What is the UK Graduate Visa?


With an amazing academic reputation, welcoming culture, and lots of prestigious institutions of higher learning offering graduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses, the United Kingdom attracts thousands of international students every year. Considering possible high unemployment rates experienced in their home countries, among other reasons, some international students wish to remain and seek work opportunities in the UK after they finish their studies. However, they can’t continue to live in the country on a student visa after completing their courses. In order to do so, they need to apply for another type of visa that will give them the right to work and live in the country temporarily to gain experience and earn some income. This is where the UK Graduate Visa comes in handy.

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The UK Graduate Visa Explained

This Graduate Visa was launched in the summer of 2021. If you are a graduate or doctoral student aspiring to live and work in the UK, you might be trying to find out more about how you can do this and also looking into the Graduate Visa UK as an option for you.

The UK graduate gives permission granted by the Home Office to international students, allowing them to work and live in the UK after completing their studies. So, you must have a valid student visa or any other Tier 4 visa, among other requirements, for you to be eligible.

The visa allows a graduate to work or look for work in the UK without necessarily having to prove employer sponsorship like it is with a skilled worker visa.

It is worth noting that the UK graduate visa has a validity of two to three years, depending on the education course one has been on previously. It gives two years for graduate and postgraduate students and three years for those who are doctoral and PHD students.

If a holder of the visa wishes to continue living and working in the country beyond the period, they can apply for another visa. Those who marry or are in a relationship or get married during the course of the visa can switch to a spouse or unmarried partner visa.

Unfortunately, a graduate visa is not automatic for every international college or university graduate in the UK. This is because some students might not be interested in extending their stay in the country after completing their studies, while others might not be qualified for the visa for some reason.

What Kind of Jobs Does the Graduate Route Visa UK Allow?

People who successfully apply to settle and work in the UK via graduate visa have the right to engage in any lawful job irrespective of level, salary scale, or skill required, apart from being professional sportspeople. They can choose to be employed by other people or companies or even start their own self-employment in the country.

Can I Qualify for a UK Graduate Visa if I’ve not Graduated?

You are eligible for the UK graduate visa if you have proof from your UK university or college showing that you’ve indeed completed your studies. Therefore, you must not necessarily have to wait until you graduate to send your graduate visa application. You can do so as soon as you receive the final results of your course.

Will my UK Graduate Visa Application be Successful if I Apply While Outside the UK?

Unfortunately, it is advisable that you submit your graduate visa application while in the UK. Although you can take a course in a UK university remotely from any other country, you should consider submitting your application while staying in the UK to increase your chances of success. Also, it is important that you don’t travel out of the country while waiting for the Home Office’s decision on the visa application.

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What are the General Requirements for the Graduate Visa UK?

You need to have the following to be eligible for the graduate visa:

  • A valid student visa under the Student Route or a Tier 4 (General) student visa. Through this visa, you’ll be able to provide a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number as required by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
  • Your biometric residences permit (BRP). This applies to the students who were issued with BRP after the student or Tier 4 visa application.
  • A travel document that is in date and valid, such as a passport for identity and nationality proof.
  • Proof of completing a qualifying course in a UK institution of higher learning. It is worth noting that Doctorate Extension Scheme’s PHD Graduates do not qualify for the UK Graduate Visa. Also, in most cases, completing a part-time course or any other non-degree awarding course in the UK doesn’t count in your eligibility for the visa. Additionally, you must show that you acquired the academic qualification within the validity period of your most recent Tier 4 or Student visa and must spend at least 12 months studying the course in the UK.
  • A letter of consent from your sponsor if you are sponsored financially by a government or a global scholarship agency.

How Soon can My Graduate Visa be Processed?

In most cases, the Home Office, through the UKVI, gives a decision on a graduate visa application within eight weeks. Otherwise, you’ll be notified of any possible delay and how much longer you should wait to get your application’s verdict.

You need to consider this wait time when deciding the right time to apply for the visa. For instance, if you are a graduate and planning to join a graduate program starting this September, it is advisable that you apply for the visa approximately two months prior to the start of the program.


Although the graduate visa does not lead to settlement or indefinite leave to remain as it is limited as to its validity, the time spent in the UK on this visa route contributes to any future immigration applications. So, if an applicant has been in the UK for 10 years with continuous lawful residence, they will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain on this basis and use the years spent on a UK graduate visa to make up some of this time. 

How Can Gulbenkian Andonian Help?

Our London-based legal team can take care of your UK Graduate Visa application for you from start to finish. We will be happy to discuss the whole process with you and your eligibility for this visa route. If you choose to instruct us, our immigration lawyers London can handle every part of the application process to make sure that your visa is approved as soon as possible and hassle-free.

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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

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