UK to introduce two-year work visa for international graduates

Out-Law News | 12 Sep 2019 | 3:04 pm | 2 min. read

International students will be allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduation in order to work, or find longer-term employment, the Home Office has announced.

The new 'graduate' visa route will be open to those who have previously held a student visa, and who successfully complete a course of study in any subject at undergraduate level or above at an approved UK higher education provider. The new visa will be made available in time for use by those starting higher education in the 2020-21 academic year.

The UK previously offered a post-study work visa to international graduates. However, this was abolished in 2012.

Hennessy Joanne

Joanne Hennessy

Legal Director

In a time of great uncertainty about the future political and immigration landscape in the UK, this positive announcement will be welcomed.

Immigration law expert Joanne Hennessy of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "In a time of great uncertainty about the future political and immigration landscape in the UK, this positive announcement will be welcomed by students, employers and universities, who are trying to attract international students in an extremely competitive market".

"It can be very challenging for international students to gain graduate positions. This move will give them more time to gain vital experience to help that process. Many will be disappointed, however, that the changes are not being applied in time for next year's graduates," she said.

The government said that the new route differed from the previous post-study work visa as it would incorporate "safeguards to ensure only genuine, credible students are eligible". It will be limited to graduates of higher education institutions included on the government's register of licensed immigration sponsors.

Home secretary Priti Patel said that the announcement "demonstrates our global outlook and will ensure that we continue to attract the best and brightest".

"The new graduate route will mean talented international students, whether in science or maths or technology or engineering, can study in the UK and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers," she said.

Individuals on the new graduate route will be able to work in any job over the two-year duration of the visa. Once the two-year period expires, they will be permitted to switch to a skilled work visa if they find a job which meets the minimum requirements of that route.

International students have been permitted to remain in the UK for four months after graduating since the previous post-work study visa was abolished.

The new policy is more generous than that proposed by the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in a report to the government last year. The MAC recommended that Masters-level students be given six months and PhD students 12 months in which to find work, as well as making it easier for graduates to switch from Tier 4 student to Tier 2 work status once they had returned home.

Universities UK (UUK) welcomed the government's announcement.

"Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26 billion in economic contributions, but for too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students," said UUK chief executive Alistair Jarvis.