Getting A UK Graduate Visa: Everything You Need To Know
With many globally renowned universities and a vibrant multicultural landscape, the UK is one of the top destinations for students around the world. And with a Graduate visa, you can stay on in the UK even if you’ve completed your studies.
Introduced in 2021, this visa opportunity has led to a surge in students arriving from Nigeria, Bangladesh, and other countries around the world. So if you’re considering applying, you won’t be alone — there are lots of international graduate communities in cities across the UK.
Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the UK Graduate visa scheme, including how to apply, how much it costs, and who’s eligible for this type of UK visa.
What is the UK Graduate visa?
A Graduate visa is designed for international students currently studying in the UK who want to stay in the country after completing their course. It allows you to work, become self-employed, volunteer, or continue your studies in the UK for two years (or three years if completing a PhD).
Who is eligible for a Graduate visa in the UK?
To be eligible for a Graduate visa, applicants need to meet all the following criteria:
- You must hold a valid Student visa.
- You must already be in the UK.
- You’ve studied an undergraduate or postgraduate degree (or another eligible course) for the minimum study period:
- Courses lasting 12 months or less: You must have studied for the full course duration.
- Courses lasting more than 12 months: You must have studied for at least 12 months.
- Your college, university, or student sponsor has informed the Home Office that you’ve completed your course.
Ask your contact at your university if they’ve told the Home Office that you’ve completed your course.
You can’t apply for another Graduate visa if you’ve previously been granted a Graduate visa.
How to apply for a Graduate visa
You can apply online for your Graduate visa as long as you meet all the requirements above. You’ll need to have some time left on your Student visa to remain in the UK while your Graduate visa application is processed.
To apply online, you’ll need:
- The CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) number from your Student visa.
- Proof of identity (such as your passport).
You might also need to supply biometric information (like fingerprints) through UKVCAS if you haven’t supplied it before.
If your partner or children are joining you in the UK, you might also need proof of your relationship with them (such as a marriage or birth certificate).
You don’t need to wait for your course certificate to apply for a Graduate visa. As long as the Home Office knows you’ve completed your studies, you can submit your application.
How long does a Graduate visa last?
If your application is successful, you can stay in the UK for two years on a Graduate visa. Those who are doing a PhD (or another doctoral degree) can stay for three years to complete their next course.
If you’re planning to continue your studies in the UK, you might be able to extend your Student visa rather than applying for a Graduate visa.
How long does the Graduate visa take to process?
It can take up to eight weeks for your Graduate visa application to be processed, so it’s a good idea to submit your application as early as you can.
However, lots of applicants report getting a decision much sooner than this.
UK Graduate visa costs
It costs £822 to apply for a Graduate visa. On top of this, you’ll also need to pay the healthcare surcharge, which entitles you to NHS care throughout your stay in the UK. The healthcare surcharge normally costs £624 per year.
What happens when your Graduate visa expires?
You can’t extend your Graduate visa. Once you reach the expiry date, you’ll have to leave the UK or apply for a different visa. This also applies to your partner and children (unless they have their own spouse visa, UK citizenship or indefinite leave to remain).
When your Graduate visa expires, you might be eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa. You need to have a confirmed job offer before you can apply for this visa, along with a certificate of sponsorship from your employer.
If you’re currently working under a Graduate visa, your employer may be able to help you switch it to a Skilled Worker visa by becoming your sponsor and supporting your application.
Unlike a Graduate visa, a Skilled Worker visa can lead to permanent settlement in the UK (also known as indefinite leave to remain). When you’ve been living in the UK for five years, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain — but time on a Graduate visa doesn’t count towards this. So if you’re planning to settle in the UK permanently, it might be best to switch to a Skilled Worker visa sooner rather than later.
Living in the UK on a Graduate visa
If you’re thinking about staying in the UK after your studies, applying for a Graduate visa is a good way to transition from studying to working. You’ll have more employment flexibility than you do on a Student visa, enabling you to earn while living in the UK.
Joining a money club with your friends and family can help your earnings go further while you’re in the UK. You can put money aside for the future — whether you’re planning to apply for a Skilled Worker visa or move back home.
Find out more about setting up a rotating money club in the UK.
Graduate visa FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about UK Graduate visas.
Can dependents join you on a Graduate visa?
Yes, your partner and/or children can come to live with you in the UK if you have a Graduate visa. However, you’ll need to provide proof of your relationship with them, and prove you can support your family financially.
Can a Graduate visa be rejected?
According to the Immigration Advisory Service, Graduate visas have an applicant success rate of 98%.
But it’s still possible for a Graduate visa to be rejected. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements or supply the right evidence, your application is likely to be rejected.
Does a Graduate visa count towards your 5 years in the UK?
Unfortunately, your Graduate visa time doesn’t count towards your settlement time in the UK. Even if you’ve been in the UK on a Graduate visa for two years, this won’t count towards the five years you need for indefinite leave to remain. You’ll need to apply for a different visa (such as a Skilled Worker visa) to accrue this time.