Those who have been dealing with immigration matters for some time will remember the old Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa (PSW). It was a lifeline to overseas students who couldn’t find work right away after finishing their degree/masters/PhD in the UK and so it was an unwelcome change when the Home Office closed the route to new applicants on 5 April 2012. This meant that unless you could find an employer that would commit to taking you on even before you had finished your course, you would then have to leave the country, so depriving the UK of the benefit of the investment the educational system had just made in you. 2012 was a big year for immigration and the scrapping of the PSW was just one of many changes introduced solely to make it harder for people to apply and so to achieve the Government’s political goal of reducing net immigration (and regardless of its dubious merits in this specific case).
Well, the PSW is back. This time it’s called the Graduate visa, and it opened for applications today, 1 July. The reason for introducing the Graduate visa is, as the Home Office puts it brightly, to allow the UK to “retain the brightest and the best international students to continue to contribute to society and the economy post-study”, almost as if this had not been the effect of the old PSW in the first place.
Similarly to the PSW, the Graduate route will be available to international students who want to work in the UK or to look for work in the UK once they have completed a degree at bachelor’s level or above. Those completing a UK bachelor’s or master’s degree will be able to apply to remain here for a maximum of 2 years; PhD students will be given up to 3 years. There is no requirement for the students to find work skilled to a particular level. It is however important to note that applications must be made from within the UK. Students who began studying in Autumn 2020 or Spring 2021 will therefore need to be in the UK with permission as a Student by 27 September 2021. Those beginning a course starting in Autumn 2021 or early 2022 will need to be in the UK by 6 April 2022 in order to qualify.
If the applicant already has dependants in the UK under his/her Student/Tier 4 visa, they will be able to apply as his/her dependants on the Graduate route also, but new dependants cannot (unless they are a child born during the Tier 4/Student visa permission).
The associated costs will be:
- £700 – Application fee
- £624 per year – Immigration health surcharge
Example: a student finishing a PhD will need to pay a total of £2,572 for a full 3 years ([£624×3] + £700); bachelor’s or master’s students are looking at £1,948.
The Home Office has also confirmed that time spent in the UK under the Graduate visa will not count towards the 5 year settlement qualification, although it will count if applying for settlement under the 10 year route.
For most applicants, the process will be entirely digital. The application process will start on the gov.uk website, and applicants will then be directed to the UK Immigration ID Check app to verify their identity on an Android or Apple phone. Whilst we are regrettably still waiting for the Home Office to publish the full guidance (why??, when the system is now up and operational), the actual application page is already live with full instructions on how to apply, (see here) and applications are being accepted as of now.