In September last year, the UK government has announced Graduate Immigration Route, also known as a Post Study Work visa. The route is presented as a flagship policy of the UK government and is aimed at making the UK more attractive to foreign students to the tune of an additional £35 billion. This “groundbreaking” announcement seems to be a very welcome reincarnation of Tier 1 (Post Study Worker) route which was discontinued back in 2012. 

The move also coincides with the UK leaving the EU at the end of the year. In some way, the timing was perfect to sweeten the deal for UK residents, no more free movement for EU nationals, but we are bringing a Post Study Work visa back for graduates for 2 years to be fairer to everyone else. There is still a lot we do not know about the proposed route, but we can, at least, understand the gist of the proposed changes.

General Overview

Graduate Immigration Route will be available to international students and EU nationals who will be graduating in summer 2021 or later. Those graduates will receive a Post Study Work visa for 2 years to allow them to work without any restrictions and later seek Tier 2 (General) or Skilled Migrant Worker visa sponsorship in order to remain in the UK for a longer term.  We covered the main UK visas after Brexit in a separate article. The Graduate Immigration Route route will only be available to graduates who were issued with Tier 4 (General) student visa by an education provider with a “track record of compliance”. 

Requirements for Graduate Immigration Route / Post Study Work Visa

We do not yet know all the information on the Post Study Work Visa, we expect that statement of changes will follow by mid-2020. For the time being, the UK government has indicated that there will be the following requirements for migrants wishing to apply for a Graduate Immigration Route Visa:

  • A person must have been issued with a Tier 4 (General) student visa, which must still be valid in summer 2021.
  • The visa must have been issued by an education provider with a “track record of compliance”, we suppose more information will follow on that point.
  • The visa must have been issued to study a degree level course or above, i.e. a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree. There was a slight confusion since the announcement initially referred to “degree-level qualifications” as well, however, that was later corrected. For the time being, we will assume that Post Study Work visa will only be available to graduates with a Bachelor’s, a Master’s degree or higher. We do know that the government plans to close the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES), so PhD graduates will most certainly be able to benefit from Graduate Immigration Route as well. 
  • There will most probably be a maintenance requirement for Post Study Work visa applicants, however, we are yet to receive an official confirmation. Those who decide to apply for Graduate Immigration Route visa will need to pay relevant application fees and an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), which will go up to £624 from October 2020. The amount of the fee will again be confirmed in the due course.

Extension of Post Graduate Immigration Route / Post Study Work Visa

It will not be possible to extend a Post Study Work visa beyond the 2 years. Candidates who will be able to secure employment may be able to switch into the Skilled Migrant Worker Visa, Tier 2 (General) visa or Global Talent visa. Start Up visa and Innovator visa will also remain available and we expect that switching into those routes will be permitted.

Settlement or ILR on Post Study Work Visa / Graduate Immigration Route

Post Study Work Visa will not lead to settlement in the UK. Those who wish to later apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) will need to switch to an immigration route that will lead to a settlement, for example, a Skilled Worker visa. It may also be possible to apply for ILR on a 10-year basis Long Residence provisions or Tier 2 (General) ILR after working in the UK for 5 years. 

Bringing Dependants (Spouse/Children) on Graduate Immigration Route / Post Study Work Visa

While we do not have an official confirmation, the Home Office indicated that dependants, i.e. spouses and children under 18, will be unable to apply together with the main applicant, unless they are already residing in the UK on a PBS dependant visa as dependents of the main applicant. For example, where Tier 4 student is studying Master’s degree of over 9 months duration, they are allowed to bring dependants with them to the UK under current rules. Those dependants will be allowed to remain in the UK with the main applicant, as long as he/she is graduating in summer 2021 or later. 

Immigration Lawyers at Edmans & Co

Our highly experienced legal team at Edmans & Co can assist with your Post Study Work visa application once the route is introduced in summer 2021. In the meantime, those who are looking to assess their eligibility or find out the best route for obtaining a settlement in the UK, can book a consultation with one of our London Immigration Lawyers, and we will do our best to assist with your enquiry.


Will I need to be sponsored by the University in order to apply for post study work visa?

The Home Office indicated that there will be no requirement to secure any sort of sponsorship for those looking to apply for Graduate Immigration Route. There is such requirement at the moment for those wishing to apply for Doctorate Extension Scheme, for example, but this will not be carried over for the new route.

I am already studying my Bachelor’s/Master’s in the UK, will I be able to benefit?

The Graduate Immigration Route scheme will apply retrospectively even to those students who started their course prior to the scheme coming into effect, as long as the student is graduating in Summer 2021 or later.

Will EU citizens be able to apply for Graduate Immigration Route?

Once Free Movement comes to an end later this year, EU citizens will need to apply for a student visa same as non-EU citizens. Those EU nationals who hold a valid Tier 4 visa will be able to benefit from Post Graduate Route together with everyone else. 

How much will it cost to apply for Graduate immigration Route?

Applicants will need to pay application fees, the exact amount is yet to be confirmed. There will also be an Immigration Health Surcharge payment of £624 per year of visa, so at least £1,248.

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