At long last, you’ve achieved what you set out to achieve. You arrived in the UK a few years ago with a suitcase and a dream. After years of rigorous studying, numerous course deadlines, and enough alcohol to kill an elephant, you are now the proud holder of a degree from a UK university.
But where do you go from here?
If it’s your wish to return to your homeland now that you’ve graduated, then thanks for coming, we enjoyed meeting you, and we hope you enjoyed your stay (and we look forward to the favourable TripAdvisor review). However, if you want to stay in the UK for a little while longer to work and start building your career and your future, there are options available to you.
What with Brexit, government reforms, and, of course, Covid_19, 2020/21 is a more confusing time for international students than in previous years. However, this article will attempt to guide you through the proverbial minefield.
The Graduate Route
Assuming you want to stay in the UK after completing your studies (or even if you’re only considering it at this stage), there’s a good chance you’ll have to apply for a separate work visa. To find out whether you’ll require a separate visa, head over to https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.
In the summer of 2021, the UK government will launch the Graduate Route. It will be available to all international students who have completed a degree at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. The Graduate Route will enable you to live and work in the UK for a further two years after completing your degree. If you have achieved a PhD, this is extended to three years.
You can find an incredibly long description of the Graduate Route on the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website. However, the most important details you need to be aware of are as follows:
- As an international student, you are eligible for the Graduate Route. However, bear in mind that you have to have completed a degree at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, at an officially-recognised Higher Education Provider, to qualify. You must also hold a valid student visa at the time of your application.
- Assuming your application is successful, you will then be able to stay, work, and look for work in the UK for up to two years (or three if you have completed a PhD). Although you cannot extend your visa, you can switch to a Skilled Work visa once you’ve landed a suitable job.
- In the summer of 2021, the Graduate Route will be available to international students who graduate after its launch, including those whose courses have already started.
- You will need to put in a new visa application to be considered for the Graduate Route.
- Bear in mind that the Graduate Route will be subject to the Immigration Health Surcharge, as well as a visa fee.
Unfortunately, if your Tier 4 visa expires before the Graduate Route is launched, then you will not be eligible to apply for it. However, don’t despair! You will, of course, still be able to apply to switch to a Skilled Work visa, provided you’ve found a suitable job by the time your Tier 4 visa runs out.
Alas, no article written in 2020 or 2021 is complete without mentioning the global pandemic and its impact on even the best-laid plans made during ‘pre-Covid’ times. Unfortunately, this article is no exception.
However, fear not. You will still be eligible for the Graduate Route, provided you meet any of the following criteria:
- Your course began during the academic year of 2020/21, even if you were forced to begin your degree online in your home country due to an inability to travel to the UK.
- You are currently unable to travel to the UK, but your course is due to be completed during the summer of 2021. However, be aware that you must arrive back in the UK by April 6th, 2021, at the latest, to be still eligible for the Graduate Route. You must also complete your final semester in the UK.
- You’ve already started/ or are due to start a one-year master’s course in January 2021. If this is the case, your deadline for re-entry into the UK is September 27th, 2021. As with the previous example, you must also complete your final semester in the UK to qualify.