UK Graduate Visa


Graduate Visa

An Overview of Graduate Visa

The UK, with its rich academic history and plethora of job opportunities, has always been a coveted destination for aspiring students and young professionals. Acknowledging this, the UK government has introduced the Graduate Visa, a route designed to retain foreign talent and contribute to the country’s thriving economy. The Graduate Visa is a beacon of hope for international students, offering a pathway to extend their stay in the UK post-graduation and step into the professional realm. This visa not only bridges the gap between education and employment but also enriches the UK’s diverse workforce with fresh perspectives and skills.

Who is this Visa For?

The Graduate Visa is specifically tailored for international students who have successfully completed a course of study at a UK bachelor’s degree level or above with a Home Office approved higher education provider​3​. It’s a post-study work visa aimed at those looking to either commence their careers or seek employment in the UK following their graduation​​.

The eligibility for this visa mandates that applicants must be in the UK at the time of application, holding a current Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa. The education provider, such as the university or college, must inform the Home Office about the successful completion of the course by the applicant. It’s essential that the course pursued is eligible under the guidelines provided by the Home Office.

In summary, the Graduate Visa for the UK is an excellent opportunity for international students to leap into the professional sphere, cherishing the blend of cultural and professional exposure the UK offers. With the UK being a hub of global corporations and startups, the Graduate Visa opens up a world of possibilities for young aspirants to build a promising career while contributing to the UK’s socio-economic fabric.

Purpose of the Visa

The primary objective of the Graduate Visa is to facilitate a smooth transition from student life to professional engagement for international students. It aims at retaining the talented individuals who have received their education in the UK, allowing them to contribute to the local economy. The visa offers several advantages including not requiring a pre-existing job offer, allowing flexibility in terms of salary, skill level, and the option to be self-employed​1​. This visa route is beneficial both for the graduates and the UK’s economic landscape as it retains skilled individuals who are likely to contribute significantly to the country’s workforce.

Furthermore, the Graduate Visa extends an invitation to international students to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing their course. For those with a doctoral qualification, the visa tenure extends to three years​2​. During this period, visa holders have the liberty to work in most jobs, look for work, engage in self-employment, and even do voluntary work. They are also allowed to travel abroad and return to the UK, continuing to live with their partner and children if they are eligible​​.

What Can You Do On this Visa?

Employment Opportunities

The Graduate Visa is primarily designed to provide international graduates with the opportunity to work in the UK. Visa holders can work full-time, part-time, or even be self-employed. They can seek employment in a wide range of sectors, allowing them to gain practical experience and contribute to the UK’s economy.

Job Search

Graduate Visa holders are given the liberty to look for work in the UK. They can explore job opportunities, attend interviews, and interact with potential employers, aiding their transition from academic life to a professional career.

Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship

Individuals on a Graduate Visa are allowed to embark on entrepreneurial ventures. They can start their own business or work as freelancers, which fosters innovation and contributes to the UK’s vibrant business ecosystem.

Voluntary Work

Engaging in voluntary work is permissible under the Graduate Visa. This provision allows visa holders to contribute to the community, gain new skills, and build networks which could be beneficial for their future careers.

Travel Abroad

Graduate Visa holders have the flexibility to travel abroad and return to the UK. This feature enhances the appeal of the Graduate Visa, allowing individuals to visit their home countries or travel for leisure or work.

Family Reunion

The Graduate Visa provides a pathway for visa holders to continue living in the UK with their partner and children, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. This provision supports family unity while individuals pursue their career goals in the UK.

Further Education

Under certain conditions, Graduate Visa holders can pursue further education. However, this is subject to the nature of the course and its eligibility under the UK visa regulations, allowing for a balanced approach between work and continued learning.

In essence, the Graduate Visa opens up a myriad of opportunities for international graduates, making the UK an attractive destination for higher education and subsequent employment.

What You Cannot Do On this visa

Access to Public Funds

Under the Graduate Visa, individuals are not permitted to access public funds. This restriction extends to various benefits provided by the UK government, including the State Pension. This limitation is in place to ensure that visa holders are financially self-sufficient during their stay in the UK.

Professional Sportsperson Activities

Holders of the Graduate Visa are prohibited from working as a professional sportsperson. This includes playing sports professionally, coaching teams, or engaging in other related activities at a professional level. This restriction aligns with the primary purpose of the visa, which is to enable graduates to find skilled work in their field of study.

Visa Extensions

The Graduate Visa has a fixed term and does not offer the option for extension. Once the visa term, which is two years for most graduates and three years for doctoral graduates, expires, individuals must either switch to another type of visa or leave the UK. It’s essential to plan ahead and explore other visa or residency options if you wish to extend your stay in the UK beyond this period.

Studying Certain Courses

Although the Graduate Visa does provide some flexibility for further education, it restricts enrolment in courses that are eligible for a Student Visa. Individuals wishing to pursue further studies in such courses will need to transition back to a Student Visa.

Additional Restrictions

Upon successful application, the UK government provides a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts for Graduate Visa holders. It’s advisable to thoroughly review this list and ensure compliance with all the terms and conditions stipulated in the visa to maintain a legal status in the UK throughout the visa’s validity period.

Key Takeaways of this visa

Broadened Employment Horizons

The UK Graduate Visa significantly broadens employment horizons for international students who have completed their higher education in the UK. It provides a generous window of two to three years, depending on the level of qualification, for graduates to seek and secure employment, or even venture into self-employment or entrepreneurship.

Ease of Transition

This visa facilitates a smoother transition from academic life to professional engagement within the UK’s dynamic work environment. It’s a boon for those who wish to gain practical work experience in their respective fields in a country known for its diverse job market and innovative industries.

No Sponsorship Requirement

One of the standout features of the Graduate Visa is the absence of a sponsorship requirement. Unlike other work visas, graduates don’t need a job offer to apply, which removes a significant barrier to entry into the UK job market.

Family Reunification

The visa also caters to family unity by allowing visa holders to have their partner and children live with them in the UK. This is an invaluable feature for those looking to settle in the UK for the medium to long term.

Access to NHS

With the payment of a healthcare surcharge, Graduate Visa holders gain access to the National Health Service (NHS), ensuring they have healthcare coverage during their stay in the UK.

Limited Study Options

While the visa primarily focuses on employment, it does offer limited further study options under certain conditions. This gives a semblance of flexibility for those looking to enhance their qualifications while residing in the UK.


The UK Graduate Visa is a well-rounded offering, providing a conducive environment for international graduates to kickstart their careers, reunite with family, and enjoy a comfortable standard of living in the UK. Its benefits extend beyond employment, reflecting a holistic approach to attracting and retaining global talent.


Eligibility Criteria For Graduate Visa

Navigating through visa processes can often be a daunting task due to its complex nature and the stringent criteria that accompany it. However, understanding the eligibility requirements is the first step towards a successful visa application. The Graduate Visa for the UK has set forth several conditions that applicants must meet to qualify for this post-study work route. Here’s a breakdown of the eligibility criteria that prospective applicants must adhere to:

Visa Eligibility Essentials

  1. Current Visa Status:

    • Applicants must be in the UK when they apply for the Graduate Visa.
    • They should hold a current Student Visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa.
  2. Educational Qualifications:

    • Applicants must have successfully completed a course of study in the UK.
    • The course should be at a bachelor’s degree level or above.
    • The educational institution must be a Home Office approved higher education provider.
  3. Course Completion Confirmation:

    • The education provider, such as the university or college, must have informed the Home Office about the successful completion of the applicant’s course.
    • Applicants can inquire with their education provider if they are unsure whether the Home Office has been informed about their course completion.
  4. Visa Duration:

    • The Graduate Visa allows a stay of 2 years in the UK post successful course completion.
    • For those with a doctoral qualification, the visa tenure is extended to 3 years.
  5. Healthcare Surcharge:

    • Applicants are required to pay a healthcare surcharge as part of their application, which is usually priced at £624 for each year they’ll be in the UK.
Transition to Graduate Visa

The transition to a Graduate Visa should be initiated before the expiration of the current Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa. It is crucial to ensure that all the eligibility criteria are met to avoid any setbacks in the visa application process.

Additional Considerations

There are certain additional considerations for individuals working in the public sector healthcare. For instance, doctors, nurses, or individuals engaged in health or adult social care may be eligible to apply for a Health and Care Worker Visa instead, which is a more cost-effective option. Furthermore, if such individuals secure a job in public sector healthcare after paying the healthcare surcharge, they may be eligible for a refund.

In a nutshell, understanding and meeting the eligibility criteria is paramount for a hassle-free Graduate Visa application process. It’s advisable for prospective applicants to meticulously check all the eligibility requirements and ensure they comply before proceeding with their application. Preparing in advance and adhering to the stipulated guidelines can significantly smoothen the path towards securing a Graduate Visa and embarking on a rewarding professional journey in the UK.


The Application Process For the UK Graduate Visa

Embarking on the journey towards securing a Graduate Visa for the UK requires a thorough understanding of the application process. The procedure, while meticulous, is straightforward if followed diligently. Here’s a step-by-step guide to navigating the application process for the Graduate Visa:

Preparing for the Application

  1. Document Preparation:

    • Ensure you have all necessary documents ready. This includes your passport, proof of successful course completion, and other relevant documentation as specified by the UK government.
    • It’s advisable to check the latest document checklist on the official UK government website to ensure you have all required documents.
  2. Healthcare Surcharge Payment:

    • As part of the application, you’ll need to pay a healthcare surcharge. Ensure you calculate the correct amount and have the funds ready.
  3. Online Account Creation:

    • Create an online account on the official UK government website where you’ll be submitting your application.

Submitting Your Application

  1. Online Application:

    • Fill out the online application form accurately and completely.
    • Upload scanned copies of all required documents.
    • Pay the application fee and the healthcare surcharge.
  2. Identity Verification:

    • As part of the application, you’ll need to verify your identity.
    • Follow the instructions provided in the application form to schedule an appointment for identity verification if required.
  3. Additional Information:

    • If additional information or documents are requested, provide them promptly to avoid delays in processing.

Post Submission

  1. Application Review:

    • Once submitted, your application will be reviewed by the UK government.
    • You may be contacted if further information or clarification is needed.
  2. Decision Notification:

    • You’ll be notified of the decision on your visa usually within 8 weeks of submission.
    • While waiting for a decision, you can stay in the UK if your student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa is still valid.
  3. Visa Collection:

    • Upon approval, follow the instructions provided to collect your visa.

Ensuring a Smooth Transition

Taking the time to thoroughly prepare and double-check all aspects of your application can significantly contribute to a smooth visa application process. It’s advisable to start the application well in advance of your current visa expiration to allow ample time for any unexpected delays. Moreover, keeping yourself updated with the latest guidelines and requirements from the official UK government website can provide clarity and ensure you are well-prepared for each step of the application journey.

Through careful preparation and adherence to the guidelines, the path to securing a Graduate Visa, and thereby a promising professional future in the UK, can be a reality. The Graduate Visa stands as a testament to the UK’s commitment to fostering a diverse and vibrant workforce, paving the way for aspiring individuals to contribute to the UK’s socio-economic landscape while achieving their career aspirations.


Studying a Further Course in the UK Under Graduate Visa

Under the Graduate Visa, individuals have the allowance to pursue further education in the UK; however, there are certain conditions attached. One can only study a further course if the chosen course is not eligible for a Student Visa. In cases where the course is eligible for a Student Visa, individuals would need to extend their current Student Visa instead. This provision ensures that the Graduate Visa serves its primary purpose of facilitating employment post-graduation, while still providing some flexibility for further education. The eligibility for studying further essentially depends on the type of course and its recognition by the UK visa regulations. It’s advisable for individuals to thoroughly check the eligibility criteria and consult with their education providers or legal advisors to understand the implications of studying further under a Graduate Visa. This way, they can make informed decisions and ensure compliance with the UK’s immigration rules, making the most out of the opportunities presented by the Graduate Visa.


Medical Treatments Under the UK Graduate Visa

Under the UK Graduate Visa, holders are required to pay a healthcare surcharge as part of their application, which grants them access to the National Health Service (NHS) during their stay in the UK. This surcharge covers a wide array of medical treatments. The NHS provides comprehensive healthcare services, ranging from routine check-ups and emergency care to specialized treatments. This provision ensures that Graduate Visa holders have the necessary medical coverage, promoting their well-being while they work or seek employment in the UK. However, it’s advisable to understand the extent of coverage provided and consider additional private insurance if necessary.


UK Graduate Visa If You're Under 18

The UK Graduate Visa is aimed at international students who have completed a higher education course in the UK. Typically, this implies that applicants would be over the age of 18. However, if an individual under the age of 18 has completed an eligible course, they may still be able to apply for this visa, provided they meet all other eligibility criteria. It’s crucial to consult with legal advisors or the UK visa and immigration office to understand the specific regulations and provisions concerning underage applicants. Ensuring a clear understanding of the eligibility and application process will help in navigating the visa application efficiently.


After You Have Applied for the Visa

After applying for a UK Graduate Visa, await confirmation. It may take up to three weeks or longer, so be patient. Keep track of your application status online. Meanwhile, start preparing for your trip by researching about local customs, laws, and places you’d like to visit. It’s also essential to organise travel insurance covering health, travel delays, and losses. If you’ve not booked your flights and accommodations, wait and DO NOT buy ticket until your visa is approved to avoid potential losses. Remember to pack essential documents, including your passport with your visa, proof of financial sustenance, and return tickets. Lastly, make sure your passport validity extends beyond your travel dates.

Visa Fee and Processing Time

Embarking on this matrimonial journey begins with a fee of £115, which is the cost of the Marriage Visitor Visa application. The processing time, as of 2023, ranges between 4 to 6 weeks, although a straightforward case might result in a quicker decision by the Home Office​​.

Tracking Progress on Your Visa Application

Though there is no standard and easy way to track your visa application, you can ask for the concerned authorities for an update on your visa application. But you should not expect a quick response.

Getting a Decision on the Visa Application

In most of the cases you are informed about the decision on your visa application by the email for which the email address you gave during your visa application, is used. If you have requested an SMS alert service, you will also get an alert about the completion of your visa application processing process through an SMS.

What to Do if the Visa is Refused

In this visa category you don’t get a right of appeal or an administrative review.  This means that the only option for you is to try to remove the objection and apply again (unless you were refused with 720A).

Extending Your Stay Under the UK Graduate Visa

The UK Graduate Visa offers a fixed term of stay post-graduation: two years for most graduates, and an extended period of three years for those with a doctoral qualification. Once this term expires, the visa cannot be extended further. However, individuals wishing to remain in the UK have the option to switch to other types of visas. For instance, one could transition to a Skilled Worker Visa if they secure a job offer from a recognized UK employer meeting the salary threshold and other criteria. Additionally, other visa routes might be available depending on individual circumstances, such as starting a business under the Start-up or Innovator Visa. It’s advisable to explore these options well in advance of the Graduate Visa expiration to ensure a smooth transition. Engaging with immigration advisors and checking the latest UK immigration policies will provide clarity on the available pathways to extend your stay in the UK beyond the Graduate Visa term.


Q1: Can I bring my family members to the UK on a Graduate Visa?

A: Yes, your partner and children can apply to stay in the UK if they are eligible.

Q2: Is there a language requirement for the UK Graduate Visa?

A: No, there isn’t a language requirement for the UK Graduate Visa.

Q3: What is the application fee for the UK Graduate Visa?

A: The application fee for the Graduate Visa is £822.

Q5: What happens if my application for a Graduate Visa is rejected?

A: If your application is rejected, you may have the option to appeal the decision or apply again if your circumstances change.

Q6: Can I apply for the Graduate Visa from outside the UK?

A: No, you must be in the UK when you apply for the Graduate Visa.

Q4: Can I switch from a Graduate Visa to another visa type?

A: Yes, you can switch to a different visa type, for example, a Skilled Worker visa, provided you meet the eligibility criteria for the new visa type.

Q7: How long does it take to process a Graduate Visa application?

A: It usually takes around 8 weeks to process a Graduate Visa application once all documents and identity verification are completed.

Q8: Can I work full-time or part-time under the Graduate Visa?

A: Yes, you can work full-time or part-time, and you can also be self-employed under the Graduate Visa.

Q9: What happens if I don’t find employment during the tenure of my Graduate Visa?

A: The Graduate Visa does not require you to have a job offer, so not finding employment does not affect your visa status during its validity. However, you must transition to another visa type or leave the UK once your Graduate Visa expires.

Q10: Can I access public funds while on a Graduate Visa?

A: No, you cannot access public funds or the State Pension while on a Graduate Visa.

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