Graduation-Immigration options

Immigration options following graduation

A couple of weeks ago, we presented a visa session for students at a University of Manchester employability event, held at Alliance Manchester Business School. In 2020-21, more than 600,000 international students were studying in the UK. For those graduating in 2022, we take a look at options for remaining in the UK beyond graduation.

Further Study

It is, of course, open to students to undertake further study in the UK, but a new Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) will be required from a Student Sponsor. It is also likely that students will need to comply with an academic progression requirement. Academic progression usually requires the new course to be at a higher level to the course previously studied, but there are exceptions to this. For example, if the Student Sponsor confirms the new course relates to the previous course studied, or supports a student’s genuine career aspirations, then a student can study a further degree at the same level as the degree already completed.

Students must bear in mind that, for those studying at sub-PhD degree level, a student visa can only be held for a maximum period of 5 years. Once again, there are exceptions to this requirement for those studying certain subjects such as architecture, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and science, music at a college that is a member of Conservatoires UK, or law.

The Student route itself does not lead to settlement, although lawful time spent in the UK as a student may be relied on for the purposes of a future long residence application based on 10 years’ continuous lawful residence.

Graduate Route

The Graduate route is open to all international students who have successfully completed an eligible course of study at Bachelor’s degree level or above. Students must have studied in the UK, and will need to apply for permission to remain prior to their student visa (which includes permission to remain as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer) expiring. Graduates will receive permission to remain for 2 years, unless they have completed a PhD or other doctoral qualification, in which case permission to remain for 3 years will be granted.

The Graduate route is beneficial because students do not need sponsorship to secure a Graduate visa, and Graduates can undertake employment at any skill level with any employer in the UK.

Whilst the Graduate route does not lead to settlement, those that hold a Graduate visa can switch into an alternative category of the Immigration Rules in-country before the expiry of their Graduate permission to remain, and can rely on the time they have spent in the UK for the purpose of a future long residence application.

Skilled Worker

If a student is offered suitably skilled employment with a Sponsor that holds a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, a switch into the Skilled Worker category may be possible. This is beneficial because the Skilled Worker route leads to settlement after holding Skilled Worker permission to remain for a continuous and lawful period of 5 years.

The job must be eligible for sponsorship, and the correct salary must be paid. The salary payable will depend on the role offered, but students or graduates switching into the Skilled Worker route are usually subject to a minimum salary requirement of £20,480 per annum or 70% of the going rate for the job being undertaken (whichever is the highest). The hourly rate must also exceed £10.10. If the role is suitable for sponsorship, the employer will be able to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), which can be used to support a Skilled Worker visa application.

English language and financial requirements apply to a Skilled Worker application; the first of these is met if you hold a UK degree. There are also requirements in relation to the period of time Skilled Workers can benefit from the lower salary threshold of £20,400 / 70% of the going rate, so it’s important to receive immigration advice about the proposed offer of employment to avoid an application being refused or potential compliance action by the Home Office in the future.


The Start-up route is for those who have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body approved by the Home Office (many universities are endorsing bodies). If the application is successful, Start-up migrants can receive permission to remain for a maximum period of 2 years, and in the future, can consider a switch into the Innovator route. A future Innovator application will still need support from an endorsing body, and to secure further permission to remain as an Innovator, the business must be active, trading, sustainable, and significant progress must have been made against the business plan.

The Innovator route leads to settlement after 3 years – Start-up and Innovator permission to remain cannot be combined to reach the requisite 3 year period.

Global Promise and Talent

This route is defined in the Immigration Rules as follows:

The Global Talent route is for people aged 18 or over in the field of science, engineering, humanities, medicine, digital technology or arts and culture who can show they have exceptional talent or exceptional promise.

To succeed, an applicant will need to prove that they are a leader or potential leader in academia or research, arts and culture or digital technology. An endorsement is usually required before a Global Talent visa application can be pursued; endorsements can be secured from Arts Council England, Tech Nation, The British Academy, The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Royal Society, or UK Research and Innovation

Further information about the Global Talent is available on our website; see: here and here.

Any other options?

Of course, but many depend on your circumstances. For instance, students could consider securing a visa as the family member of another individual who holds permission to remain in the UK, or could consider a switch into the partner category of the Immigration Rules if they are in a relationship with a British citizen, a settled person, or an EEA national who holds pre-settled status.

There is also the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa route for those who have been awarded a degree or PhD overseas by an eligible university in the last 5 years. The HPI route is similar to the Graduate route, and enables graduates to come to the UK for 2 or 3 years in order to work; however, to remain in the UK on a permanent basis, HPI migrants will need to consider a switch into a longer term route, such as the Skilled Worker route.

As the UK’s immigration system contains many different options for graduates, both in the UK and overseas, it is important to seek advice about your options. If you would like to speak to one of our experts about your options following graduation, call us now on 0300 131 6767 or complete our online enquiry form.

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