UK Post-Study Migration Pathways
International students place post-graduation benefits as an important factor when deciding where to study. The experience international graduates gain—and income derived—from employment after graduation is important to offset their family’s financial investment and help repay their study loans.
Students on a Tier 4 student visa can typically stay in the UK for up to 4 months after completing their studies – or up to 6 months if they were enrolled in a Master’s degree program. This extension is available to give students time to find meaningful employment in the UK after their graduation.
For students interested in living and working in the UK after graduation, there are a few work-related visas that they may be eligible for. These visas are outlined below for informational purposes. For further details, students should refer to the UK Visa and Immigration website (UKVI) and/or consult with an authorized immigration professional to discuss their options.
Graduate Immigration Route – New for 2021
In September 2019, the British government announced a new Graduate Immigration Route, which will become available in Summer 2021. Under the Graduate Immigration Route, eligible international students will be able to stay and work (or look for work) in the UK for up to two years after completing their studies. It is not mandatory for students to have secured employment to stay in the UK through this route.
The Graduate Immigration Route is only available to international students who have started their studies in fall of 2020 or later and/or have completed their degree-level courses in or after the summer for 2021 (this visa pathway is only available to graduates of undergraduate & postgraduate programs. The Graduate Immigration Route is non-extendable and does not count towards settlement. However, graduates who find an appropriate job and meet the requirements will be able to switch to a Tier 2 or General Work visa, which is a route to settlement.
Limited details are publicly available at this time as the government is still formulating the framework to operate this new immigration route.
General Work Visa ( Tier 2)
Students with a UK Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, or another postgraduate qualification may apply for the Tier 2 General Work Visa if they have been offered a skilled job in the UK by a licensed employer. Students have to be sponsored by an employer listed in the Register of Licensed Sponsors to be eligible for this visa. The employer provides the student a Certificate of Sponsorship, which is required to apply for this visa.
Students must apply for the Tier 2 work visa before their Tier 4 student visa expires. The Tier 2 visa is issued for a maximum of 5 years and 14 days, or for the time given on the student’s certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter. Students must also apply for their dependant if they will be staying in the UK with the student.
Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange visa (Tier 5)
The Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa lets workers stay in the UK for up to 12 or 24 months (depending on the scheme they’re applying for), or for the time specified on the employee’s certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days, whichever is shorter. This visa is only suitable for graduates looking for a short period of work in the UK as they will have to leave the country once their visa expires. They cannot switch into a different visa in the UK (such as Tier 2).