Almost 10 years after Theresa May scrapped the popular Tier 1 (Post- Study Work) visa, the UK government is re-introducing a very similar scheme.
It is likely to come as a huge relief to international students and employers currently trying to navigate the expensive sponsored worker framework and other limited options for international graduates looking to transition into work in the UK.
This is what we know so far, based on the statement of changes to the Immigration Rules dated 4 March 2021.
This new route is designed for international students who complete their degree in the UK and who wish to remain in the UK to work, or look for work, at any skill level following successful completion of an eligible course of study at BA degree-level or above. There is no requirement for a sponsor.
The route will allow qualifying applicants who have finished their studies to remain in the UK for either 2 years following completion of their course, or 3 years if they have completed a PhD. However, it is not a route to settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain).
Individuals who already have permission as a dependant of a Student who is applying on this route can also apply to extend their permission as a dependant in this route. Other dependants are not permitted.
The new Graduate immigration route will be open for applications on 1 July 2021.
There are three eligibility criteria to be met under the Appendix Graduate route of entry.
Successful completion requirement
The applicant must have last been sponsored as a Student by a higher education provider with a record of compliance on the date of application.
The applicant must have successfully completed the course of study undertaken during their last grant of permission to study on the Student route.
The Student sponsor (i.e. the Higher Education Institution) must have notified the Home Office that the applicant has successfully completed their course of study by the date of the Graduate application.
The applicant will meet the qualification requirement if they have successfully completed their course in the UK and been awarded one of the following:
- a bachelor’s degree;
- a postgraduate degree; or
- a ‘relevant qualification’
‘Relevant’ qualifications include specified law conversion courses, the Bar Practice Course, foundation programs for medicine and dentistry, a PGCE or PGDE, or “a professional course requiring study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority”.
Study in the UK requirement
The applicant must have studied in the UK for a minimum period of the course for which they were last granted permission to study on the Student route:
|Total length of course
||Relevant period of Student permission granted during which all study took place in the UK (apart from permitted study abroad programmes)
|12 months or less
||Full duration of course
|Longer than 12 months
||At least 12 months
A reminder also that the definition of Student in the immigration rules means
a person who has, or had, permission under Appendix Student, or Appendix ST: Student of the rules in force immediately before 1 December 2020, or as a Tier 4 (General) Student under the rules in force before 5 October 2020.
So individuals who have previously held Tier 4 (General) status would be eligible under the scheme.
Note: concessions for students unable to travel to the UK due to COVID-19
The Home Office has announced in the rules that there will be some flexibility within the relevant minimum period requirement where distance learning took place overseas between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021, due to the pandemic. The rules state
Applicants who began their studies in Autumn 2020 have until 21 June 2021 to enter the UK with permission as a Student and complete that course of study in the UK in order to be eligible to apply to the Graduate route. Applicants who began their studies in 2021 will need to enter the UK by 27 September 2021 with permission as a Student and complete that course of study in the UK in order to be eligible to apply to the Graduate route.
Any period of distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 as part of a course of study lasting longer than 12 months whilst the applicant held permission as a Student, will not prevent the applicant from meeting the minimum period requirement under the Graduate route.
Length and conditions of visa
As mentioned above, applicants applying on the basis of completion of a PhD, will be granted 3 years leave to remain. Those applying on the basis of completion of other specified qualifications will be granted 2 years.
Individuals on the Graduate visa route will not have access to public funds but will, crucially, have permission to work (including self-employment and voluntary work), apart from work as a professional sportsperson.
As this is not a route to settlement, graduate visa holders will need to apply to switch into a different visa category at the end of the 2 or 3 year period.
In particular, Graduate visa holders will be able to apply to the Skilled Worker, Global Talent or Innovator routes from within the UK.
Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) is dead! Long live Appendix Graduate!
As mentioned above, the previous post-study work was scrapped in April 2012.
It is ironic that, in the same statement of changes in which the Appendix Graduate route has been announced, the last reference to Tier 1 (Post-study work) was deleted:
In paragraph 6.2, delete ““Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) migrant” means a person who was granted leave under paragraphs 245F to 245FE of the rules in force before 6 April 2012.”
Either way, the return of the route is to be welcomed.