Making sense of the 2-year grad visa

If you’re an international student wanting to stay in the UK after graduation, you might have heard of the new 2-year Graduate Immigration Route, announced by the government in September. In this blog post, the visa experts from Student Services answer the most popular questions to explain just what this means for you.

Be aware:  The proposed 2-year Graduate Immigration Route is not yet law. Further details about the route are not expected until it is added to the UK’s Immigration Rules – this is scheduled to take place in 2021 but it is possible that it could be delayed or even withdrawn if there is a change in the UK government’s priorities.

I’m already studying at King’s and I’m going to graduate in summer 2020 / January 2021. Will I be eligible for this 2-year visa?

Unfortunately not. The new Graduate Immigration Route will not be open to students completing their course before summer 2021. You will need to look at one of the existing routes for working in the UK, such as Tier 2, Tier 5, the Doctorate Extension Scheme or the Start-up Visa.


Would I become eligible for this visa if I defer my course for a year, add an extra year to my course, or repeat a year and end up finishing after summer 2021?

UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) is currently seeking clarification on this point – but in theory, if you are in the UK on a valid Tier 4 visa and you complete your course after summer 2021 (regardless of having deferred a year, added a work placement or study abroad year, or having repeated a year of your course), you should become eligible.


I’m going to finish my course in summer 2021 or afterwards. Will I still be eligible for the graduate route if I’ve already started my course and I’m already in the UK on a Tier 4 visa?

Yes – the Graduate Immigration Route will only be open to students who are already in the UK on Tier 4. If you are an international student on another type of immigration permission (i.e. NOT Tier 4), you are extremely unlikely to be eligible for this Graduate Immigration Route.


What course do I need to complete in order to be eligible for this visa?

It will be open to international students who have successfully completed a course of study at undergraduate (RQF 6) level or above. In practice, this means anyone completing a Bachelor’s-level course or above will be eligible, but anyone completing a course below Bachelor’s degree level will NOT be eligible.


Image of an open passport with visa stamps
Photo by Agus Dietrich on Unsplash


Will I automatically have 2 years added onto the end of my Tier 4 visa?

No – you will need to make a new visa application for the 2-year Graduate Immigration Route visa, and you will need to pay a new visa application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge fee to continue accessing the NHS.


What does “summer 2021” mean?

This is a key question and “summer” can mean anything from May-September! In the above Home Office fact sheet, it says:

Any student who successfully completes their degree-level course at a qualifying institution in the summer of 2021 or after will be eligible. This includes students who are already studying. Those whose Tier 4 leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible for it.

If the Graduate Immigration Route is delayed beyond “summer 2021”,  all of the students whose Tier 4 visas expire during those summer months would no longer be able to switch into the Graduate Immigration Route, and would need to make use of the currently-existing immigration routes.


When can I start applying for graduate schemes with the hope of getting this new visa and not needing visa sponsorship from my employer?

We understand that students usually need to apply for graduate schemes up to a year in advance. If the Graduate Immigration Route opens on time in summer 2021, this would mean that students would be applying for graduate schemes from summer/autumn 2020 with the hope of starting the graduate scheme on this new 2-year visa.

But many employers won’t be up-to-date with the proposed Graduate Immigration Route and those that are might be wary of it being delayed or withdrawn.

So, you might still need to indicate in job applications and graduate scheme applications that you may require employer sponsorship in order to obtain a visa to stay on and work in the UK after your Tier 4 visa expires. In most application forms, you should be able to add information that you hope to make use of the Graduate Immigration Route if it becomes available before your Tier 4 expires.


What now?

Image of a plane flying
Photo by Nils Nedel on Unsplash

Be cautious and stay informed about the other immigration routes for working in the UK in the event that the Graduate Immigration Route is delayed.

  • You can access the Student Services webpages on working in the UK after study, or visit UKCISA’s information on these visa routes.
  • More information about switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 is available in our Tier 2 advice guide; for more detailed queries around Tier 2, do seek advice from your potential employer’s HR department, or alternatively from an external immigration specialist.
  • King’s International Student Advisers and Careers & Employability advisers deliver regular presentations on the various immigration routes available to Tier 4 students after they complete their studies, as well as how to make compelling job applications. For details on the arrangements of these sessions, keep an eye on CareerConnect and search the upcoming events for “Future Advantage”.
  • Check out the Home Office’s Fact Sheet
  • Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming blog posts about existing visa options!