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THE UK: Visa Guides - Must read

How to apply for a post-study work visa in the UK

Find out how to apply for a post-study work visa in the UK. We take you through the eligibility criteria, and explain what the route involves and the factors you should consider.

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For many prospective students, part of the attraction of studying abroad is the potential to live and work in that country after graduation. In a cultural mixing pot like the UK, where the contribution of international students is highly valued, it’s understandable that the option to stay longer is a top priority for many. In this article, we explore post-study visa options in the UK and the application process.


The UK graduate visa

The recent introduction of the UK’s graduate visa has made the process easier for many international students looking to work in the UK after graduation. The scheme was introduced as a direct result of the country’s desire to keep talented graduates.


Who can apply?

You can apply for a UK graduate visa if you’ve recently graduated from a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree, or another eligible course if:


  • you are still in the UK
  • your current visa is a UK student visa
  • you studied your course for at least 12 months (or the full duration of the course if it was less than 12 months long)
  • your education provider has told the Home Office that you have completed your course.


How long can I stay?

A graduate visa will allow you to stay in the UK for two years. If you have a PhD (or other doctoral qualification) you will be allowed to stay for three years.


You cannot extend a graduate visa, but you may be allowed to apply for a different visa to remain in the UK. We have more information about this at the end of this article.


What rules are there?

As a UK graduate visa holder, you will be able to:


  • work in most jobs, including voluntary positions
  • be self-employed
  • look for work
  • continue living in the UK with your family (if they are eligible/allowed)
  • travel to and from the UK.


A UK graduate visa does not allow you to:


  • apply for any welfare (government) payments or a state pension
  • work as a professional sportsperson.


In specific circumstances, you may be able to study on a graduate visa, but only if your course is not eligible for a student visa.


Be aware that every visa is unique. Visas are awarded on a case-by-case basis. Yours may include other conditions depending on your circumstances.


When to apply

You must apply for your UK graduate visa:


  • before your student visa expires (ends)
  • after your university/college has informed the Home Office that you have completed your course.


You do not need to wait until you have graduated to apply for a UK graduate visa.


How much does it cost?

A UK graduate visa costs GBP 715. You will also need to pay a Healthcare Surcharge of GBP 624 per year for every year you will be in the UK.  If you choose to work in the public sector, you may be eligible/allowed to have your Healthcare Surcharge refunded (returned to you).


Remember, you will need to be able to afford to support yourself while you are in the UK. Don’t forget to include things like rent, bills, and travel costs into your budget.


You may find our article about the cost of living in the UK cost of living helpful when budgeting. 


What documents do I need?

When you apply for your UK graduate visa, you will need:


  • your passport (or another valid travel document)
  • your biometric residence permit, if you have one 
  • your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number from when you applied for your student visa.


If you cannot find your CAS number, speak to your education provider. They will have a record of it. You might also be asked to provide:


  • proof of your relationship to your family member(s) if they are applying with you.
  • a letter of approval from your scholarship/sponsorship provider if they have paid your course or living fees in the last 12 months.


Proving your identity

As part of your UK graduate visa application, you must prove your identity. To do this, you will need an account with UKVI on their “UK Immigration: ID Check” app. You must scan your biometric residence permit onto the app. If you are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, you will need to scan your passport instead.


If you cannot scan your documents into the app, you will need your fingerprints and photograph taken at an approved centre. You must take your biometric residence permit and/or passport with you to your appointment.


Completing your application

You will need to complete your application form online. Make sure you have your credit or debit card ready to pay the fees associated with your application. Remember that you can make your application for a UK graduate visa online.


After you apply

You will normally hear back from UKVI with a decision about your graduate visa application within (no later than) eight weeks. You must not travel outside the British Isles or Ireland while you wait for the decision. When your application is approved, you will be able to prove your right to live and work in the UK online. 


What other work visa options are there?

Do you want to know more about some of the other UK work visas available? Our table below details two of the most popular choices.


You might decide one of these is better for you than a graduate visa. Or you might choose to switch to one of these after your graduate visa expires. Whatever the case, it’s always a good idea to fully understand your options.


Visa type

Eligible applicants


Skilled worker visa

People with a job (or job offer) with an approved employer.

Five years

Health and care worker visa

Doctors, nurses, or people working in adult social care.

Five years


The UK government has also introduced the High Potential Individual Visa (HPI) route for recently qualified students. It gives university graduates the opportunity to stay in the UK for at least two years. If you’re a PhD graduate you will be able to stay for three.  

To qualify for an HPI visa you must have graduated from an eligible university in the last five years. Eligible universities are listed by the UK government and are made up of highly ranked global institutions, from the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Further, you will need to demonstrate your English language ability and enough savings to support yourself when living in the country.


Find out more about the range of work visas available in the UK.


Don’t forget!

Check your visa dates and conditions when you receive it – these will tell you what you can and cannot do when you are in the UK. If you think there has been a mistake on your visa, you must contact UKVI within (no later than) three months for it to be amended.


Don’t forget that you can explore universities in the UK and use our course matcher tool to find a suitable qualification.

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