The Graduate Visa

ILPA documents

Prepared by Mukta Varsani, Senior Solicitor at Santa Fe Relocation Services

This new category of visa gives the applicant permission to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing an eligible course in the UK. If an applicant has a PhD or other doctoral qualification, a period of permission will be granted for three years rather than two.


The requirements for the route include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The applicant must be in the UK to meet the Validation requirements for this route.
  • The applicant must have, or have last had, permission as a Student (which includes Tier 4 (General) Student). According to the Graduate route caseworker guidance Version 1.0, published 1 July 2021, an applicant in the UK who has been given a period of exceptional assurance and has not overstayed that period (having held valid permission on the Student or Tier 4 (General) routes) can also meet this Validation requirement.
  • The applicant must have studied a UK bachelor’s degree, UK postgraduate degree or other relevant qualification for a minimum period of the course for which they were last granted permission to study on the Student route. Apart from permitted study abroad programmes, the applicant must have studied the course in the UK for at least 12 months or the full length of the course, whichever is shorter. 
  • The applicant must have successfully completed that course.
  • The higher education provider for the course must be a licensed sponsor with a track record of compliance on the date of application.

Appendix Graduate of the Immigration Rules can be read in full here.  

COVID-19 concessions on distance learning

If an applicant undertook distance learning overseas between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021, the requirements are relaxed a little.

The Immigration Rules provide that an applicant who undertook distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will not be prevented from satisfying the requirement to have studied in the UK for a minimum length of time if:

(a) they began their course in 2020 and entered the UK on or before 21 June 2021 and complete that course of study in the UK with permission as a Student; or

(b) they began their course in 2021 and entered the UK before 27 September 2021 and complete that course of study in the UK with permission as a Student.

The caseworker guidance states that:

“Students who began a course lasting 12 months or less in 2020 or 2021 via distance learning, and who have not previously entered the UK to study that course will be able to make a Graduate application if they make a successful Student visa application and arrive in the UK either before their permission ends or by 27 September 2021, whichever is sooner. Such Students must complete their course in the UK when they enter if they have not already completed their course while they were studying overseas.”

The Rules state that any period spent studying outside the UK between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 as part of a course lasting more than 12 months when the applicant held a Student visa will not prevent the applicant from satisfying the requirement to spend the necessary minimum period studying in the UK.

Dependent partner and children

If an applicant has a dependent partner or dependent child on their Student visa, they can also apply to stay as dependants of a Graduate. A dependent partner will be granted permission ending on the same date as the main applicant and a dependent child will be granted permission ending on the same date as whichever of their parents’ permission expires first.

If you want to stay longer

One cannot extend a Graduate visa, however one may be able to switch to a different route, for example a Skilled Worker visa, including a Health and Care Worker visa.

What a Graduate visa holder can and cannot do

The Graduate visa holder can:

  • Work in most jobs;
  • Look for work;
  • Be self-employed;
  • Do voluntary work;
  • Study if the chosen course is not eligible to for a Student visa;
  • Travel abroad and return to the UK whilst holding a valid Graduate visa.

The Graduate visa holder cannot:

  • Apply for most benefits (public funds), including state pension credit;
  • Work as a professional sportsperson.  


The current Home Office application fee for a Graduate visa is £700, with a £55 reduction for citizens of Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

The healthcare surcharge is £624 for each year of visa issued. Persons who work in a health or care role may be eligible for a refund.

The Graduate visa route is one which should be explored by those who hold permission as a Student and wish to gain experience in the UK on completion of their studies.

Document Date
Friday October 1, 2021