Boost your professional skills and career options with the UK's new graduate immigration scheme.
Staying in the UK to work after your degree course allows you to apply the knowledge and skills you've learned in your course. You will also gain the experience future employers are looking for and make connections to advance your career.
Under the UK's new Graduate Immigration Route, you'll be able to stay in the UK to work – or look for work – for up to two years after completing your studies, or up to three years after a PhD course.
I pursued my Masters in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Management. After I graduated, I worked on my own business, "Pucho" which is an on-demand delivery service, with the help of the Ingenuity Lab. I also worked at the Boots headquarters for a few months as a Recruitment Administrator. It was a great experience. I learnt a lot during my time there which helped improve my interpersonal and managerial skills.
– Ashmita from India, Nottingham graduate
Find out more about Ashmita's experiences in her blog post.
Graduate Immigration Route
On 1 July 2021, the UK's Home Office is launching a new Graduate Immigration Route for international students completing degree courses in the UK – also known as the 'post-study work visa'.
The information below is correct to the best of our understanding in June 2021. The new Appendix Graduate will be added to the Immigration Rules when the route is implemented on 1 July 2021.
The Graduate route will be available for students who:
- have studied their course in the UK on a Student route or Tier 4 student visa
- successfully complete an undergraduate or postgraduate degree course
- studied at a university with a good track record as an immigration sponsor – such as the University of Nottingham
- graduate in summer 2021 or later
- have current and valid leave to be in the UK at the time of successfully completing their degree and are physically present in the UK
- The duration of the visa will be two years, or three years for PhD graduates.
- The fee to apply will be £700 per applicant, and the Immigration Health Surcharge will be an additional £624 per year, per applicant.
- New dependants are not permitted. You can only apply with dependants if they are your existing dependants while you have been on the Tier 4 or Student route visa, and they must also be physically present in the UK in order to apply as your Gradaute route dependant.
- You will need your most recent CAS number for the visa application, which you can find in your previous visa application or email history. This will also be emailed to you; please see the FAQs below for more information.
- You should only make an application for the Graduate Immigration Route once you have ensured that the University has first reported your successful completion to UKVI, otherwise you may receive a visa refusal.
- You can only obtain this visa once, even if you study more than one course in the UK.
- We recommend reading the Government's guide to the Graduate Immigration route before applying, which includes key information about the digital immigration status ('eVisa') that will be issued once the visa is granted.
Students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
The Home Office has confirmed that students whose studies are disrupted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will still be eligible for the graduate immigration route if they completed part of their studies outside the UK, as long as the following deadlines on returning to the UK are met, where applicable.
Students on a course of study which started in Autumn 2020 or Spring 2021 which is 12 months or less (i.e. Masters, MRes and PGCE students) who have not previously entered the UK on their current Student or Tier 4 visa have until 27 September 2021 to enter the UK in order to be eligible for the Graduate route.
Students on a course of study which starts in Autumn 2021 or Spring 2022 which is 12 months or less who have not previously entered the UK on their current Student or Tier 4 visa must arrive by 6 April 2022 in order to be eligble for the Graduate route.
Students on a course of study in the UK lasting more than 12 months (i.e. undergraduate students and PhD students) need to enter the UK and apply for the visa before their current visa expires. The earlier UKVI requirement to be in the UK by a fixed deadline has been removed. They are required to have spent at least 12 months studying in the UK, but any time you have spent outside the UK distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 6 April 2022 is not counted, and will not prevent you meeting the 'Study in the UK' requirement.
You won't need to find a job before applying for this visa, and there are no restrictions on the employer, salary level or position you take. We encourage you to seek graduate-level jobs to make the best use of this opportunity. You can also change jobs and employers during your visa period without restrictions. You could even launch your own business with support from our Ingenuity Lab.
At the end of the two-year or three-year visa period, you can apply for another UK visa route if you meet its requirements. Alternatively, you can return to pursue your career in your home country, building on the skills and experience you've gained while working as a graduate in the UK.
Find out more:
Graduate Route Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We recommend reading the below frequently asked questions and answers on Graduate route eligibility and the application process. If your question has not been answered, please contact the Visa and Immigration Team.
When can I apply for the Graduate Route visa?
You can apply at any time from the date that the University reports your successful completion and award to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), up to the date your visa expires. The length of your visa will be based on the date you apply, so there is no advantage in applying too early. As long as you submit your online visa application before your current visa expires, it does not matter if your visa expires while you are waiting for a decision, as you are allowed to remain in the UK while a visa application is pending and you are covered by your previous visa conditions.
How much will it cost?
£700 visa fee per applicant plus £624 Immigration Health Surcharge per applicant for each year of the visa.
What documents will I need to apply?
The vast majority of applicants will need only their passport and their biometric residence permit, as well as their most recent CAS number (only the number itself). You will not need to show financial evidence, academic certificates or proof of English language ability.
How long will it take to get a decision on the visa application?
The Home Office tells us that initially the service standard will be similar to the Student route (8 weeks) but they intend to work towards reducing this.
Can I apply for the Graduate Route before my course ends?
No, you must wait until you have successfully completed your course and this has been reported to the Home Office by the University.
When will the University make the report to the Home Office that I have successfully completed my course, and how will I know that the University has done this?
We will make the report as soon as possible once results are released and awards are confirmed. You will receive an email confirming this, which will also include your most recent CAS number (which you need for the application). If you do not receive this email within 1 month of receiving confirmation of your award from the University (or if you have less than 1 month remaining on your current visa), you should contact us and you should not apply for the Graduate Immigration Route visa until you have received advice from the Visa and Immigration team.
Where can I find my most recent CAS number?
When the University has reported the completion of your course to the Home Office, you will receive an email confirming this and this will include your most recent CAS number.
Can I apply for the Graduate Route visa from my home country?
No, you must be in the UK when you apply.
Most of my study has been at the China or Malaysia campus and only one year in the UK - am I eligible for the Graduate Route visa?
Yes, if you complete at least the final year of your course at the UK campus. If the 2020/21 academic year is the final year of your course and you have studied some or all of that year via distance learning due to Covid-19, you need to arrive in the UK and apply for the visa by 27 September or before your current visa expires, whichever date is sooner.
I studied the whole of my Masters course remotely because of Covid-19 - am I eligible for the Graduate Route visa?
If you have a Student or Tier 4 visa and will travel to the UK before 27th September 2021, you can apply for the Graduate Route visa once you are in the UK. You must apply before your visa expires.
What is the difference between the Graduate Route visa and the Skilled Worker visa?
There are several differences and we advise you to contact us
to discuss your options if you need to choose between them. Some key differences are:
- Skilled Worker visa needs a sponsor; Graduate Route is unsponsored
- Skilled Worker is a route to settlement; Graduate Route is not
- Dependants are allowed on Skilled Worker but not on Graduate Route unless they were already dependants on the Student visa
- Study is allowed on Skilled Worker but is very restricted on Graduate Route
- Skilled Worker visa is for the length of the employment contract, but the Graduate Route visa is either two years (most graduates) or three years (PhD graduates only)
You can read more about the Skilled Worker route on the UKCISA: Working after studies page.
Can I have a Graduate Route visa after my Bachelors degree, then another after I have done a Masters degree (or Masters to PhD)?
No, you can only apply for the Graduate Route visa once.
I currently have a Doctorate Extension Scheme visa – can I apply for the Graduate Route visa now?
No, unfortunately this is specifically not permitted under the Graduate Route rules.
Can I choose to have a shorter visa instead of two (or three) years and pay less IHS?
No – the visa is always for the standard length of time and you are liable for the Immigration Health Surcharge for the whole period.
Can my dependants (spouse/partner/children) apply for visas when I apply for Graduate Route visa?
No new dependants are allowed on the Graduate Route visa. You can only have dependants on this visa if they were already dependants on your Student visa.
Do I have to have a job offer before I apply for Graduate Route visa?
No, a job offer and sponsorship are not required for the Graduate Route visa.
Can I travel between my course ending and my visa expiry date and still apply for Graduate Route visa?
Yes – as long as you return to the UK and apply for your visa before your Student visa ends, however please bear in mind the risks around Covid-19 travel and self-isolation (quarantine) restrictions.If you have successfully completed your course earlier than expected (more than 1 month before the course end date on your original CAS) you may be subject to the rules around visa curtailment. This could limit your ability to return to the UK to apply for the Graduate Route.
Please contact us
for advice before planning any travel out of the UK if you are, for example, someone who has transferred from a 4 year course to a 3 year course, or a PhD student who has completed viva and corrections before the original expected course end date.
If I get a Skilled Worker visa for my job, can I apply for Graduate Route visa after the end of my employment contract?
No, you can only apply for the Graduate Route visa if you have a current, valid Student or Tier 4 visa.
What is the latest I can apply for Graduate Route visa?
You need to apply before your Student or Tier 4 visa expires.
Do I need permission from my official financial sponsor that I am applying for the Graduate Route visa?
Yes, if within the 12-month period before you apply you have been sponsored for your tuition fees and living costs by a Government or international sponsorship agency, you will need a letter showing their consent to you applying under this route. This is not required if your sponsor is a university, an international company, an independent school, or any other type of financial sponsor, but we still recommend checking the terms and conditions of your funding for any restrictions on extending your stay in the UK, and any financial penalties you might incur if you break the terms.
What work can I do on the Graduate Route visa?
You can undertake any work (apart from as a professional sportsperson) and you can be self-employed or start a business.
Can I study on the Graduate Route visa?
No, apart from in very limited circumstances (such as ‘supplementary study’).
I changed my course since I was issued with my most recent CAS. Can I still apply for the Graduate Route visa?
You can still apply for the Graduate Route visa if the change was one you were permitted to make without applying for further permission on the Student route. Some common examples are:
- you added or removed an integral work placement
- you transferred to course of the same level, duration and in the same subject area as your previous course, e.g. BA to BSc Economics
These are just some examples, and you should contact us
if you are unsure about this requirement.
I have been granted Exceptional Assurance by the Home Office. Can I apply for the Graduate Route?
Until recently, we understood from the Home Office that people with Exceptional Assurance were not eligible to apply for the Graduate Route. However, recently we have been told that people with Exceptional Assurance will be able to apply for the Graduate Route. Please contact us
if you are in this situation, as we may not have a record that you have been granted Exceptional Assurance and we will need to ensure you are eligible and give you further advice.
If you have obtained 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status under the UK's EU Settlement Scheme, then you can live, study and work in the UK freely with this immigration status, and you will not require a student visa or Graduate visa.
The EU Settlement Scheme was available to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who were living in the UK by the end of 2020. Applications for the scheme closed on 30 June 2021.
From 2021, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals are included in the UK's new immigration system. If you do not have settled or pre-settled status, you will require a student visa during your studies and you would then be eligible for the graduate immigration route as outlined above.
Irish nationals have the right to live and work in the UK, under the UK-Ireland Common Travel Area arrangements. Irish students will not need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, a student visa or the graduate immigration route.
Information for EU students