How to apply for the UK post-study work visa

When will the post Graduate Visa open

This article was contributed by Study International on 19 March 2021.

The UK Graduate Immigration Route will be open from 1st July 2021 for undergraduate and postgraduate  international students. This will allow you to work in the UK for up to two years if you are an undergraduate and postgraduate and three years after completing a PhD. 

When the UK government first announced this 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 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 an increase of 9% in study visa applications to the UK in the year the new visa was announced. 

Malaysian student Arhnue Tan at the Cass Business School in London believes the Graduate Immigration Route is “quite a good offer” and “opens up the job market for foreign graduates who usually are limited to only companies willing to sponsor a Skilled Worker visa,” she adds. The Skilled Worker visa 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. 

Details about the Graduate route are yet to be finalised, but here’s what we know so far:

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. 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 complete a degree in the UK in 2021, you’re good to go.  If you are studying remotely, you are also eligible to apply for the UK two-year post-study work visa as long as your degree does not finish this academic year. This concession was announced by the Home Office in response to the disruption wreaked by COVID-19 on higher education.

How can I apply?

First, you’ll need a valid Tier 4 visa. Second, you need to be a current student with a UK uni. Third, if you are starting a one-year master’s degree this year, you will need to arrive in the UK by Sept. 27, 2021 and complete your final semester. 

For students whose learning have shifted online because of pandemic-related travel restrictions, present guidance states that you must return to the UK before April 6, 2021 at the latest before completing your studies to be eligible.

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.

What happens after my post-study work visa expires?

If you land a job that qualifies for a Skilled Work visa, you’ll be able to switch from the Graduate route to the Skilled Work 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 Immigration 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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