Graduate Route Overview


As of 1 July 2021, the brand new "Graduate Visa" route is now available for all eligible graduates. It allows those who are eligible to apply and extend their stay for 2 years (3 years for PhD students), almost with no strings attached. This is great news for graduates as they will be given the time to gain meaningful and practical experience before making the decision as to whether or not they continue to live in the UK. It's great news for businesses too; employers will be able to hire graduates on this visa without the need to sponsor them. This could save businesses a significant amount of money as they would avoid paying the expensive costs that comes with sponsorship. 

The Home Office published caseworker guidance on  1 July 2021 which can be accessed by clicking this link: 

To be eligible for the Graduate visa, an applicant will generally need to show that they are: 

  • In the UK on a student visa;  
  • Have studied a UK bachelor's degree, postgraduate degree or other eligible study course; 
  • successfully completed that course; and      
  • The education provider must be a licensed sponsor with a track record of compliance 

On the Graduate visa, a individual is free from most restrictions ( especially when compared to the other work related visas): 

  • They can undertake any work in the UK (paid or unpaid employment), self-employment and engaging in business or any professional activity (see below the only restriction in terms of work). This means that it is possible to incorporate/set up a company or invest in UK companies  
  • There is no need for them to secure a job as a condition of the visa 
  • There is no need for them to be sponsored by a licenced sponsor before hiring  
  • Dependants can continue to live with the graduate and they can work without restrictions too 

Graduate visa holders have very few conditions which are set out below:  

  • They cannot engage in professional sport but can participate in amateur sport;  
  • The visa cannot be extended. The visa holder will need to switch into another visa category if they want to continue to live in the UK; 
  • New dependants cannot be brought in on this visa
  • The time spent on the Graduate route does not count towards settlement 
  • Studying a course which would meet the requirements of a Student visa is not permitted and studying in a state school is not allowed 
  • No access to public funds  

Towards the end of the visa, the graduate must make the decision to either leave the UK or switch into another visa category. There are various routes that allow switching within the UK. The PBS visa categories they can switch into which leads to settlement are: 

  • Skilled Worker visa 
  • Global Talent visa if they show exceptional promise 
  • Start-up visa and Innovator visa 
  • Representative of an Overseas Business visa 
  • Tier 1 Investor visa 
  • Student visa

The Graduate visa allows some breathing space for those who are looking to gain invaluable work experience and secure jobs; 2 years can pass very quickly and so it is good idea to plan for next steps. If you are on the graduate visa, whether you are able to secure a job or want to start-up a company, you should seek legal advice in advanced.  

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Immigration staff guidance on considering applications under the Graduate route.
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