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UK Graduate Route: What international students should know

Graduate route
The Graduate route will allow students to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level for two years. Source: Geoff Robbins/AFP

The UK Home Office has opened its new post-study work visa for international students on July 1, which would allow international graduates to apply for the right to stay for job experience at the end of their university programmes. According to reports, this move will serve international students in India the most. 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. 

Gov.uk notes that international students must have completed an eligible programme at a UK higher education provider, with a track record of compliance with the government’s immigration requirements to apply. The Graduate Route will be unsponsored, meaning applicants will not need a job offer to apply. 

There will neither be minimum salary requirements nor caps on the number of applications. Graduates on the route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their careers as required.  The new route will help the government to achieve the ambition set out in the International Education Strategy to increase the number of international students in higher education in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.

Graduate Route will benefit Indian students

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a press release, “Our world leading universities welcome thousands of international students every year. As we build back better, it is vital that the UK continues to be a beacon for talented young people across the globe who want to make a difference. The new Graduate route does just that, giving the best and brightest graduates the opportunity to continue contributing to the UK’s prosperity and the freedom to kickstart their careers in the UK.”

Patel was quoted saying by PTI via The Economic Times: “To put it into some context, last year more than 56,000 Indian nationals were granted a student visa, that’s a 13% increase on the previous year, and that is almost now a quarter of all student visas issued by the UK. When you think about those numbers, think about the totality in terms of how this route will benefit India — it’s a very, very big move. And, we will continue to work with the various academic institutions on making this route viable,” she said

COVID-19 visa concessions extended for next intake

According to The PIE News, the UK’s Minister for Immigration Kevin Foster confirmed on July 1 that COVID concessions around a requirement to be in the UK to study will be extended to April 6, 2022 for the next intake. This means newly arriving international students can begin studying remotely if health and visa protocols require them to do so — they will still be eligible for work rights upon graduating.

“Those are the rules that relate, for example, to blended learning and distance learning,” Foster was quoted saying, addressing UKCISA Conference delegates. “We are keen to avoid this way a surge of travel in late September, early October, not least given a number of our biggest markets for international students, India, Pakistan and I think Nigeria [Nigeria currently on amber travel list] remain on both the UK government and the devolved administrations’ red lists which would mean to enter managed hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK.”

Foster said that the government would encourage students to consider April 6 as a “deadline, not a target for arrival.” He added that they hope the world will be in a much better position come February and March next year, particularly with vaccination programmes advancing rapidly across many countries. According to the latest guidelines, students who started their courses in autumn 2020 or spring 2021 are required to be in the UK by September 27, 2021.

International students can view the Graduate Route guide here, and view the factsheet here.