your application may take longer than usual, although this will be made clear when you start your application. 

When you have submitted your application, you must also pay the application fee and the immigration health surcharge (IHS). 

Supporting Documents

You’ll need to submit several supporting documents with your Graduate visa application, so make sure you have electronic copies or scans of documents ready before you start the application process. 

You’ll need to provide:

  • Your current, valid passport or other travel document
  • Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) if you have one
  • Your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number from your Student visa

You may also be required to submit other supporting documents, depending on your application. For example, you may need to submit:

  • A police certificate if you’ve had a criminal conviction while studying in the UK
  • Birth or marriage certificates to prove your relationship with any dependants who are applying with you
  • A letter of approval from the provider of your sponsorship or scholarship, if you had funding to cover your tuition fees and living costs in the UK
  • Certified translations of any documents not in English or Welsh

Proving Your Identity

You’ll need to prove your identity when applying for the Graduate visa which can easily be done from your phone with the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, created by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Applicants from the EU, EEA countries or Switzerland can scan their passports on the app, while other Student visa holders can scan their Biometric Residence Permits. 

If you’re unable to scan your passport or BRP with the ID checking app, you’ll need to have your biometric information taken at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) Centre. When you complete your online visa application, you will be informed of whether you need to make a UKVCAS appointment. This may elongate the visa application processing time. You should bring your passport and other ID documents to your appointment.

Bringing Family on a Graduate Visa

If you are in the UK on a Student visa and your close family members (dependants) are staying with you, they can also apply to stay with you on the Graduate visa. If you are alone in the UK with your Student visa, your family members cannot apply to join you when you apply for your Graduate visa. 

New visa regulations were brought in in 2024, with some affecting the eligibility of Student visa holders to bring their dependants to the UK with them. As of 1 January 2024, only international students studying a postgraduate or equivalent level research-based degree can bring their dependants to the UK with them. All other student visa categories can no longer bring family members to the UK with them. 

If you were already studying in the UK before this date, your family can continue living with you and will continue to be eligible to apply for the Graduate visa with you. Anyone ineligible (for example, studying a Bachelor’s degree) who has started a course in the UK after 1 January 2024, cannot bring family to the UK with them and cannot have dependants join them when they apply for a Graduate visa. 

How Long It Takes to Get a Decision?

While you cannot apply for a Graduate visa before you have completed your course, you need to apply before your current visa expires, although you can stay in the UK until you receive a decision on your visa application. Most Graduate visa applications are processed within 8 weeks. 

You’ll receive an email or letter from the Home Office with their decision and what you can do next.

If Your Application is Successful

If your visa application is successful, how you receive your visa depends on how you proved your identity. You’ll either receive a vignette in your passport if you gave your passport in at a visa application centre when your biometric information was taken, or you’ll be able to see your immigration status online if you used the ID Check App. If you took your passport back after your appointment, you’ll need to attend another appointment to receive the vignette sticker. 

Both the vignette and the online information will show you:

  • The type of visa you have
  • The beginning and end date of your visa
  • The conditions of your visa (i.e. what you can and can’t do)

The conditions displayed differ according to what visa you have, so Graduate visas will say ‘No access to public funds’, but won’t restrict your work opportunities. 

Once you have the vignette or access to your immigration status on the UKVI app, you may be able to collect a biometric residence permit. The letter you receive from the Home Office about your application result will tell you if you will receive a BRP. 

What to Do if Your Application is Refused?

If you receive a letter or email saying your visa application has been refused, it will explain the reason behind the decision as well as inform you of your right to have a review of the decision, or appeal it. 

Appealing a visa decision made by the Home Office is not always easy, so employing the services of Synergy Immigration to help you with the process can be greatly beneficial. We can help you understand the decision as well as tell you of the chances of a successful appeal, or whether another application may be more beneficial to you.

Paying the Application Fee

The application fee for the Graduate visa is £822, regardless of whether your visa is valid for 2 years or 3 years. As part of your visa application, you must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). 

The IHS entitles you to use NHS services while you’re staying in the UK and costs £1,035 per year of your visa. If your visa is valid for 2 years it will cost you £2,070 and £3,105 for a 3-year visa. 

Extending Your Graduate Visa

You cannot extend a Graduate visa. When your Graduate visa is due to expire, you must decide on switching to a different visa if you’re eligible, or make travel arrangements to leave the UK.

Switching Your Graduate Visa

You can switch your Graduate visa to a different visa category if you’re eligible for another visa. You must be in the UK to switch your visa, and you must apply for a new visa before your Graduate visa has run out. You cannot switch to a Visitor visa from the UK; applications for the Visitor visa must be made from abroad. 

Other visa types you may be eligible to apply for include:

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

Family visas are a visa category, with separate visas depending on the relationship between family members. As a foreign student, you may be eligible for a Partner or Spouse visa, if you marry or are in a long-term relationship with a British citizen, or someone with indefinite leave to remain in the UK. 

There are a variety of work visas for the UK depending on the industry, skill level and sponsorship requirements for the individual. However, unless you have a business plan to start a company in the UK, you must have a job offer from an approved sponsor before applying for a UK work visa. 

Switching to a Skilled Worker Visa

One of the most popular work visas for foreign nationals, particularly international students, to apply for is the Skilled Worker visa. The Skilled Worker visa can be issued for up to 5 years if the applicant has a suitable job offer. 

To apply for a Skilled Worker visa, applicants must have a job offer that:

If you receive a job offer from an approved sponsoring company, they will issue you a certificate of sponsorship. The certificate of sponsorship, much like the CAS for Student visas, is a reference number that you will need to submit with your visa application so the Home Office can see the details of your proposed employment. 

You will also need to submit your current passport or other valid travel document, as well as other supporting documents with your Skilled Worker visa application and pay the application fee and IHS. 

The government’s list of eligible occupations can change according to the needs of the job market so it’s important to check that there are jobs in your industry available if you wish to switch to this visa. Many of the jobs on the list are for senior positions so applicants must have extensive skills, expertise or training for the role to ensure that the best candidates are able to stay in the UK and benefit the economy.

Conclusion

If you’ve completed a course in the UK over 3 or more years, you may feel the UK is your home and wish to stay on for longer. Thankfully, you don’t need to have a job lined up straight away or leave the country immediately: with the Graduate visa, you can stay in the UK for up to 3 years after graduating, working or studying and continuing to enjoy life in the UK. 

For help with your Graduate visa application, you can benefit from the services of a specialised UK visa agency such as Synergy Immigration Solutions.

About Synergy Immigration Solutions

At Synergy Immigration Solutions, we’re proud to help people apply for a variety of UK visas, from Study visas to Work visas and everything in between. With our expert staff on hand to help applicants and give advice when it’s needed, we have countless great reviews from many happy customers. 

We also help businesses get their sponsorship licences to allow them to bring foreign talent to their company without the hassle of going through the immigration process alone. 

If you need assistance with your visa application or sponsorship application, contact Synergy Immigration Solutions today.

Graduate Visa FAQs

The Graduate visa is a great option for those who have completed their studies as it allows you to take part in a number of different activities in the UK, and has relatively few eligibility requirements compared to other UK visas. Here are some frequently asked questions relating to the requirements and what other things you can and can’t do while in the UK on a Graduate visa.

How Much Money Do You Need for the Graduate Visa?

There is no stipulation for a financial requirement for the Graduate visa as you will have had to show sufficient funds for your Student visa to enter the UK initially. Therefore, you won’t need to show any bank statements or demonstrate you have enough money for the Graduate visa. You’ll simply have to have enough to pay the application fee and the IHS for the number of years of your visa.

Is There an English Language Requirement?

Like the financial requirement, there is also no English language requirement as you would already have proven your knowledge of the English language when applying for your Student visa. You will now have had at least 12 months studying a university-level course in English as well before applying for your Graduate visa, so proving your ability to communicate and understand English is not necessary.

Can You Get Married on a Graduate Visa?

While there is a separate Marriage visa for those who want to come to the UK for the sole purpose of getting married, you can also get married on other UK visas. As the Graduate visa lasts for more than 6 months, yes, you can get married on a Graduate visa in the UK. 

You’ll need to give notice to your local registry office that you intend to get married on a specific date to receive your marriage licence. You must do this between 1 year and 29 days before your wedding date, and provide the following documents to the registry office:

  • Details of the venue
  • Your and your fiancé(e)’s valid passports
  • Proof of your and your fiancé(e)’s home addresses
  • Proof of any previous name changes
  • A passport-sized photo for you and your fiancé(e)
  • Proof of the immigration status of you and your fiancé(e) if you’re not British citizens (as shown on your passports)

When the registry office gives you your marriage licence, you have permission to get married in the UK. You may need to register your marriage in your home country for it to be valid there so check in advance. 

Your marriage in the UK also does not affect your visa or residency status in the UK. You must still adhere to the conditions of your Graduate visa and leave or switch your visa before it expires.

Can You Travel in and out of the UK with a Graduate Visa?

When you have your Graduate visa, you can travel outside and back into the UK as often as you’d like. There are no restrictions on travel when you have the Graduate visa. 

However, while your application is being processed, you must not travel outside of the UK (including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) or Ireland, or your application will be withdrawn and you will not receive a refund of the application fee. In some cases, the UKVCAS will hold your passport while processing your application so you cannot travel outside of the UK until you receive your passport back. 

If you’re desperate to take a holiday while you wait for your Graduate visa to be approved after studying for so long, you can freely travel around the UK in the meantime. 

Does a Graduate Visa Count Towards ILR?

ILR (indefinite leave to remain) is also known as permanent residency and grants an individual permission to live, work and study in the UK without restrictions. To get ILR, most foreign nationals need to have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, although it can be as little as three years depending on the type of visa they have. 

Neither time spent in the UK on the Graduate visa nor the Student visa grants an individual permission to apply for ILR. Even if you’ve spent 3 years in the UK with a Student visa and a further 2 years with a Graduate visa, you cannot apply for permanent residency in the UK. 

If you switch from a Graduate visa to another visa such as a Family visa or a Skilled Worker visa, you can only apply for ILR once you have spent at least 5 years in the UK with those visas; time spent in the UK with a Graduate visa does not count

You may be able to apply for ILR after having lived lawfully in the UK for 10 consecutive years, however, in which case time spent in the UK with the Graduate visa may count towards this. 

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