Graduate Visa Route

The Graduate Visa Route will open to all eligible students on 1 July 2021.


The Graduate Visa Route (GVR) is a visa available to international students who have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance and, who have a valid Tier 4 or Student visa at the time of application.

The GVR will replace the Doctorate Extension Scheme visa once it comes into effect.

The GVR will be launched on 1 July 2021. It is part of the UK Governments points based immigration system and is a flexible 2 year post study work visa which does not require sponsorship from an employer or endorsement from the University. PhD graduates will be granted a 3 year visa. You will be able to undertake or look for work at any salary or skill level and even be self employed.

The UKCISA webinar on the new Graduate Route is now live on their website

Join us on 16 May at 2pm UK time for a live Ulster University webinar on applying for the Graduate Visa Route.

Register now

  • What are the eligible qualifications? 

    To be eligible for the Graduate Route, you must have successfully completed one of the following courses:

    • An undergraduate degree
    • A masters degree
    • A PhD degree or other doctoral qualification

    Or one of these qualifications:

    • 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) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE).
    • A professional course requiring study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above in a profession with reserved activities that is regulated by UK law or UK public authority.
  • Where and when can I apply?

    It will be possible to apply after 9.00am on 1 July 2021. We expect further guidance on making an application to be published before this time.   You will need to make a valid application on a specified form and pay all visa and immigration healthcare fees. You will need to be in the UK to apply for this visa and have a valid Tier 4/ Student visa at the time of application. It will not be possible to apply from your home country/ outside of the UK.

    You will not be able to switch from any other type of visa into this route e.g. short term student, DES, student visitor. You will need to apply after you receive your official degree result and before your current Student Visa expiry date. For some PGT students this may mean that you only have a short window of time to make the application. However, you do have right up until your student visa expiry date to apply. As long as you make an in time, valid application before your current student visa expires your leave will be automatically extended under Section 3C leave and you will not become an overstayer whilst the Home Office processes your application.

    You cannot apply if you have previously held a Doctorate Extension Scheme or Graduate route visa. You can only hold this visa on one occasion.

  • What are the costs associated with applying? 

    We understand from the Government fact sheet the visa application fee will be £700. You will also have to pay £624 per year for the Immigration Health Surcharge. There is no minimum maintenance requirement for this route and so you will not be required to show a certain level of funds in your bank account at the time of the application.

    However, you should consider how you will be able to support yourself in the UK and especially if you are not able to find work immediately. You will not be eligible for public funds (benefits) on this visa or financial help from the University after you graduate.

  • I have changed course from that issued on my original CAS, will this impact my application?

    If your CAS was assigned for an integrated programme, and you successfully completed an undergraduate or postgraduate degree as part of that programme, you can use that degree as the relevant qualification. This is only for degrees, not for other types of course. If you were allowed to switch to a different course without applying for new Tier 4 or Student permission, you can use that new course as the relevant qualification.

    If the course provider changed the name of your course without changing the content, or if they added an assessed work placement or study abroad programme, this does not stop you meeting the qualification requirement. If your last period of Tier 4 or Student permission was granted to work as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer, it is fine if the relevant qualification was gained during your period of Student or Tier 4 permission immediately before it.

    You should consider the wider economic situation in the UK and find out about your work prospects in the UK and in your Home country before you apply for this visa.

  • When do I have to return to the UK if I want to apply in 2021?

    Students who began a course of 12 months or less in 2020 via distance learning, and who have not previously entered the UK to study that course will be able to make a Graduate route application if they make a successful Student visa application and arrive in the UK on or before 21 June 2021 to complete their course.

    Students who began a course of 12 months or less in 2021 via distance learning and who have not previously entered the UK to study that course will be able to make a Graduate route application if they make a successful Student visa application and arrive in the UK on or before 27 September 2021 to complete their course.

    Students who began a course of 12 months or less in 2020 or 2021 who have existing permission as a Student to study that course, and who have already travelled to the UK during that period of permission, will be able to make a Graduate application as long as they are present in the UK before the end date of their course.

    Students sponsored for a course lasting longer than 12 months will not be prevented from being eligible for the Graduate route as a result of any distance learning that took place either in the UK or overseas between the period of 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021. For example, you are an undergraduate student with a Tier 4/Student visa who entered the UK to start their programme in September 2018.  You then spent time outside the UK distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 and intend to successfully complete your course in June 2021. To be eligible for the Graduate route, you must return to the UK and submit your application before your Student visa/Tier 4 visa expires.

    Please note that if you hold a visa type other than a Student/Tier4 visa and you have been distance learning from the beginning of your programme then you will need to apply for a Student Visa from overseas before returning to the UK to be eligible for the Graduate Route in 2021.

  • When do I have to return to the UK if I want to apply for the Graduate Route in 2022 or beyond?

    If your course started at any time and is more than 12 months in duration, then any time that you spend outside the UK distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will not prevent you meeting the Graduate route eligibility requirements.  In these circumstances, you must return to the UK and apply for the Graduate route before your Student visa/Tier 4 visa expires.

    For example, you are an undergraduate student with a Tier 4/Student visa who entered the UK to start their programme in September 2019.  You then spent time outside the UK distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 and intend to successfully complete your course in June 2022.  To be eligible for the Graduate route, you must return to the UK and submit your application before your Student visa/Tier 4 visa expires.

  • How do I submit an application for the Graduate Route?

    The Graduate route will require a new visa application, which will only be possible from inside the UK. It will include the payment of a visa fee of £700 and the Immigration Health Surcharge at the full rate of £624 per year. Students will also need to know the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) they used for their most recent Student (or Tier 4) application in order to apply for the Graduate route.

  • When can I start to work?

    While your Graduate route application is pending, you can continue to work under the conditions of your Student or Tier 4 permission. When your Graduate route permission is issued you can do any work, can take work at any level of salary or skill, be either employed or self-employed, except working as a professional sportsperson or coach.

  • Can I study with the Graduate Route Visa?

    The rules state that you cannot study any course which could in theory be sponsored under the Student route. Examples of permitted study would therefore include:

    • Part-time undergraduate course
    • English language courses
    • Some professional courses
    • Online study
    • Evening classes
    • Recreational courses
  • Can my dependents apply with me?

    A dependent is usually your husband, wife or unmarried partner or child aged under 18.  To apply as a Graduate Route dependent they must already be in the UK as your Tier 4 or Student dependent and be applying to extend their stay in line with your application under the Graduate Route.

    The exception would be a baby born in the UK at a later date.  Unfortunately, it will not be possible for a dependent to join you later from outside the UK.

    If you would like your dependent to join you you may need to apply for them to join you in the UK as your Student dependent before your Student visa expires or consider alternative visas. For example the skilled worker visa does allow dependents to join you at a later date.

    Dependents will also have the right to work apart from as a sportsperson or sports coach.  They are also able to study without restriction. Other eligibility criteria are in line with student dependent rules.

  • Can I extend my visa or stay longer?

    If you would like to stay in the UK on a longer term basis or settle here indefinitely, please note that the Graduate Visa  Route is not a direct route to settlement.

    If you do wish to settle in the UK you may wish to look at the Skilled Worker visa which is a 5 year route to settlement. This is the main skilled worker route in the UK. Further information can be found here