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The United Kingdom's New Graduate Immigration Route for Students

The U.K.’s new Graduate Immigration Route will benefit Indian students who have completed their graduation, post-graduation or PhD from any college or university in the U.K. and want to stay further to find work. The article discusses the eligibility and conditions for applying for a visa under this program, the features of such visa, and the formalities that are required for a successful application.

The United Kingdom’s New Graduate Immigration route has been announced and it is set to benefit Indian students who want to stay in the U.K. for post-study work opportunities. Generally, the students studying in the U.K. immigrate to the country under their student visa based on which they can stay there for up to five years if their course is at degree level and up to two years if it is below degree level. Therefore, once their visa expires, such students have to return to India unless they have alternative immigration routes to either extend their visa or apply for a different visa depending on their profession and education.

What is the Graduate Immigration Route?

From 1st July 2021, international students who have completed an undergraduate or master’s degree or PhD will be able to obtain a  graduate visa to stay and work, or look for work, in the U.K. at any skill level for a maximum period of two to three years, as the case may be.

Conditions and Eligibility:

  • The Graduate Route (program) is available only to international students who have a valid student visa or a Tier 4 (General) Student visa at the time of filling the application.
  • The students must have completed an undergraduate level degree or a higher degree at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance.
  • Such degree or qualification must have been obtained from studying in the U.K., that is, from a college or university in the U.K. itself.
  • Such students, after their successful application, will be able to stay back to work, or look for work, in the U.K. at any skill level for a period of up to two years.
  • Students who have completed their PhD will be able to stay for a period of up to three years to work or to find work.
  • Since the program has been launched on 1st July 2021, only students who graduate after this date will be eligible to apply for it. This includes students who have already started their courses.
  • An application for the  graduate visa can only be made from inside the U.K. As such, eligible students wanting to apply must be present in the U.K. with their student visas.
  • The applicants must also know their Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) letter and unique CAS number. A CAS letter is an electronic document issued by a university in support of a student visa application after the applicant has accepted an offer and paid the required deposit amount to secure his or her place at a college or university in the U.K.
  • The applicants would need their Biometric Residence Card or Permit (BRC/P) which would have been given to them when they were granted their student visa or Tier 4 (General) Student visa (Tier 4 visa).
  • However, the students studying online from their home country because of Covid-19 have been allowed to apply for the  graduate visa provided they meet the other requirements.

As part of its Guidance on “Coronavirus (COVID-19): student sponsors, migrants and short-term students”, the United Kingdom’s Government has “set out temporary policy concessions for student sponsors, students and short-term study students in response to the coronavirus pandemic”Such concessions will be kept under regular review and will be withdrawn once the Covid-19 situation returns to normal. Under the guidance, the U.K. Government has clarified that:

  • International students who began a 12-month course or a course of lesser duration in 2020 or 2021 via distance learning, and who have previously not entered the U.K. to study that course, will still be able to make an application on the condition that:

a) They make a successful student visa application.
b) Once the application is made, they must arrive in the U.K. either before their visa ends or by 27th September 2021, whichever is sooner.

  • Students who began a 12-month course or a course of lesser duration in 2020 or 2021; who have existing permission as a student to study that course; and who have already travelled to the U.K. during such period of permission, will be able to make a successful application on the condition that they are present in the U.K. before the last date of such permission.
  • Students who have been sponsored for a course that lasts longer than 12 months will not be prevented from being eligible for the program because of any distance learning that took place either in the U.K. or in any other country between the period of 24th January 2020, and 27th September 2021

What If Someone Wants to Stay Longer in the U.K.?

The visa ( graduate visa) obtained through the Graduate Immigration Route cannot be extended further. However, on the completion of its duration, a person may apply for a different visa, subject to eligibility, such as Skilled Worker, Start-Up, Innovator or Global Talent visas, among others.

When Can a Person Apply?

  • A person must apply before their student visa or Tier 4 visa expires.
  • They can apply as soon as their university or college informs them of the successful completion of the course they took with their student or Tier 4 visa. As such, they do not have to wait unless they have graduated or have been given a certificate.

What Can a Person Do with a Graduate Visa?

With a  graduate visa, a person can:

  • Work in most of the jobs.
  • Find work in the U.K.
  • Become self-employed.
  • Continue living in the U.K. with his or her partner or child, subject to their eligibility.
  • Do volunteer work.
  • Travel abroad and return to the U.K.
  • Study in the U.K. if their chosen course is not eligible for a student visa.

However, a  graduate visa holder cannot apply for benefits such as public funds and State Pension or work as a professional sportsperson.

Costs with the Application

The application fee for the  graduate visa is GBP 700. Additionally, the applicant must pay the healthcare surcharge which is usually GBP 624 for each year the applicant stays in the U.K.

Who Else is Eligible?

  • The partner and children who joined a current student visa holder or a Tier 4 visa holder in the U.K. as his or her “dependants” are eligible to apply under the program to stay as dependants on that person’s  graduate visa.
  • A person’s child who was born in the U.K. during his or her student visa or Tier 4 visa period is also eligible to stay in the U.K. on that person’s  graduate Visa.
  • For this purpose, a dependant partner or child means any of the following:
  • Husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner.
  • Child under 18 years of age, including the child born in the U.K. during the applicant’s stay under the student or Tier 4 visa.
  • Child over 18 years of age if they are currently in the U.K. as a dependant.
  • With regard to their partner, the  graduate visa applicant must be able to prove that the partner is a dependant and that:
  • They are in a civil partnership or a marriage that is recognised under the laws of the U.K.
  • They have been living together in such a relationship for at least 2 years preceding the date of the application.
  • With regard to their child under 18 years of age, the applicant must provide proof, such as a U.K. birth certificate or a special guardianship order from a court, which establishes that:
  •  The child was born in the U.K. during the applicant’s student or tier 4 visa tenure, and
  •  The applicant is the child’s father or mother.
  • With regard to their child of 18 years of age or more, the  graduate visa applicant must be able to prove that his or her child:
  • Has been dependent on applicant’s student visa or Tier 4 visa.
  • Lives with the applicant. This is not mandatory if the child is in full-time education at a boarding school, college or university.
  • Is not married, in a civil partnership or has any children.
  • Is financially supported by the applicant.
  • If the applicant’s child lives with him or her in the U.K., the applicant must provide evidence of their address, such as:
  •  Bank statement
  •  Credit card bills
  •  Driving licence
  • NHS registration document
  •  An official letter from the university or college of the child.
  • Each family member must complete a separate application and pay the visa fee separately. In their application, they must provide:
  • A valid passport or any other document that shows their identity and nationality.
  • They are BCR/P if they were given one when they had applied to be a dependant on the  graduate visa applicant’s student or Tier 4 visa.
  • The Unique Application Number (UAN) of the  graduate visa applicant.
  • The visa tenure of such partners or children will be the same as the  graduate visa holders.

How Long Does the Process Take?

The entire process of the application and its verification and approval for both the  graduate visa applicant and his or her dependants usually takes 8 weeks.

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