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What is the UK’s Graduate Route?

uk graduate route

Key Takeaways:

  • UK’s Graduate Route makes it easier for foreign students to stay in the UK by removing the need for sponsorship
  • The new route aims to increase the number of international students to 600,000 a year
  • The Graduate route aims to bring in more talent and revenue into the UK’s economy 
  • For foreign students, the new Graduate Route increases their chances of getting settlement rights in the UK

On July 1, 2021, the UK opened its new Graduate route for international students who want to stay in the UK after they graduate to work or look for work. Why did the UK implement it and what does it mean for international students?

The UK’s Graduate Route

The new Graduate Route opens a new work route for international students who have a valid student visa when they apply and have finished a degree or other relevant qualification from an approved higher education provider in the UK. 


The Graduate Route makes it easier for foreign students to stay in the UK and look for work by removing the need for a sponsorship, job offer, or endorsement (from the university or employer), which was a requirement in the UK’s previous post-study visa rule. 


Successful applicants of the Graduate Route visa can now stay in the UK for two years, or three years if they graduated from a Ph.D. program.


group of graduating students in UK

Why the UK Implemented the New Graduate Route

The Graduate Route was first announced in 2019. According to the UK government, it is part of the government’s effort to support its education sector on its commitment to the International Education Strategy. 


According to a policy paper by the UK government, this strategy aims to “increase education exports, recover and grow sustainably.” Thus, part of the international education strategy’s goals is to: 

  • Increase its education export up to £35 billion a year, and 
  • Increase the number of international students in the UK to 600,000 a year. 


Moreover, the Graduate route also aims to increase the number of talented people in the UK. According to Kevin Foster, minister for Future Borders and Immigration, as the country rebuilds itself from the effects of the global pandemic, it wants the world’s brightest talent aspiring a career in business, science, the arts, and technology to see the UK as a place to fulfill their dreams. 


Aside from talent, the new Graduate Route is also meant to bring in more money into the UK. In 2012, the UK scrapped its post-study work visa, which previously allowed foreign students to stay in the country for up to two years post-graduation. 

An industry report found that this decision actually cost the country around £150 million a year. On the other hand, a group of international students who stay in the UK to work after graduation can bring in £3.2 billion in taxes to the UK economy.

What the Graduate Route Means for International Students

The new Graduate route can help successful applicants switch to the Skilled Worker route. The Skilled Worker visa allows foreign nationals to get an eligible job in the UK and stay in the country for up to five years, and if applicable, extend their stay. To be able to switch to a Skilled Worker route, the individual must demonstrate the following: 


  • Will be paid the minimum salary of £25,600 or higher or depending on the type of work
  • Can speak English (intermediate level or B1 according to the Common European Framework)
  • Has a job offer from an employer approved by the Home Office 
  • Has a job offer that is included in the list of eligible occupations


A Skilled Worker visa can also make it easier to permanently settle in the UK (AKA the “indefinite leave to remain”). The Graduate route, meanwhile, does not directly count to getting settlement rights. However, the amount of time a foreign individual spends in the UK can be counted. 


To be eligible for settlement, a foreign national needs to live and work in the UK for a minimum of five years. 


Visit the MSM website now to learn more about the UK and its new Graduate Route visa.

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