What's the New Graduate route launching in July 2021?


29 June 2021

Last year, the Home Office announced that it will be re-introducing the previously removed ‘Post-Study Work Visa’ back into the Immigration Rules. This route makes its comeback into the Immigration Rules under a ‘Graduate route’ which is set to open on 1 July 2021.

What is a Graduate Route?

This is an unsponsored visa category for recent international graduates from British Educational institutions. The visa is valid for two or three years depending on their level of qualification and permits work for any employer or an opportunity for the individual to work as a self-employed/freelance person.

What is the difference between a post-study work visa and the graduate route?

The old Tier 1 Post Study Work visa allowed international students completing Bachelors or Postgraduate degrees in the UK to gain work experience after graduation. The visa was valid for a two year period after successful completion of studies and  work was permitted without requiring sponsorship. The Tier 1 Post Study work route has been closed since 6 April 2012. The newly launched Graduate route visa is very similar to the previous Tier 1 Post Study work visa however offers an additional benefit that Doctoral students are granted permission to remain for a further additional year in the UK (total duration permitted under the Graduate route is three years vs. two years under the previous Post Study work route).

The purpose of this route is to allow international students to work in the UK following the completion of an eligible course of study with a UK higher education provider – completing either a UK bachelor’s degree level or above. Permission under the Graduate route will provide a right to remain living and working in the UK for a further two years. Although those who have completed doctoral studies will be granted permission to work in the UK for a further three years.

The Graduate route will not require sponsorship, which means that an individual applying under this route will not need a job offer and the job can be at any skill level. Further, there will be no minimum salary requirements or cap on the number of people allowed to apply under this category. The route will allow individuals to work flexibly and switch jobs to help them determine how they wish to develop their career within the UK. It should be noted that the Graduate route will require a new visa application, which will only be possible from inside the UK – this will require payment of the application fee and applicable Immigration Health Surcharge levy. The Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS) reference number will also need to be included in the application form.

This will be a welcome route for employers, as they will not need to commit to sponsoring an individual until the end of their visa. It is to be noted that if an individual finds a suitable job with a company who has a sponsorship licence, they will then be eligible to switch into the Skilled Worker route, which will enable them to remain in the UK to continue to work. The re-introduction of this route will enable the UK to recruit and retain talented individuals. The route is non-extendable and does not count towards settlement.

In order to be eligible to apply applicants must have been in the UK for the whole course (if they are on a short course of duration up to 12 months long) or in the UK for the final 12 months of their course (for courses longer than 12 months). Individuals who began their studies in autumn 2020 and entered the UK before 21 June 2021 will be eligible to apply for the Graduate route. Students who began their studies in January or February 2021 will need to be in the UK by 27 September 2021 in order to be eligible. This deadline provides a COVID concession to ensure that those students that are required to continue studying or will commence a new course by distance learning will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route.

The application is expected to be an entirely digital process, with students able to use a mobile app and their current Biometric Residence Permits to complete the application process. This will avoid the need to attend visa application centres.

These articles are from the June 2021 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact a member of Birketts' Immigration Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at June 2021.

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