ip target image
You are currently browsing our site with content tailored to students in your country

Our cookies

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience with personalized content, relevant ads and enhanced functionalities. By allowing all you agree to the use of cookies as per the cookie policy and remember you can manage your preferences anytime.
The basics
THE UK: Visa Guides - Must read

Understanding the UK post-study work visa

Get up to speed with the new UK graduate route and post-study work visa. We take you through the eligibility criteria, explain what the route involves and the factors you should consider.

share image

One of the big factors when deciding on where you will study abroad is definitely what the post-study work options are like. You’ll likely be looking for a destination that offers you the opportunity to live and work in your chosen field when you’ve graduated, as well as a country that values the contribution of international students. The UK government introduced a new post-study work visa route for international students in 2019, which is set to launch in mid-2021. It gives you the chance to stay in the country for several years post-graduation. We explore what the UK post-study visa offers, the eligibility criteria, how to apply and what you can expect. 


What is the UK graduate route?


The UK graduate route offers international students who have graduated from accredited higher education institutions the opportunity to stay and look for work in the UK. The UK government have indicated that they want to retain talented and skilful graduates to work in the country, with recruiters and employers re-iterating this. This is also in line with the new points-based immigration system introduced in the UK. 


The new graduate route scheme was announced in September of 2019, with students who have completed their studies in the 2020/2021 academic year being the first to qualify for the scheme. There is not a cap on the number of students who can apply and graduates in any subject area are eligible. It should be noted however that there is an emphasis placed on graduates from STEM-related fields. The graduate scheme aims to encourage new international students to study in the UK and to grow the number to over 650,000 by the end of the decade. 


Who is eligible to apply for the UK graduate route?


The criteria for international students looking to apply for the post-study visa graduate route in the UK include:


  • A verified qualification from an accredited institution of higher learning.
  • A valid student visa at the time of application. 
  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) used for Tier 4 visa must be provided
  • A notification from the graduating university to the UKVI certifying your qualification.
  • No previous visas granted under the graduate immigration route.
  • Courses that started online or remotely in 2020 still qualify you. However, you will need to be present in the UK before June 21 2021 to apply. 
  • If your course is less than 12 months you will need to be in the UK before the end date of your course. 
  • You must return to the UK before the expiration of your Tier 4 student visa. 
  • The graduate route is unsponsored meaning you don’t need a job offer to qualify. You will also be able to swop jobs or develop your career during your time in the UK.
  • Dependants are not included under the graduate immigration route. 
  • Completion of identity, criminal and security checks 
  • Payment of the application fee


Remember that you can chat with your university about the options and for additional guidance. The international office at your university is usually a good place to start.  


How do you make an application for a graduate visa in the UK?


Applications for the UK post-study work visa are made through the UK Government Home Office and will follow a similar procedure to that followed when you applied for a Tier 4 student visa. The steps you will have to follow include:


  • Complete an online application form 
  • Organise and collect the correct documents required for your application
  • Get a visa application appointment 
  • Attend a visa interview


The new UK graduate route is due to launch from the 1st of July 2021. 


How long are you able to stay in the UK?


If you lodge an application for a post-study work visa in the UK and are successful you will qualify for the following:


  • Two years if you have obtained an undergraduate or master’s degree
  • Three years for PhD graduates

Remember that the granting of a post-study work visa does not constitute indefinite leave to remain and will have to be converted to a skilled worker visa or global talent visa once the allotted time has expired. This will require you to have found permanent employment with a government-approved employer and they will need to sponsor your visa.


Are you still eligible for the visa even when studying remotely?


Naturally, the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works for post-study visa applications and studying in the UK in 2021. Certain time-limited concessions, which are subject to change, have been put in place for students studying online or remotely:


  • If you started a course in 2020 that is 12 months or less in duration and have not yet travelled to the UK to study you must arrive before 21st June 2021 to qualify for the post-study visa. 
  • If you started a course in 2021 that is 12 months or less in duration and have not yet arrived in the UK to study, you have until the 27th of September to enter the UK to qualify for the graduate route. 
  • If you started studying in 2020 or 2021 and have travelled to the UK but are now studying remotely, you will need to return to the UK before the end date of your course. 
  • If your course is longer than 12 months you will have to be back in the UK before the expiration of your Tier 4 student visa to qualify. 


Don’t forget that this guidance may change or be amended depending on the guidance issued by the government and the development of the pandemic. You can also seek help if you have been struggling during this time and can find more information in our student mental health guide


What are the costs involved in the visa application?


In making an application for the UK graduate route you will need to pay a GBP 700 application fee. There is also the additional cost of GBP 624 for the health surcharge. This will take your total to GBP 1,324. Remember that you will also need to factor in the cost of living in the UK, with consideration for rent, transport and food. Make sure that you have made provision for this as it is likely to be reviewed with your visa application. Generally, if you can demonstrate that you have the financial means to support yourself the chances of being granted a visa are higher. 


Now that you have your eye on the future take some time to explore how studying abroad can help your career, what university careers offices offer, and five jobs that didn’t exist five years ago. If you want to stay in the know with any changes to visa information and other international student news, make sure to go over to our latest news page

Study in the UK


'Study in the UK' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the UK into one handy digital book.

Get your eBook