On 11 September 2019 the UK Government announced the creation of a new immigration route which will enable international students to remain in the UK for two years after they have completed their studies.
- The Graduate Immigration Route will be available to international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance and who have a valid Tier 4 visa at the time of application.
- Successful applicants on this route will be able to stay and work, or look for work, in the UK at any skill level for a maximum period of two years. Graduates will be able to switch into skilled work once they have found a suitable job.
- The new route will be launched in the summer of 2021, meaning that any eligible student who graduates in the summer of 2021 or after will be able to apply for the route. This includes students who have already started their courses. Universities will also be able attract students starting in the 2020/21 academic year on the basis that they will benefit.
- The launch of the route demonstrates the government’s support for our education sector, and commitment to the International Education Strategy, which sets out our ambition to increase education exports to £35 billion and the number of international higher education students to 600,000 by 2030.
- The graduate immigration route will require a new application.
- It will include the payment of a visa fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. The exact fee will be set out in due course.
- Those who graduate and whose Tier 4 leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible, however, most of these students will have had no expectation of benefitting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK.
- In the year ending June 2019, the number of sponsored student visa applications rose 9% to 236,679. This included an 11% increase for the higher education sector to 201,919.
Frequently asked questions:
Why can’t it be implemented sooner?
It takes time to develop a new immigration route and ensure the framework is in place for it to successfully operate. Introducing the route in the summer of 2021 will mean that all students who graduate in the summer of 2021 or after will benefit, regardless of when they started their course. This route was announced in September 2019 to ensure that universities and stakeholders could promote the route when attracting prospective students. It will enable students to decide where to study, knowing they have the option of staying in the UK to work after completing their studies.
Will students who are already here be able to benefit?
Any student who successfully completes their degree-level course at a qualifying institution in the summer of 2021 or after will be eligible. This includes students who are already studying. Those whose Tier 4 leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible for it, however, most of these students will have had no expectation of benefitting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK. These students can still benefit from the generous provisions which allow them to switch in the skilled work route on favourable terms.
Will universities be expected to act as sponsors for those students on the graduate immigration visa after they have graduated?
Individuals applying for the Graduate Immigration Route will not need a sponsor. Tier 4 sponsors will not need to fulfil any sponsorship duties for their students if they switch onto the Graduate Immigration Route and students will not need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to apply under this route. Tier 4 sponsors, however, will continue to be responsible for their students while they are studying.
Will this route count towards settlement?
The route is non-extendable and does not count towards settlement. However, graduates who find an appropriate job and meet the requirements will be able to switch into skilled work, which is a route to settlement.