What is the change? The United Kingdom has announced plans for a new visa category for international students who have completed their studies in the U.K.

What does the change mean? International students who have valid U.K. student immigration status and have successfully completed a course of study in any subject at the undergraduate level or above at a government-approved college or university will be eligible to apply for a visa to work, or seek work, in any position within the U.K., for two years after completing their studies. The Graduate Route will apply to the 2020-21 university intake of students and those coming to study in the U.K. thereafter. The Graduate Route is similar to the two-year Post Study Work Visa the U.K. government discontinued in 2012.

  • Implementation time frame: The new Graduate Route will launch for the 2020-21 intake of students to university.
  • Who is affected: Eligible international students graduating from U.K. universities.
  • Business impact: The new visa category will allow businesses to employ international graduates from U.K. universities for two years after they have completed their studies, without the requirement to sponsor them on a skilled work visa. This means that businesses will no longer be required to adhere to migrant-specific minimum salary thresholds, which may fall outside of their existing salary bands. There is no requirement for businesses to offer migrants in the Graduate Route permanent contracts in order to employ them.

Additional information: The Graduate Route will offer two-year visas to eligible international graduates to live, work and seek work in the U.K. for a period of two years after graduating from a U.K. university, which is significantly longer than the current four months they are allowed. It will also allow them two years to seek a job that meets the skill requirement for them to switch to a skilled work visa.

The announcement goes further than the proposals included in the government white paper, published in December 2018, which stated that international undergraduate and master degree students would be permitted to work in the U.K. for six months (12 months for Ph.D. students) after completion of their studies. Under the Graduate Route, they could to switch to a skilled work visa, currently called a Tier 2 General visa, if they find a job that meets the skill requirement of that route.

Under current U.K. immigration rules, the Tier 2 General visa allows eligible migrants the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the U.K. after working in the U.K. for a period of five years.

Analysis & Comments: This announcement indicates that the current U.K. government wishes to make it easier for international students graduating from university to live and work in the U.K. after completing their studies and provides business with greater flexibility in employing recently graduated international students. It is important for students and businesses to be aware that the Graduate Route will not apply to those currently studying in the U.K., but only to those students who are part of the 2020-21 intake.

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