How to apply for the UK post-study work visa

When will the post Graduate Visa open

This article was contributed by Study International and updated by the Great British Mag content team on 15 June 2021.

The UK Graduate route will be accepting applications from 1st July 2021 – and because of the pandemic, international students who have been distance learning now have longer to head to the UK and apply.

This post-study visa will allow you to work in the UK for up to two years if you are an undergraduate or postgraduate, and three years if you’ve completed a doctorate. Keep reading to find out more about this visa, when to apply and if staying in the UK to find work after your course is a good idea.

What is the Graduate route?

When the UK government first announced this visa in 2019, it was a big deal. Unlike other top study-abroad destinations like Australia and Canada, international graduates have not been able to stay in the UK to look for work after their course ends since 2012, when the then home secretary Theresa May revoked the two-year post-study work visa. This shift has been welcomed and there was a 9% increase in study visa applications to the UK in the year it was announced. 

Malaysian student Arhnue Tan at the Cass Business School in London believes the Graduate route is a good offering and “opens up the job market for foreign graduates who usually are limited to companies willing to sponsor a Skilled Worker visa.” The Skilled Worker visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa, which allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer.

Tan is a senior executive with 15 years of work experience. She needs extensive networking to get a better-paying role, so having the option to do so in the UK via the post-study work visa helps. “It seems to make the graduating and job process less stressful,” she tells us. 

What does the Graduate route allow me to do?

If you are a successful applicant on this route, you 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 if you have successfully completed an undergraduate or master’s degree. If you are a PhD graduate, you’ll get three years.

If you aspire to forge a career as an academic or scientist in the UK, there’s never been a better time to do so. The UK aims to increase research investment to 22 billion pounds a year by 2024-25. This is where its newly-minted Research and Development Roadmap comes in – attracting global talent will directly support it. According to the Higher Education Policy Institute, the UK government must recruit 25,000 PhD students to achieve its ambition of increasing R&D expenditure to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

Who can apply?

Everything in life comes with terms and conditions so let’s break it down for you. If you successfully complete a degree at a UK university in 2021 or after, you’re good to go, so long as you’ve spent at least one year studying here.

If you are studying a one-year course by distance learning from your home country because of the pandemic and have not yet come to the UK, you are also eligible to apply for the UK two-year post-study work visa.

What are the requirements?

First, you’ll need a valid Student visa. Second, you need to be a current student with a UK uni. Third, you need to be in the UK to apply.

If your course has been longer than one year but you’ve been learning remotely in your home country for any amount of time between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 because of the pandemic, you’re still eligible. You just need to return to the UK before your student visa runs out to apply.

Similarly, if your course has been one year or less, so long as you were studying in the UK for any part of it, you too just need to be in the country before your student visa expires to apply for the post-study visa.

If your course is a year or shorter but you’ve been distance learning because of Covid-19 and are yet to make it to the UK at all, you have until 27 September (or the expiry date of your student visa, which ever comes first) to arrive here and make your application. This deadline was previously 21 June, but has been extended by the government because of the restrictions still in place due to the pandemic.

You must also complete identity, criminality and security checks, as well as pay an application fee and an Immigration Health Surcharge payment. If your government sponsored your degree, you will need to obtain their permission before applying for a post-study work visa.

When can I apply?

You will be able to apply for the UK Graduate Immigration Route from 1st July 2021.

Will I be guaranteed a job?

The Graduate route will not provide you with a job offer. However, if you have a master’s degree and a portfolio of previous work experience, this will increase your chances of landing an executive-level position, plus you can work at any level and in any sector during the period of your visa. There’s no deadline for finding work, either – you can be looking for as long as your visa is valid for.

What happens after my post-study work visa expires?

If you land a job that qualifies for a Skilled Worker visa, you’ll be able to switch from the Graduate route to the Skilled Worker visa so you can continue your career in the UK. This will give you ample time to look for jobs in any sector at any level and count towards settlement.

Is it a good idea to stay and work in the UK this summer?

Hiring an international employee is beneficial to businesses with a global client base. Research from McKinsey found enterprises in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity had a 35% higher likelihood of achieving above-average financial returns in their industries. 

As we are in the middle of a pandemic, however, you have to think about how feasible it is for you to find a job in the UK as many sectors face uncertainty. It’s best to seek advice from the careers service at your university before making any concrete decisions.

Are UK employers ready?

The Confederation of British Industry — a non-profit that helps 190,000 businesses in the UK — thinks that this new Graduate route scheme will make it easier for companies to benefit from a more varied talent pool of skills, ideas and talents from graduates. 

In a statement by the Universities UK International Director Vivienne Stern commented, “As recommended by the report, UKCISA has now established a strategic coordination group which, among other objectives, is considering how best to ensure employers are aware of the graduate route when introduced.”

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