Navigating the UK Graduate Visa Route

The United Kingdom offers a unique opportunity for international students who have successfully completed a qualifying UK degree – the UK Graduate Visa. This visa allows you to stay in the UK, gain work experience, and explore post-graduate opportunities. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the eligibility requirements, the application process, associated costs, processing times, and what comes next after your Graduate Visa expires.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a UK Graduate Visa, you need to meet specific criteria:

  1. Completed UK Degree: Successful completion of a UK bachelor’s, master’s, or other eligible professional degree.
  2. Study at a Recognised Institution: Your degree must be from a Higher Education Provider with a strong compliance record.
  3. Minimum Study Period: You must have held Student permission for the duration of your course in the UK, with variations based on the course length.
  4. Current UK Presence: You should be applying from within the UK and have valid leave as a Student or Tier 4 Student.
  5. No Previous Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) or Graduate Visa: Applicants should not have held permission under these schemes.
  6. Suitability: Ensure you don’t fall under refusal grounds based on suitability.

These requirements can vary depending on your circumstances, so consulting experienced immigration lawyers for expert advice, such as our at DJF Solicitors, is highly advisable. You may read more on our Graduate Visa success story here.

Eligible Courses

To be eligible for a Graduate Visa, you must have successfully completed the course you undertook with your current Student visa previously known as a Tier 4 (General) student visa. Whether you qualify also depends on several factors, including the education provider for your course, the type of course you pursued, and the duration of your studies in the UK. Read further for a detailed breakdown.

The Course You Studied

If your education provider allowed you to change courses without applying for a new Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa, you only need to have completed the course you changed to.

Your Education Provider

The education provider for your course must be a licensed sponsor with a ‘track record of compliance.’ You can verify your education provider’s status by checking for ‘Student Sponsor – Track Record’ in the ‘Status’ column.

Your Course

Typically, you must have one of the following to apply for a Graduate Visa:

  • a UK bachelor’s degree
  • a UK master’s degree
  • a UK PhD or doctorate

However, you may also be eligible if you completed any of the following:

  • a law conversion course approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • the Legal Practice Course in England and Wales, the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland
  • the Bar Practice Course in England and Wales, or the Bar Course in Northern Ireland
  • a foundation programme in medicine or dentistry
  • a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
  • a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)

You may also qualify if passing your course made you eligible for a job that’s regulated by UK law or a UK public authority. Your education provider can provide information on whether your course meets the criteria.

If You’re a Student Union Sabbatical Officer

If you’re on your current Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa because you’re a Student Union Sabbatical Officer, you can apply for a Graduate visa. To be eligible, you need to have successfully completed one of the eligible courses in the UK just before you started your current visa.

How Long You Studied in the UK For

To be eligible for a Graduate Visa, you need to have studied in the UK for a specific duration:

  • If your course’s total length is more than 12 months, you need to have studied in the UK for at least 12 months.
  • If your course’s total length is shorter than 12 months, you need to have studied for the entire duration of your course.

Moreover, you must be in the UK when you apply for a Graduate Visa.

What Counts as Time Spent Studying in the UK

Time spent studying in the UK means that you were physically present in the UK when your education provider required your presence, such as for attending lectures or meeting with a tutor. For example, even if you left the UK during term breaks or weekends, you would still count that time as studying in the UK if you were enrolled in a 1-year master’s degree.

COVID-19 Exceptions

The rules on how long you need to have studied your course in the UK may not apply if you needed to study outside the UK due to COVID-19.

  • If your Student visa or Tier 4 visa was for more than 12 months, you can count any time spent studying outside the UK between 24 January 2020 and 30 June 2022 as time spent studying in the UK.
  • If your Student visa or Tier 4 visa was for 12 months or less, you can apply if either of the following is true:
    • You started your course before 21 June 2021 and entered the UK on a Student visa on or before 27 September 2021.
    • You started your course between 21 June 2021 and 30 June 2022 and entered the UK on a Student visa on or before 30 June 2022.

Minimum Student Permission Period

Your eligibility for the Graduate Visa also depends on your Student permission period. For courses lasting 12 months or less, you must have held Student permission throughout the entire duration of your course in the UK. If your course exceeded 12 months, you should have been granted permission for at least 12 months on the Student route and spent that time studying in the UK.

COVID Restrictions

For those who studied remotely from their home country during COVID restrictions, it’s still possible to meet the study in the UK requirement. You can meet this requirement if you commenced a course of 12 months or less before certain dates and entered the UK within specific timeframes. Any distance learning as part of a course lasting longer than 12 months will not prevent you from meeting the study in the UK requirement under the Graduate route.

UK Graduate Visa Application Process

Applying for a UK Graduate Visa is a digital process. It’s essential to be physically present in the UK with valid Student leave, with no prior participation in the Doctorate Extension Scheme or possession of a Graduate Visa. Your education provider must confirm your course completion, and you can initiate the application process. Importantly, you don’t need to wait until your graduation or the issuance of your degree certificate. Use your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number from your current Student Visa to apply. You’ll also need to prove your identity, and there’s a possibility you may have to attend a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to enrol your biometric information.

Once you’ve initiated an online application, if you’re eligible, you’ll receive an invitation via email to use the ‘UK Immigration ID Check’ app. This allows you to verify your identity online, and your biometric information from your Student Visa application will be re-used. However, ineligible applicants will need to attend an in-person appointment at a UKVCAS service point to complete their application.

If your application is successful, a graduate with a PhD or another doctoral qualification will receive permission to stay in the UK for three years, while someone with a UK bachelor’s degree-level qualification will be granted permission to stay for two years.

Costs & Processing Times

When applying for a UK Graduate Visa, you’ll need to take into account the following fees, as outlined by the government website:

  1. Application Fee: The application fee for a Graduate Visa is £822.
  2. Healthcare Surcharge: Additionally, you will be required to pay the healthcare surcharge, which is a crucial aspect of your application. The healthcare surcharge is calculated based on the number of years you’ll be in the UK under your Graduate Visa. Here’s the breakdown:
    • For a 2-year Graduate Visa, the healthcare surcharge will cost £1,248.
    • For a 3-year Graduate Visa, the healthcare surcharge will cost £1,872.

You’ll be informed of the exact amount you need to pay when you submit your application. It’s essential to ensure you’ve budgeted for these fees to facilitate a smooth application process.

A Graduate Visa typically takes up to 8 weeks to process. You can remain in the UK during this period. The processing time varies based on whether you use the ‘UK Immigration ID Check’ app or attend a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point.


Under the Graduate route, the partner and dependent children of the primary visa-holder may apply to stay in the UK, provided they are already in the UK as dependants on the Student route and meet the eligibility requirements. A child born in the UK during permission to stay on the Student route can also apply.

If an application is successful, a dependent partner will be granted permission ending on the same date as their partner’s permission, while permission for a dependent child will end on the same date as the parent’s permission that ends first.

Post-Graduate Opportunities

The Graduate Visa doesn’t lead to settlement. After it expires, you need to consider switching to other work-based routes, such as the Skilled Worker, Global Talent, or Innovator Founder routes, all of which can lead to settlement.


The UK Graduate Visa is a fantastic opportunity for international students to gain valuable work experience after completing their studies. Understanding the requirements, application process, costs, and what happens after your Graduate Visa expires is crucial to making the most of this opportunity. Remember, it’s always wise to consult with an immigration lawyer to ensure a smooth and successful application.

Why Instruct Our Specialist Immigration Solicitors?

At DJF Solicitors, our team of specialist immigration lawyers will always act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meetings, we will be able to advise you in respect of your prospects of submitting a visa application before your application even reaches the Home Office UK Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation and submission of a visa application and are able to advise you in respect of your prospects and to ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.

Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation to discuss your visa application.

Contact Us

For professional guidance and assistance with your application, contact our immigration solicitors on 02030110276 or complete our contact form.

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