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UK’s new Graduate route will open to international students on July 1

Graduate route
This Graduate route is for students who have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider. Source: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP

The UK’s new Graduate route, a post-study pathway that allows international students who want to stay on in the UK after successfully completing their studies, will open for applications from July 1, said the UK Home Office on Thursday. This route is for students who have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider.

Interested students must have a track record of compliance with the government’s immigration requirements to apply. Students on the Graduate route will be able to work or look for work after their studies for a maximum period of two years; doctoral students have three years. In 2019, the Department for Education announced this new immigration route. The work visa duration was reduced to four months during former UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s time as Home Secretary in 2012.

The previous policy for two-year work visas was scrapped after being deemed “too generous,” to the dismay of international students. The dismissal of the policy is said to be partly responsible for the drop in international student enrolments seen across the country in recent years.

What students should know about the Graduate route

Graduate route

Eligible master’s graduates will have two years to work or look for work in the UK after successfully completing your course. Source: Justin Tallis/AFP

“The launch of the new Graduate route shows that the government is continuing to deliver on its key manifesto promise to implement a points-based immigration system, which will attract talent and ensure that businesses can recruit the most highly qualified from across the globe to drive the economy forwards,” said the UK government in a statement.

With the Graduate route, international students will be able to work in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Graduate route will be unsponsored, meaning applicants will not need a job offer to apply for the route. There will neither be minimum salary requirements nor caps on numbers. Graduates on the route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their careers as required. The new route will help the government to achieve the ambition set out in the International Education Strategy to increase the number of international students in higher education in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.


COVID-19 concessions for students unable to travel to the UK due to the pandemic have also been extended, recognising the continuing disruption many  are facing due to international travel restrictions. Applicants who began their studies in Autumn 2020 will now have until June 21, 2021 to enter the UK (updated from April 6, 2021) to be eligible for the Graduate route. Students who began their studies in January or February 2021 will need to be in the UK by Sept. 27, 2021. 

“As we rebuild from the global pandemic we want the world’s brightest talent, who aspire to a career at the highest levels of business, science, the arts and technology to see our UK as the natural place to fulfil their aspirations,” saysMinister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster.

The Graduate route comes as the government unveiled plans to launch another new immigration route that will help start-ups and fast-growing firms recruit the talent they need to innovate and grow as part of a range of measures for highly skilled migrants. As part of the route, highly skilled migrants with a job offer from a recognised high-growth firm will qualify for a visa without the need for sponsorship or third-party endorsement. 

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