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UK Post Study Work Visa for Graduates

What is the UK’s PSW visa?

PSW visa stands for ‘Post-Study Work’ visa. PSW visas had been abolished by the UK government in 2012. However, the visa has effectively been re-introduced under a new name – the Graduate Route, which opened in July 2021.

Higher education providers in the UK have welcomed the re-introduction of the PSW visa to enhance the appeal of UK academic institutions among international students.

For employers, the visa also offers opportunities to recruit recent graduates on a temporary basis without the need to invest in the employment sponsorship process.

Under the graduate route, international graduates are able to apply for a PSW visa to stay on in the UK for a fixed period of either two or three years after the completion of their degree studies, depending on their level of study.


What does the Graduate route allow?

The PSW visa allows:

  • International students completing an undergraduate degree or a Master’s degree at a qualifying institution to stay on in the UK to work or look for work for a fixed period of two years after they have completed their studies.
  • International students completing a PhD at a qualifying institution to stay on in the UK to work or look for work for a fixed period of three years after they have completed their studies.


Graduates staying on in the UK under a PSW visa will not need to be sponsored, either by an education institution or an employer, nor will they need a Certificate of Sponsorship. Once a graduate switches onto a PSW visa, they are no longer sponsored as a student by their education institution.

Graduates on the PSW visa will not be able to work as a professional sportsperson, and while they are allowed to undertake supplementary study while in the UK on a PSW visa, the supplementary study cannot be at any institution that sponsors students for the purposes of their Tier 4 General student visa.

Family members already living in the UK lawfully as dependants of a student visa holder will be allowed to stay on as dependants when the main visa holder switches to the PSW visa. However, apart from children born in the UK, new dependants will not be able to join the PSW visa holder in the UK from overseas.

The visa is non-extendable and the time spent in the UK under the Graduate Immigration Route will not count towards settlement in the UK. We explore options to remain in the UK after the PSW visa later in this article.

The Doctorate Extension Scheme that allows students who have completed their PhD to stay on in the UK for 12 months has closed following the introduction of the Graduate Route.


PSW visa eligibility requirements

In order to be eligible for a PSW visa, the student will have to attain 70 points under the points-based immigration system. Points are awarded in respect of successful completion of a qualifying course of study in the UK.

This means applicants must:

  • Be holding a valid student visa at the time of their application for a PSW visa from a UK higher education provider on the list of registered sponsors “with a track record of compliance”.
  • Complete their studies in Summer 2021 or later. Students who completed their studies in early 2021 and whose visas expire before 1 July 2021 will not be eligible.
  • Have successfully completed their degree at undergraduate level or above.
  • Have stayed in the UK for the duration of their study. The only exemptions to this are if the student studied abroad as part of a ‘study abroad’ programme, or was forced to study from home for reasons relating to Covid-19. However, even if you were forced to study at home because of disruption caused by the global pandemic, you must return to the UK by 6th April, 2021 if you are due to graduate in summer 2021, in order that you complete your final semester in the UK. If you are not due to graduate in summer 2021, then you will still be allowed to apply for a PSW visa when you eventually do complete your studies, even if you spent all of the 2020/21 academic year studying remotely in your home country.
  • Not have previously been granted the PSW visa.
  • Pass security, identity and criminality checks.
  • Pay the application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge.


Those studying in the UK on a scholarship from the government of their home country have to meet an additional requirement, namely, that their government must have given its permission for them to remain in the UK under a PSW visa.

There is no English language or financial requirement for the PSW visa applicant to meet.


EU nationals 

EEA or Swiss students in the UK with valid EU settled or pre settled status will not need to apply for the PSW visa to remain in the UK. Those without permission under the EU settlement scheme may apply for the PSW visa to retain lawful status in the UK.


Which course are eligible under the PSW visa?

To be eligible, applicants must have completed a course awarding either:

  • A UK bachelor’s degree.
  • UK postgraduate degree, including PhD and Masters’ degree.
  • A Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course, as validated by the Joint Academic Stage Board in England and Wales.
  • The Legal Practice Course (LPC) in England and Wales, the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland.
  • The Bar Practice Course (BPTC) in England and Wales, or the Bar Course in Northern Ireland.
  • A foundation programme in Medicine or Dentistry.
  • A postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).
  • A professional course required to study at the UK bachelor’s degree level or above in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority.


The degree course has to be the same as that on the applicant’s Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). In addition, their sponsoring higher education provider must confirm that they meet this requirement.


Applying for the post study work visa 

The PSW visa application should be made online from within the UK.


How much is the graduate visa?

The PSW visa application costs £715. Applicants will also need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is currently £624 per year of leave in the UK.


Visa options after PSW visa?

After the two or three years of the PSW visa have expired, the individual will need to make an application for a new type of visa or leave to remain, in order to stay in the UK with lawful status.

Visa options to remain in the UK could, for example, include a work visa or family-based visa, and will depend on the specific circumstances.

If you are employed in a skilled role, you may be eligible to apply to remain by switching to the Skilled Worker visa route, provided all of the requirements are met to switch into this category.

The Skilled Worker route replaced the previous Tier 2 visa in December 2020. In order to qualify as a Skilled Worker you must be in an eligible job, working for an employer that is licensed by the UK Home Office to sponsor skilled migrant workers. The Home Office publishes a list of registered sponsors on the .gov website.

In addition, you must meet the minimum salary requirements. You must be paid at least £25,600, or the ‘going-rate’ for the job if it is higher. The UK Home Office has published a list of the going-rates for jobs, along with a list of the eligible jobs for the Skilled Worker visa. In some situations, such as if your job is in a shortage occupation, you may still qualify if you are paid less than £25,600.

The Skilled Worker route also provides a path to settlement in the UK, i.e. indefinite leave to remain. If you have five years of continuous lawful residence in the UK under a Skilled Worker visa then you may be eligible to apply for settlement.

An alternative to the Skilled Worker visa, if you wish to set up your first business in the UK, is the Start-Up route, which replaced the previous ‘Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur’ route.

In order to qualify for this route you must be endorsed by an authorised body, which involves developing a comprehensive business plan for your venture. The Start up visa lasts for two years, after which you may look to apply for further leave on the Innovator route, which is for established migrant business owners in the UK.

Another option could be to make an application based on your relationship with a UK settled person, such as a partner visa. Taking advice on your circumstances in advance of your PSW visa expiring will help ensure you retain your lawful status in the UK and do not overstay. 


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists, and can advise both employers and graduates on Home Office applications such as the new post study work visa. For advice, please contact us.


PSW visa for graduates FAQs

What is PSW visa?

A PSW visa is a ‘Post-Study Work’ visa, that is officially called the Graduate Route. It allows overseas graduates completing their studies in the UK to stay on for two or three years after completion of their studies. The two year period is granted if you have completed an undergraduate degree or a Master’s degree, and the three year period if you have completed a PhD.

How much does PSW visa cost in UK?

The PSW visa application fee is £715. You will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge for each year of your leave.

Who is eligible for PSW in UK?

You are eligible to apply for a PSW visa in the UK if you are completing an undergraduate degree or a Master’s degree or a PhD from summer 2021 onwards. The degree must have been awarded by a qualifying institution, that is a higher education provider approved by the UK Home Office.

How long does the PSW visa last?

If you have complete an undergraduate degree or a Master’s degree and you are successful in obtaining the PSW visa then it will last for two years. If you have completed a PhD and are successful in obtaining a PSW visa then it will last for three years. In both cases the PSW visa is non-extendable, meaning to retain lawful status beyond your period of leave under the Graduate Route, you will need to make an application for leave to remain under a different visa category.

Last updated: 7 November 2022

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