UK Graduate Trainee Visa
Overseas companies can deploy graduates to the UK as part of qualifying structured graduate training programmes.
We are specialists in UK Graduate Trainee visa applications.
UK Graduate Trainee visa
Overseas graduate trainees looking to undertake a graduate training programme at a UK branch or subsidiary of their overseas employer will need to apply for a visa under the new Graduate Trainee visa route.
The UK Graduate Trainee visa is one of five Global Business Mobility (GBM) immigration routes recently introduced by the UK Government. The GBM umbrella is aimed at overseas businesses looking to establish a UK presence or transfer staff to the UK.
The Graduate Trainee route is specifically for overseas workers on a structured graduate training programme leading to either a senior management or specialist position who are required to do a work placement in the UK as a part of that programme. The temporary work route has replaced the former Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route.
Under a Graduate Trainee visa, a successful applicant will be able to come to the UK to participate in the graduate training programme for which the application was made. Under the predecessor route, Intra-Company trainees were permitted to undertake supplementary employment, but this is no longer the case under the new GBM rules. Under the new rules, a Graduate Trainee will not be allowed to take employment additional to their sponsored work, but will be able to do voluntary work or pursue a course of study in the UK. They’ll also be permitted to travel abroad and return to the UK during their period of leave.
UK Graduate Trainee visa eligibility requirements
To be eligible for a UK Graduate Trainee visa, the applicant must:
- be aged 18 years old or more at the date of application
- be part of a structured graduate training programme for a managerial or specialist role with an overseas business that has a legitimate work placement in the UK
- be an existing employee of an organisation that’s been approved by the Home Office as a UK sponsor and have been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from that sponsor
- be doing an eligible job to the appropriate skill level as set out in the Immigration Rules
- be paid the minimum eligible salary required for their job role
- be working for the linked overseas business at the date of application and have worked for that business outside the UK for at least 3 months before they apply
- satisfy a financial requirement, where applicable.
Under the financial requirement, unless their sponsor is prepared to certify maintenance on their CoS, the applicant must be able to support themselves on their arrival in the UK, where they must show proof of funds of at least £1,270. The applicant will need to have had this amount of money available in their bank account for at least 28 consecutive days.
UK Graduate Trainee visa sponsorship requirements
To obtain a UK Graduate Trainee visa, the applicant will need to be sponsored by a Home Office approved business authorised to sponsor this category of worker.
When applying for a Global Business Mobility licence to sponsor a Graduate Trainee, the sponsor must be linked by either common ownership or control, or by a joint venture agreement, to an overseas business. In addition, the linked overseas business must offer a structured graduate training programme leading to either a senior management or specialist position that has a legitimate work placement in the UK. When applying for a licence to sponsor under this route, the sponsor must provide evidence of this training programme, for example, a course brochure and evidence of recruitment.
In some cases, if they’re covered by the transitional arrangements for existing licence holders under the predecessor route, the UK sponsor may not need to apply for a licence to sponsor workers under the Graduate Trainee route. Under these provisions, if the UK sponsor had requested a CoS allocation for the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route since 1 December 2020, or they’ve assigned a CoS to a graduate trainee either before or after this date, the new Graduate Trainee route should be automatically added to their existing licence.
Only once the UK sponsor has a valid licence in place can they issue a COS. If an existing licence is updated under the transitional arrangements, the CoS allocation for that route will be the same as the allocation for the Intra-Company routes on 10 April 2022, up to a maximum of 20 certificates. Otherwise, if applying for a new Graduate Trainee licence, there’s no longer a limit on how many CoS can be assigned on this route in each financial year.
UK Graduate Trainee visa points requirements
All applicants on the GBM routes must meet a points requirement. Applicants applying as a Graduate Trainee must score 60 points against the following three criteria (20 points each):
To score 20 points for sponsorship, the applicant must have a valid CoS on their Graduate Trainee route, being sponsored for employment which is genuine and meet the overseas work requirements. This means that the applicant must have worked for the linked overseas business for a minimum continuous period of 3 months prior to the date of their application, with no breaks, even where any break would be a permitted absence on another GBM route. This also cannot include any time spent working in the UK.
Job at an appropriate skill level
To score 20 points for skill level, the job the applicant is being sponsored to do must be skilled to level 6 or above (graduate level) on the Regulated Qualifications Framework for England and Northern Ireland, or the equivalent level in Wales or Scotland. Where this requirement applies, the worker doesn’t necessarily need to have a degree-level qualification but the work they do must be a graduate level role.
Salary at the required level
To score 20 points for salary, applicants must be paid at least £23,100 per year (increased from £23,000 under the predecessor route), or the applicable going rate for the occupation code, whichever is higher. For most occupations, the applicable going rate is 70% of the full going rate, although for some health and education occupations, workers must be paid the full going rate. Of note, if the amount the sponsor intends to pay the worker is below these rates, their visa application will be refused. If permission is granted, but it subsequently transpires that the worker is not being paid in line with these rates, the worker’s leave may be cancelled and the sponsor’s licence revoked.
The applicant must score these mandatory 60 points to be awarded a UK Graduate Trainee visa. However, they must also satisfy all the other non-points requirements under the rules, such as the financial requirement, otherwise their visa application will be refused.
How to apply for a UK Graduate Trainee visa
To apply for a UK Graduate Trainee visa, an application must be made online by the individual using the reference number found on their CoS. An application can be made for a Graduate Trainee visa up to 3 months before the day the applicant is due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on the sponsorship certificate. This is an electronic record containing various details, including information about their job role and start date.
As part of their application, the applicant will need to prove their identity and provide certain documents in support, where they may need to attend an appointment to do this. They may also need to provide their fingerprints and a photo, known as their biometric information.
The documentation needed will include a valid passport or other travel document to prove the applicant’s identity and nationality. The applicant will also need evidence that they’ve worked for their employer outside the UK for 3 months, details of their training programme, proof of personal savings, where applicable, and tuberculosis test results if from a listed country.
Once an application for a UK Graduate Trainee visa has been made, and the applicant has proved their identity and provided their supporting documentation, they’ll usually get a decision within 3 weeks, although they may be able to pay for a faster decision.
An individual can apply for entry clearance under the UK Graduate Trainee route. However, they cannot apply to switch to a Graduate Trainee visa from inside the UK. This is because they need to have worked for their employer overseas for 3 months immediately before they apply.
What are the application costs for a UK Graduate Trainee visa?
When applying for a UK Graduate Trainee visa, in addition to being able to show proof of funds, there will be an application fee and an immigration health surcharge for each year of the applicant’s stay in the UK. The application fee is set at £259 and the healthcare surcharge is £624 per year. The applicant will be told how much they’ll need to pay when they apply.
How long does a UK Graduate Trainee visa last?
Graduate Trainees can come to the UK for up to one year at a time. However, this is up to the maximum cumulative period permitted on the GBM routes of 5 years in any 6-year period. This means that any previous permission the worker has had on any of the GBM routes, or the former ICT routes, will be taken into account by the Home Office when deciding what, if any, permission they can be granted under the Graduate Trainee route.
Equally, because of the 3 month overseas work requirement, a Graduate Trainee visa-holder cannot extend their visa, but they can apply for another Graduate Trainee visa from outside the UK, provided they don’t exceed the maximum cumulative period permitted.
A Graduate Trainee visa-holder can work in different job roles for their UK sponsor during their period of permission without needing to make a new application, provided the sponsor notifies the Home Office of any changes. In addition, each job must be related to the visa-holder’s graduate training programme and they must continue to meet the requirements of the route. However, a change of job role will not serve to extend the visa-holder’s leave.
Can dependants join visa holders on the UK Graduate Trainee visa route?
A Graduate Trainee visa-holder can be accompanied or joined by their spouse or partner, and dependent children, provided these individuals meet the relevant requirements for dependants. This includes a relationship and a financial requirement.
Under the financial requirement, unless the UK sponsor is able to certify maintenance for the entire family, a spouse or partner would need to show proof of funds of £285, whilst a dependent child would need £315, and any additional children would need £200 each. Each applicant would also need to pay a separate application fee and annual healthcare surcharge.
If the application of a spouse, partner or dependent child of a Graduate Trainee is successful, their visa will end on the same date as the primary visa-holder.
How we can help
DavidsonMorris’ business immigration specialists provide guidance on the Home Office requirements to deploy personnel under the Graduate Trainee route, including advice on the sponsorship obligations for employers and the visa application process for your employees.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office personnel, we can work in support of your in-house HR team or take care of all aspects of your sponsor licence and visa applications.
Our business immigration services include:
- Assisting with initial considerations as to the most appropriate type of sponsorship application
- Compiling your sponsor licence application
- Helping you to collate the appropriate supporting documentation
- Auditing your HR and recruitment systems and procedures to meet the relevant sponsor compliance duties
- Briefing or training staff on their compliance duties and responsibilities
- Advising on the UKVI ‘genuineness’ test and assessing whether a prospective employee satisfies the points criteria before the sponsor issues a certificate of sponsorship
- Guidance on sponsorship-related fees, both for the application and ongoing
- Advice on assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to skilled visa workers
- Advising on alternative UK immigration options to support your UK recruitment and talent requirements
- Licence renewal applications
- Dealing with sponsor licence suspensions and revocations
UK Graduate Trainee FAQs
What is the UK Graduate Trainee visa?
The UK Graduate Trainee visa is for individuals being transferred to the UK by their overseas employer for a work placement as part of a structured graduate training programme leading to a senior managerial or specialist role.
Do you need to be sponsored for the UK Graduate Trainee visa?
To be eligible for a UK Graduate Trainee visa, the applicant must be sponsored by a Home Office approved sponsor authorised to sponsor this category of workers.
How much is the UK Graduate Trainee visa?
The fee to apply for a UK Graduate Trainee visa is £259. The applicant must also usually pay an immigration health surcharge for each year of stay in the UK at £624 per year.