Can I stay and work in the UK after university?

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This article was written by the Great British Mag content team on 2 February 2021.

Want to stay in the UK and find a job after you graduate? Lots of international students do and, as of this year, it’s easier to achieve thanks to the new Graduate Route.

The Graduate Route is a post-study work visa that international students can apply for at the end of their university course. If you want to find out who qualifies for it and how you apply, keep on reading.

UK Survival Service for international students

Who is eligible for the post-study visa?

To be able to apply for the post-study work visa, you must have passed a course at undergraduate level or higher at a UK university in 2021 or after and have a valid student visa. This means both undergraduate and postgraduate students will be able to apply for the same visa.

If you’re due to finish your course this year but haven’t returned to the UK yet due to the pandemic, you’ll still be eligible for the visa, so long as you’ve carried on studying remotely with your university and are back in the country by 6 April 2021 to finish the last semester of your course. 

Meanwhile, students who started a one-year masters course in January 2021 will need to arrive in the UK by 27 September 2021 to complete their course and be eligible for the visa.

How do I apply for the post-study visa?

The visa is not given automatically, so it will require a special application. The good news is that there is no limit to the number of these visas that can be handed out, so all applicants who meet the requirements will be issued with one. Remember, your student visa will need to be valid at the time you apply.

Applications will entail a fee that’s yet to be announced, and you’ll also need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge during your extended stay. 

Can graduates from any university get a post-study visa? 

Broadly speaking, students from all UK universities are potentially eligible for The Graduate Route scheme.

The government have added a caveat, though, that the university a student attended must be a “trusted institution”, meaning it’ll be on this list of institutions that are licensed to sponsor international students. Have a look to check that yours is included. 

To stay on this list and keep themselves in the government’s good books when it comes to post-study visas, universities need to be able to prove they’re consistently and rigorously upholding immigration and visa rules by making the correct and necessary checks. 

Does it matter which subject I took when applying for the post-study work visa?

The field of study you’ve been focusing on at university has no bearing at all on your eligibility for this visa. 

Students completing a postgraduate degree – like a Master’s or PhD – have enjoyed more relaxed rules around staying in the UK post-study since 2019, but this new scheme will mean that undergraduate-level students are able to stick around after their courses end too.

Do I need a sponsor for the UK post-study work visa?

While a sponsor is often needed for some types of visa, you won’t need to find one for the post-study work visa. Theoretically, your sponsor will be your university – which is why it needs to be on that list of trusted institutions. 

How long does the visa last?

The Graduate Route post-study work visa lasts for two years. That means you can stay in the UK for the 24 months immediately following the end of your course. It doesn’t matter how long you take to find work within that timeframe. 

What happens when my visa expires? 

This post-study work visa can’t be extended, so you’ll need to return home when it runs out.

However, if, after two years, you are in a role that qualifies for a skilled work visa, then you can apply for that to prolong your stay and continue in your job.

To be eligible for a skilled work visa, you must work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office and have a certificate of sponsorship from them. Not all jobs qualify for this visa (here is a list of jobs that are eligible) and each type is attached to a specific minimum salary requirement you must meet in order to be considered. 

What kind of work can I do under the post-study visa?

Any level of work is permitted for this visa, so you don’t need to find a specific type of job or stick to roles that are related to your degree. 

It’s worth bearing in mind though that if, when your post-study work visa comes to an end, you’re not in a job that meets the requirements of the skilled work visa, you will need to return home. 

Will Brexit affect the post-study work visa?

The UK leaving the EU won’t impact the reintroduction of the post-study work visa. In fact, the visa means that EU students who study here will now be able to stay and work after graduating.  

Of course, until Brexit was completed, EU citizens could live and work in the UK after university without needing to apply for special visas. But the separation of the EU and the UK now means that those students will have to apply for the same visa as any other international student. 

If you’re an EU citizen who was already living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you may well be able to stay and work after you graduate without having to apply for a post-study work visa. Instead, you’ll need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, which is free and will allow you to continue living here on the same terms as pre-Brexit, including having access to healthcare.  

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