From 1 July 2021 international students will have another option if they wish to continue their stay in the UK. At the moment, they can ‘switch’ to Skilled Worker leave if they are able to find a job with an employer who is licenced to employ overseas workers. There are also ways to remain if a student has married and/or has made a family life here. Or, if they are particularly talented or have an innovative business idea, they may be able to stay on a ‘Start-Up’ or Global Talent visa. If none of these apply, the student will have to return to their home country when they have finished their studies and the student leave is expiring.
The new option is called the ‘Graduate Route’ and applications must be made in the UK. International students who have successfully completed an eligible course at undergraduate level or above and hold valid leave as a Student or a Tier 4 Student can apply. They must have completed the course at a higher education provider with a good track record of complying with the government rules on sponsoring students. Dependent family members will be permitted to stay if they are also in the UK with leave as the dependant of the main student applicant. However, new dependants will not be able to come to the UK on this route.
If successful, the graduate will be able to stay in the UK for two years in order to look for work at any skill level. Phd graduates will able to stay for three years. A graduate will be able to extend their leave after that time if they find a job which meets the Skilled Worker criteria with an employer licenced to employ overseas workers. If no suitable job materialises, the graduate will have to leave the UK at the end of the two or three year period.
Students who started their studies after September 2020 are eligible to apply from 1 July 2021. If the Student or Tier 4 leave expires before 1 July 2021, the graduate is not eligible to use this new route.
It will cost £700 to apply for the Graduate Route in addition to the Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 per year of leave. Graduates will no longer need to be sponsored by a higher education institution This is a welcome change to current immigration rules as graduating students will be able to stay in the UK and work if they wish to after their studies end.
Graduates are a valuable resource and the government has recognised that the UK can benefit from their talent if they are allowed to stay on after graduation.