10 ways to stay in the UK after your studies

Man looking out over the river Thames with the Gherkin in the background

This article was written by the Great British Mag content team on 23 February 2021.

If your university course is coming to an end but you’re not ready to return home just yet, there are several visas that will allow you to continue living in the UK. Here are 10 of the most popular for international students. 

1. Graduate Route

For students who haven’t already found a job by the time their course ends, the Graduate Route might well be the best option. It’s a post-study work visa that will allow you to stay in the UK to work or look for work for up to two years (or three, if you’re a PhD graduate).

You can work at any level and take as long as you need – within the timeframe of your visa – to find a job, although once this visa expires, you can’t extend it. 

2. Skilled Worker visa

If you’ve accepted a job offer by the time your student visa expires, you may be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa. There are specific requirements though, related to what type of job it is, which employer it’s for and how much the salary will be. This visa lasts for five years and is extendable an unlimited number of times. 

3. Start-up and Innovator visas

These two visas are intended for those with a great idea for an original and unique business and want to establish it on British soil. To get this visa you will need to have your idea officially endorsed by specific bodies or universities and might require you to invest money into the business, which currently stands at £50,000.

Read our guides on the Start-up and Innovator visas for more information. 

4. EU Settlement Scheme

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and were living in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you may be eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. If your application is granted, you’ll be able to live, work and study in the UK with much the same freedom as you had before Brexit – that includes making use of free healthcare through the NHS. 

5. Youth Mobility Scheme visa

The Youth Mobility Scheme is open to citizens from British overseas territories as well as a list of other countries. It’s designed to give young people the chance to experience life in the UK, and allows work, study and travel. Open to those aged 18 to 30, it lasts for two years and is a one-time-only kind of visa – meaning you can only apply once and it’s not extendable.

6. UK Ancestry visa 

This five-year visa is for Commonwealth citizens or those who have a grandparent that was born in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. To be eligible, it’s also important that you’re planning to work in the UK, and aren’t living here when you apply. This means you won’t be able to switch from your student visa to this one, but it’s a good option if you were planning to go back home after your studies in the short term.

You can learn more about the UK Ancestry visa on the government’s website

7. Global Talent visa

This will be of interest to you if you’re a rising star in academia, research, the arts and culture or digital technology. The Global Talent visa lasts for five years and will allow you to live and work in the UK – it can be renewed an unlimited number of times, so long as you’re still eligible. You’ll need to apply for endorsement to show that you are a current or potential leader in one of those sectors though – and pay a fee every time you renew the visa.

8. Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange visa

If you want to stay in the UK for one or two years to gain work experience, undertake training, carry out research or take part in an approved fellowship, then this could be the right visa for you. You can apply whether you’re still in the UK or have left already, but you must have a certificate of sponsorship for the role you’ll be working in. (This ‘certificate’ is actually just a unique reference number, not an actual document.)

There are more eligibility criteria, like being able to prove you can support yourself financially – get more on this on the government’s website

9. Temporary Worker – Charity Worker visa

The Charity Worker visa is pretty self-explanatory. If earning money isn’t an immediate priority and instead you want to do unpaid voluntary work with a charity, this visa will let you do just that, for up to 12 months. You need to have already secured a volunteer role, though, as the application process requires you to have a certificate of sponsorship from the charity you’ll be working for. 

10. Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting visa

For those who have been offered work in the UK as a sportsperson, actor, dancer or musician – or in a similar role within the creative industries – this particular Temporary Worker visa could be right up your street. You’ll need to get sponsorship from your employer in order to apply for the visa, which can be issued for up to 12 months and this visa can be extended if your circumstances don’t change.  

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