Graduate Route

This is a brief overview of the Graduate immigration route which commenced on 1 July 2021. The route provides eligible international students with Tier 4 or Student visas an opportunity to stay in the UK to work or to look for work, after completing degree level studies.

The route is for students who complete and are awarded their degree while holding a Tier 4 or Student visa. It does not depend on whether or when any graduation ceremony takes place after the completion of studies. 

The Home Office guide to the Graduate route includes the link for online applications.

On 14 May 2024 the Migration Advisory Committee responded to the Government’s request to review the Graduate route.  The Committee’s review report recommends retaining the Graduate route in its current form.  If the Government announces or makes any changes to the route the information here will be updated.

When can I apply?

In general any application should be made in the UK:

  • While you still hold Student visa permission
  • After your degree has been awarded
  • After the University has confirmed your eligibility

Before any application is made the University will have to confirm to UKVI that your degree has been awarded.  The Student Office/Doctoral College Office will automatically do this for eligible Tier 4/Student visa holders and email each student when it has been done.  They aim to report to UKVI and notify all eligible students as soon as practically possible, this should be within a week of the degree award being published by your Programme Board or the Doctoral College Office. If you do not know the expected timing of your degree award check with your School or the Doctoral College Office as appropriate. If you are not notified as expected, please check with the relevant office.  Otherwise there is no need for you to notify the University whether you intend to apply to the Graduate route but you must not apply before you have received confirmation of the degree report to UKVI.

Generally a Student visa will be valid for 4 months beyond the expected end of studies given on a CAS.  If you complete studies within the expected timescale there should be sufficient time for you to receive confirmation of your degree award and Graduate route eligibility to apply to switch to the Graduate route prior to Student visa expiry.

Graduate Route Eligibility

Am I eligible?

Loughborough University (including the London campus) is a ‘Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance’ and therefore our ‘graduates’ will be eligible.

In accordance with University regulations all tuition fees must have been cleared to allow a degree award.

During your most recent grant of Student visa/Tier 4 you must have successfully completed:

  • The degree for which your CAS was issued, this can include when a work placement or study abroad has been added later. If the course title has been changed, but the content has remained the same this will be accepted, or
  • An alternative course that you were allowed to take instead of that detailed on your CAS without having to apply for a new visa, or
  • Either the bachelor’s or master’s degree if your CAS was issued for an integrated undergraduate master’s. Beware that not all undergraduate master’s routes at the University will necessarily permit the award of a bachelor’s degree instead, this will depend on your programme and you may need to check options with your School administration.

If you do not achieve the grades required for a degree you may qualify for a lower award e.g. a post graduate diploma instead of a master’s or a certificate or diploma of higher education in place of a bachelor’s degree. However, these lower-level qualifications are not acceptable for Graduate route eligibility.

If you hold Tier 4/Student permission as a Student Union sabbatical officer you may still be eligible if you obtained the relevant degree with Tier 4/Student permission immediately before your current permission.

In general* studies should have been undertaken in the UK while holding Tier 4 or Student permission for a minimum period, the minimum period depends on the length of course:

Total length of course

Relevant period of Student permission granted during

which all study took place in the UK (apart from permitted study

abroad programmes)

12 months or less

Full duration of course

Longer than 12 months

At least 12 months

*This does require having to be in the UK on every day of the course gov.uk explains:

‘What counts as time spent studying in the UK

Studying your course in the UK means that you were in the UK when your education provider needed you to be there - for example, to go to lectures or meet with a tutor.

Example

If you were taking a 1 year master’s degree, but left the UK during term breaks or on weekends, that would still count as studying in the UK for 1 year.’

*There are also concessions for students if their programme allowed distance learning outside the UK due to Covid-19 between January 2020 and June 2022.  Given the passage of time these are no longer likely to be a consideration, but further details are available from the Student Advice and Support Service if needed.

If you complete your studies with any type of visa other than Tier 4/Student you will not be eligible, e.g. students who re-enter the UK to complete a short period of reassessment or a viva and corrections as a visitor.

If you have previously held permission under the Doctorate Extension Scheme or Graduate route UKVI will not grant further permission under the Graduate route.

Will I be eligible if I have to take reassessments/extend my studies?

Needing to take reassessment or extend your studies does not necessarily make you ineligible for Graduate route. However, you must have Student permission at the time that your degree is awarded and when you apply, if the timings change so that your degree will be awarded after any Student permission expires you may then be ineligible to switch to the Graduate route.

If your studies are extended and your degree award is delayed beyond your current Student permission, to retain Graduate route eligibility you will have to consider:

  • Whether you can extend your Student permission for attending further studies, and
  • Whether any deferred degree award would be made before any further Student permission expires

A CAS and further Student permission can be issued to allow attendance to studies but not solely for the purposes of an assessment, receiving results or for potential Graduate route eligibility.

To preserve potential Graduate route eligibility taught students may have to register to take reassessments with attendance rather than opt to take reassessments without attendance, depending on the timings a Student visa extension may allow Graduate route eligibility later. If you are a taught student and granted an extension for a coursework submission you would not be able to extend your Student visa for this purpose, you should check with your School when your degree might then be awarded in order to assess whether it would be before Student visa expiry to remain eligible for Graduate route.

Our separate guide gives further information on Student visa implications of changes to study.

Graduate Route Application

The Application Process

You need to complete the application process (including receipt of any BRP) while you remain in the UK. It is advisable to defer any travel abroad plans until after all is completed, if you leave the Common Travel Area (UK, Rep of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man) while an application is pending UKVI can treat it as withdrawn. 

As long as you have made a valid application prior to your Student permission expiry you may remain in the UK throughout the application process. 

UKVI’s standard service target for visa extensions is 8 weeks. In practice straightforward Graduate route applications have often been granted quickly e.g. within a week, but this is not guaranteed. 

Applications are made online.

The process is fully digital; generally everything can be completed online. Within the application process there are two ways to verify your ID: 

  1. “UK Immigration ID Check” app

You can complete this process on your phone if you have an Android phone (with NFC) or iPhone 7 or above. If you do not have a suitable phone available, you can use a friend’s as no information is stored on the phone after the process is complete.  

or 

  1. In-person appointment

If you cannot use the app e.g. you do not have a suitable phone, you have lost your BRP or the chip within your BRP is damaged, you should complete the application process online and book an in-person appointment to provide your biometric data.  You may be charged extra for a biometric appointment and the processing time can be longer this way. 

When your application is decided, you will receive an e-mail confirming the outcome and whether any BRP will also be issued.  Any grant of permission will confirm how you can view and prove your immigration status online e.g. to employers or landlords. 

Visa nationals will also be issued a new Biometric Resident Permit (BRP), you will need the BRP for the purposes of re-entering the UK. Any BRP will only be valid until 31 December 2024, they will then be replaced by digital status.

How much does it cost to apply?

You will need to pay an application fee of £822 and the Immigration Health Surcharge of £1,035 per year of visa  i.e. either £2,070 (for UG or PG degrees) or £3,105 if a PhD graduate. Full payment is required at the time of applying online.

If you cannot use the ‘ID Check’ App you may have to pay for attending a UKVCAS biometric centre unless you are able to book a free appointment.

Do I need to provide any evidence with my application?

As Student Records/Doctoral College Office confirm eligibility direct to UKVI the application will not require any other evidence of your degree outcome (e.g. transcript or degree certificate), you will need to confirm your previous CAS number and UKVI will use this reference to link to the degree report. The University e-mail confirming your eligibility for the Graduate route will include your CAS number for ease of reference. 

The visa application does not require you to show you have a certain amount of money for your maintenance. You do not need to prove your academic qualifications or English language ability. 

If your studies have been sponsored to cover both tuition fees and living expenses to any extent in the previous 12 months by a government or international scholarship agency you will need a letter from your former sponsor consenting to you staying longer. 

Most applicants will find that the application requires: 

  • information as requested within the application
  • a biometrics check (e.g. a photo and BRP or passport scan if using the app)
  • payment 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will my Graduate permission be?

The length of Graduate visa permission is fixed: 

    • Undergraduate, PGCE and master's degree graduates are allowed to stay for two years. 
    • PhD graduates are allowed to stay for three years.  

You cannot choose the length of permission you wish to apply for but neither are you required to remain in the UK for the full duration of any visa granted. 

Graduate permission can only be granted on one occasion. It will not be possible to extend Graduate permission but it will be possible to switch into another route if you meet the requirements. 

Do I need a job offer?

Unlike most other work visas you will not require an employer to act as a visa sponsor – if you are eligible you can apply as an individual.  The visa will carry a flexible right to work allowing you to work full or part-time or self-employed. Employment as a professional sportsperson is not permitted. 

Are there any limits on my stay in the UK?

Graduate permission allows you to stay in the UK and re-enter the UK for work related purposes (including seeking work) as long as it remains valid. Within this period there are no set time limits on how long you must stay in the UK or how long you are allowed to be absent, nor is there a set limit on how many times you can be absent. 

Can I study on Graduate permission?

Graduate permission does not allow study that could be sponsored under the Student route. This would prevent the vast majority of formal academic study at a university or college, other types of study including evening classes or recreational courses are permitted.

Does the Graduate route time count towards the five-year working route to permanent residence?

No, but it can count towards the 10 year long residence route to permanent residence.

What about family members?

Family members who already hold permission as your Student dependant will also be able to apply to continue to stay as your dependant under the Graduate route.  Dependent family members must also apply while in the UK either at the same time or after the main applicant. They will each have to pay the same application fee and IHS. 

If a child is born in the UK while you hold Tier 4/Student or Graduate permission they can apply for permission to stay as a new dependant, otherwise, there are no general provisions to add new dependants under the Graduate route.

How can the University support you?

If you require advice or guidance beyond what is covered on our webpages please contact the Student Advice and Support Service.

More Resources

Last Updated: 14th May 2024