Graduate route: International students still eligible if they enter the UK before April 2021

international students UK
A passenger wearing a face mask as a precaution against the novel coronavirus arrive at Heathrow airport, west London, on May 22, 2020. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

International graduates from UK universities don’t have to bid goodbye to their dreams of working in the UK yet.

They can stay in the UK for up to two years after graduating in summer 2021 as long as they enter the UK by April 6, 2021 and complete their final semester in the country.

Under this graduate immigration route announced last September, international students with a valid Tier 4 visa at the time of application will be able to stay and work, or look for work, at any skill level in the UK for a maximum period of two years.

After two years, they can switch to a skilled work visa to continue working in the UK if they’ve landed a job that meets the skill requirements of this route.

According to the UK Home Office, “The new route will be launched in the summer of 2021, meaning that any eligible student who graduates in the summer of 2021 or after will be able to apply for the route.

“This includes students who have already started their courses. Universities will also be able to attract students starting in the 2020/21 academic year on the basis that they will benefit.”

Given that the pandemic forced many international students to head home or prevented them from returning to the UK, many are studying remotely for the most part during the summer and autumn terms.

The latest guidance states, “If students are required to either continue their current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended learning due to COVID-19, they will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if they spent some time studying outside the UK.”

International students bring over 6.9 billion pounds in income to UK universities in tuition fees and contribute over 26 billion pounds to the wider UK economy.


A worker lays out tables and chairs outside a restaurant in advance of the planned July 4 re-opening of restaurants in London on June 30, 2020, as coronavirus lockdown measures continue to be eased. Pubs and restaurants will on July 4 be allowed to reopen, as will hotels, bed and breakfasts, self-catering accommodation and campsites, alongside cinemas, museums and galleries. Source: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

International students still unable to travel to the UK

There is no confirmation when international students can return to the UK as travel bans are still in place. Most universities will be conducting blended learning — a mix of online and face-to-face learning — for the autumn 2020 term.

Although the UK economy is slowly reopening, a recent surge in cities such as Leicester and smaller boroughs in the UK is leading to reimposed lockdown measures.

Professor Deenan Pillay, a virologist at UCL and a member of Independent Sage, the shadow government scientific advisory group, told The Guardian, “I am expecting there to be a number of Leicesters. The base level of infections going on in the UK is still much higher than it was in other countries in Europe when they started to release their lockdowns.”

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