If you are an international student in the UK, there are a number of visa routes for you to consider that will allow you to remain in the country after you graduate.
UK post-study visa options for international graduates
Your UK post study visa options will depend on what you want to do after you finish your course. Do you want to find a job, start a business or make investments here?
It will be important to consider all of the options available to you, and if you do make an application, ensure that you meet all the eligibility criteria, have the correct documentation and follow the correct process, since refusal rates for points-based visas are high. You will also need to ensure you factor in all the costs of making a Home Office application, including the Immigration Health Surcharge.
You will also have to ensure you do not let your visa expire before making an application to remain in the UK to avoid overstaying.
Under the current rules, Tier 4 students could consider the following post study visa options:
UK post study work visa
From summer 2021, international students in the UK may be eligible to apply under the Graduate route to extend their stay for up to two years after graduating with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or three years if studying a PhD.
To be eligible, students will have to have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a UK higher education institution, and they must be able to evidence a clear and compliant immigration record.
Graduates will be free to use the two (or three) years to find a job and to work, with no restrictions on the type or skill level of the role during this period of leave. This includes using this time to find sponsored work and switching to the Skilled Worker route.
The visa is open to students of all subjects and disciplines.
There will also be no cap on the number of post-study work visas available.
The new route is intended to open up the UK job market to international graduates and employers are expected to adjust their entry-level recruitment and graduate programmes to take full advantage of the new rules.
Skilled worker visa
There continues to be no shortage of employers who are happy to sponsor graduates who bring specialist skills.
The Skilled Worker Visa replaced the Tier 2 General visa in December 2020. It is open to individuals who attain the requisite number of points based on skill, language and salary requirements. You will also need to have a job offer from a licensed sponsor. You can find a list of those organisations with a sponsor licence on the government’s list of registered sponsors. Employers without a sponsor licence are able to apply for a licence to hire sponsored workers, provided they meet the eligibility and compliance criteria.
Start up visa
The Start Up visa allows Tier 4 visa holders to switch in-country to set up their first enterprise in the UK.
The visa is available for a maximum of two years, at which point the visa holder will either have to apply to switch to another visa category, such as the Innovator visa, where they can continue to develop their business, or leave the country.
For the Start Up visa, applicants must first apply to be endorsed by an approved Home Office body, which includes certain universities and business accelerator groups. This involves demonstrating the business idea is viable by providing a comprehensive business case. Only with endorsement can you proceed with applying to the Home Office for the Start up visa.
Global Talent route & sector-specific schemes
The Global Talent route is aimed at those who can evidence status as a leader or potential leader in one of the fields covered by the visa. These include:
- academia or research
- arts and culture
- digital technology
Global Talent visa holders do not need to have secured employment, nor do they need to be sponsored.
Global talent applicants must first secure endorsement from an approved institution before making the Home Office visa application within 3 months of endorsement.
It is also advisable to research schemes specific to your sector or area of expertise, such as tech and digital.
Tier 1 Investor Visa
Many students are by-passing Tier 4 and instead opting for a Tier 1 visa, which allows you to study and gain a British passport when you have completed five years in the UK.
The Investor visa also allows you to switch from Tier 4 to remain.
Whether applying as an undergraduate or post-graduate, you will need to meet one of three levels of investment under the Tier 1 investor visa and there are strict rules on the type of investments you can make to be eligible. You are not however required to have a job or to study as a Tier 1 investor.
Extending Tier 4 visa
Another option may be to extend your existing Tier 4 visa, either to continue a course or start a new one. To do this, you must be sponsored by the course provider and the application has to be made within strict timescales.
Long-term relationship or family basis
If you met your partner while studying in the UK, you may be eligible to remain on the basis of your relationship. A number of options may be available to you based on your relationship to a family member or under the long-term relationship rules such as civil partnership and spouse visas. The rules are strict however to deter fraudulent applications, and eligibility will depend on your personal circumstances including meeting strict financial requirements.
DavidsonMorris specialise in UK immigration. Contact us with any queries about your visa options to remain in the UK after study, or if you are an employer looking to hire international graduates.
UK post study work visa FAQs
Who is eligible for post study work visa UK?
International students with a valid Tier 4 visa may be eligible to apply for the UK's Post Study Work Visa from summer 2021.
What is post study work visa in UK?
Eligible students can apply to remain in the UK for a further two years after graduating, or three years if they have a PhD. Graduates can use this period of leave to work or look for a job. There are no restrictions on the type of work that must be undertaken by PSW visa holders, and there is no cap on the number of PSW visas that can be issued.
Can you get PR in the UK after study?
Eligibility for UK indefinite leave to remain will depend on the individual being on a route that leads to ILR and meeting the ILR requirements. For example, if you apply for the PSW visa and then secure a sponsored job under the Skilled Worker route, you may become eligible for ILR after five years as a sponsored worker.
Last updated: 1 January 2021