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Posted July 1, 2024

Lowdown on the UK’s Graduate Visa

UK Graduate Visa ApplicationThe Graduate Visa is a post-study work visa implemented in the UK in July 2021, allowing international students to work in the UK after their studies. Here is the detailed guide of what the Graduate Visa provides, the recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), and its implication on international postgraduate students in the UK.

What does the Graduate Visa allow?

The Graduate Visa lets students stay in the UK for up to two years, or up to three years if the student has completed a PhD, without needing an offer of employment. This flexibility makes it easier for the graduates to get employment, engage in self-employment or establish businesses. In this respect, this visa aims to help the UK strengthen its position as an educational destination, thus allowing graduates of other countries to get practical working experience in the UK and contribute to the country's economy.

To be eligible for a Graduate Visa, students must:

  • Have a UK bachelors degree, postgraduate degree, or other qualifying course.
  • Studied on a Tier 4 (General) student visa.
  • Instruct their education provider to inform the Home Office that they have successfully completed their course.

The MAC review

In March 2024, the UK Government instructed the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to look into the Graduate Visa and determine whether it serves its purpose as intended. The report, published in May 2024, indicated that the Graduate Visa has achieved most of the goals set out to enable talented students to study in the UK and to support the quality of higher learning institutions in the country. The review found no abuse of the visa route in the said generic manner and thereby suggested that the visa remain intact. This outcome supports the view that the Graduate Visa helps the UK appeal to international learners and improves the country’s higher learning.

The MAC report highlights several findings:

  • Student visa holders primarily use the Graduate Visa, with 70% of the users coming from India, Nigeria, China and Pakistan.
  • These individuals move on to professional positions to take low-paid jobs that greatly benefit the UK economy.
  • The visa route does not compromise UK higher education provisions.
  • Any further regulation and concessions should be implemented with utmost caution to avoid harming the sector.

Implications for international postgraduates

There is a clear perception that the MAC review in May 2024 has added some level of ambiguity for international students eager to study in the United Kingdom. There has been some thought that the Graduate Visa has negatively influenced university enrolment rates, especially within postgraduate taught programs. However, the MAC review found that the Graduate Visa has helped to regrow the UK economy and improved the competitiveness of the country’s education system. From 2019/20 to 2023/24, with the extended post-work rights, 600,000+ international students used this route and the UK economy benefitted from more than £60 billion. International students wishing to study at a UK university should check the result of this review to read the full findings, and if they feel it is necessary, look for other viable visa options.

International student statistics

The UK hosts many international students, according to recent figures, there were 679,000 foreign learners in the UK in 2021/22. Data from the Higher Education Policy Institute shows that one intake of foreign learners in 2021/22 increased the average revenue of each of the 650 parliamentary seats by £58 million, or nearly £560 per individual.

Other viable visa options

International students in the UK can also consider other visa options including:

Skilled Work Visa – this is available to people who have a job offer from a firm in the UK holding a sponsor license. It allows the students to stay and work in the United Kingdom for a longer duration.

Innovator Founder Visa – this is for those interested in starting a business in the UK.

Health and Care Worker Visa – this is for health and care professions to work for a certified employer in the health care sector in the UK.

Find out more about UK visas here.

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