From 1 July a new graduate visa route will open up, which the government claims will allow the UK to ‘retain the brightest and the best international students’.
To qualify, international students must have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider, with a track record of compliance with the government’s immigration requirements. They must score 70 points, accrued by successfully completing their studies; getting a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or certain professional qualifications like the LPC for lawyers or PGCE for teachers; and being in the UK for a minimum length of time, depending on the duration of the course and subject to exceptions for distance learning between January 2020 and September 2021 (because of coronavirus).
The change was announced as part of new immigration rules introduced in parliament on 4 March.
Students on the graduate route will be able to work or look for work after their studies for a maximum period of two years, or three years for doctoral students.
It is intended that the new route will operate for all areas of the UK, ensuring that communities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can benefit from individuals who want to stay after their studies.
Immigration experts say that, potentially, graduate visa holders, for whom no sponsor licence is needed, could provide an important pool of skills for employers unable to sponsor skilled workers.
The same restrictions on dependants apply as for the student route: only partners and children already in the UK as student dependants qualify.
Minister for future borders and immigration Kevin Foster said the changes would ensure that once students “have received a gold standard qualification from one of our world leading education institutions they can easily secure the status they need to continue living, working and fulfilling their dreams in the UK.”
Chetal Patel, partner at Bates Wells said the changes were “excellent news for students and employers” and welcomed the additional two years to pursue suitable employment after their studies in the UK end.
She added: “Students will have greater flexibility to pursue careers in their desired fields after their studies. Employers will benefit from having access to a larger pool of new international talent without having to pay sponsorship costs.
“This sends a positive message as we enter the post-Brexit, post-pandemic era. The UK is open for business and these post-graduates will play an important role in the country’s economic recovery.”