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9 March 2021

UK’s New Graduate Route to open

On 4 March 2021, the UK government published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, which includes a new Graduate route that is intended to increase the attractiveness of the UK as an international study destination. This new immigration route opens to applications on 1 July 2021.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
UK’s New Graduate Route to open

By Samantha Lang

Legal Intern


The Graduate route is for international students in the UK who want to work or look for work for a significant period following the successful completion of an eligible course of study at an approved UK Higher education provider.

The Graduate route will be unsponsored, which means that applicants will not need a job offer to apply for the route.

What are the eligibility requirements?

The Graduate route will be available to international students who:

  • Have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a UK Higher Education Provider
  • Have a track record of compliance with the government’s immigration requirements
  • Have valid Tier 4 or Student permission at the time of their application
  • Have studied in the UK for at least 12 months, or for the full course duration if for 12 months or less
  • Successful completion and qualification requirement

You must have successfully completed a course of study at a UK higher education provider for which you have been or will be awarded a:

  • UK bachelor’s degree,
  • UK postgraduate degree,
  • UK PhD degree or other doctoral qualification, or relevant UK qualification.

Compliance with immigration requirement

You must not:

  • fall for refusal under Immigration Rules part 9: grounds for refusal
  • be in the UK in breach of immigration law, or
  • be on immigration bail.

Permission as a student

You must have valid Tier 4 or Student permission at the time of your application. Accordingly, the deadline to apply is the expiry date of your Tier 4 or Student permission.

If you graduate and your Student permission expires before the route is introduced, you will not be eligible, but you can apply to several other routes: Skilled Worker, Start-up, Innovator or Global Talent visas, among others.

Study in the UK requirement

You must have studied in the UK for a minimum period of your course, as in the table below.

Total length of courseRelevant period during which you must study in the UK
12 months or lessFull duration of course
Longer than 12 monthsAt least 12 months

However, there are certain Covid-19 concessions if you are unable to travel to the UK due to the pandemic, which enable you to still meet the ‘Study in the UK requirement’.

Courses started in 2020 for 12 months or less

If you began your studies in Autumn 2020, you have until 21 June 2021 to enter the UK with Student permission to be eligible for the Graduate route.

Courses started in 2021 for 12 months or less

If you began your studies in January or February 2021, you have until 27 September 2021 to enter the UK with Student permission to be eligible for the Graduate route.

Courses started at any time for more than 12 months

If you spent any time studying outside the UK between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021, this will not affect your application.

The Application Process

Applications for the Graduate route open at 09:00 on 1 July 2021 on the GOV.UK website.

The application must be filed from the UK. If you are currently outside the UK with valid Student permission, you will need to travel to the UK before it expires to apply under the Graduate route.

How long can you stay in the UK post-study?

Most successful applicants can stay in the UK for two years. Ph.D. graduates can stay for three years.

Type of QualificationPeriod granted from date of decision
PhD or other doctoral qualification3 years
All other qualifications2 years

Streamlined change to Skilled Worker status

Graduates holding a Graduate route permit will be able to apply to the Skilled Worker route from within the UK, once they have found a suitable job.

Ready for assistance?

If you have any questions, or want to book an appointment with one of our legal experts, contact Woodcock Law today. Call us on +44 (0)20 7712 1705 or email

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