The thing about study abroad plans is that they don’t just end when you graduate with an international degree. You make the decisions and choices you do considering plans several years down the line. After all, your degree creates the pathway to the career you dream of having. So, planning future work prospects is a frequent factor students consider when figuring out where they want to study. And you’re likely no exception since you’re here to look into getting your post study work visa for the UK! Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here’s our breakdown of post study opportunities in the UK!
What Post Study Opportunities Are There in the UK?
The UK is a major global financial and industrial hub. Working in this highly developed economy can have countless benefits for your career! For instance, working in a specialised field can qualify you for other visas, like the Skilled Worker Visa, to stay on in the UK. The work experience you collect also makes you a very attractive candidate in the global job market. Plus, you develop critical soft skills in one of the world’s most advanced job markets and build a global and professional network. The benefits are too great and too many to list! Naturally, this also makes the UK a very attractive destination for post study work opportunities. So, if you want to work in the UK after graduating, where do you begin?
The UK Graduate Visa
If you’re on a Student visa (or the Tier 4 (General) student visa), your next likely route after completing your course is the Graduate visa! This route lets you stay and work in the UK for up to three years, depending on your degree level. First off, you’re eligible for the Graduate visa if you:
- are applying from inside the UK
- hold a valid, current Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
- completed a UK bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral program offered by a student sponsor with a track record of compliance
- successfully completed your course, according to your student sponsor/education provider
Breaking Down the Graduate Route Eligibility Requirements
For starters, your eligibility for the Graduate visa depends on what you studied in the UK:
Your course provider must be a student sponsor with a track record of compliance
If you worked part-time as a student in the UK, you’re already familiar with this condition. Your higher education provider (HEP) must have a track record of compliance to qualify you for work while holding your Student visa. The same is the case for the Graduate route. And while this might seem very complicated and concerning, don’t worry. A grand total of 185 higher education providers in the UK meet this standard! So the chances that your course provider fits the requirements are already quite high. Nonetheless, if a post study work visa for the UK is a firm part of your plans before you begin your studies in the UK, it’s a good idea to check that your chosen schools hold the “Track Record” status!
You must have studied one of the following courses
Typically, your course must be a UK bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD/doctoral program offered by a HEP with a track record of compliance. Other courses might also qualify you for the Graduate route, such as:
- A Solicitors Regulation Authority-approved law conversion course
- The Legal Practice Course in England and Wales
- The Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland
- A Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland
- The Bar Practice Course in England and Wales
- The Bar Course in Northern Ireland
- A Foundation Medicine/Dentistry Program
- A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
- A Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)
- A course that makes you eligible for jobs under UK law or UK public authority regulation (your education provider will let you know if you’re eligible)
The length of time you studied in the UK
To qualify for the UK Graduate visa, you must attend lectures and tutorials in person, in the UK, when required for:
- At least 12 months
- The duration of your course
This generally means attending on-campus classes in the UK. However, because of the exceptional circumstances international students faced in 2020-21, there are some exemptions to this rule. Did you start your course in 2020 or 2021, or held a Student visa during this time? Not to worry – exceptions apply if you’ve been studying for a UK degree outside the country due to Covid-19 restrictions. You don’t need to physically have attended classes in the UK if you:
- Started classes in 2020 or 2021, and
- Held a student visa of 12 months or longer between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021
Note, though, that to apply for the Graduate visa you need to have been in the UK since 27 September 2021, or before the expiry of your current visa, whichever comes first.
How Do I Apply for a Post Study Work Visa for the UK?
The application is an online process. You’ll need to meet all the conditions required to kick off a successful application.
What Documents Will I Need to Apply for the Graduate Visa?
- Documents verifying your identity and nationality e.g. your passport or other travel documents
- The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) you may have received when you applied for your Student visa
- The reference number on your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) that you used when applying for your Student visa
- If you’re applying to stay in the UK with dependents (partner and/or children) – proof of your relationship with dependents
- If you’re on scholarship or have a sponsor – letter of consent from a scholarship provider or sponsor who covered your fees or living expenses in the last 12 months
- Certified translations of documents not in English or Welsh
You’ll have to scan your BRP with the UK Immigration: ID Check app. If you’re unable to scan the BRP or passport, though, you need to head over to a UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services) point for biometrics. This involves giving your fingerprints and taking photographs as part of your application!
How Much Does the Application Cost?
The overall fee for the Graduate visa application is £700. Additionally, you’ll need to pay a healthcare surcharge of £624 for each year you spend in the UK.
If you’re from one of the following countries, you get a £55 reduction on your visa application fee! This reduction applies to your visa only though. Dependents need to pay the full fee for their applications.
Republic of Cyprus
How Long is the Graduate Visa Valid For?
This depends on your degree level when you graduate. For bachelor’s and master’s degrees, you get a two-year visa. PhD and doctoral program graduates get three-year visas.
When Should I Start Applying?
You can start applying as soon as your education provider lets you know you’ve successfully completed your course. You don’t need to wait until graduation or until you hold your official certificate of completion! Typically, the processing time for the application is eight weeks. It may take longer if the immigration office needs to verify your documents. During this time, you can’t travel beyond:
- The UK
- The Channel Islands
- The Isle of Man
Leaving the country during this window might invalidate your application!
What Can I Do With a Post Study Work Visa for the UK?
With a Graduate visa in the UK, you get to:
- Work in most job sectors
- Search for work while staying in the UK
- Enter self-employment
- Travel and return to the UK
You can’t, however:
- Apply for public benefits or state pensions
- Be a professional sportsperson
- Study for a course that would generally be under a Student visa
How to Find Post Study Work in the UK
Now, this is a bit more complicated – the UK job market is pretty competitive. While you can stay in the UK looking for work on a Graduate visa, it’s a bit harder to guarantee you will get the job you’re looking for. A couple of tips when approaching post study work opportunities in the UK:
Take Advantage of Internships and Work Placements During Your Degree
Many degree programs in the UK offer a work placement as part of the course curriculum. Employers tend to prioritise applicants who have some work experience to their name already. And getting hands-on work experience while studying is a great way of making sure you graduate with the skills employers are looking for. Universities usually partner with companies and arrange work placement and internship opportunities for you. This helps you navigate the working world under the guidance of your education provider. You develop sound foundational skills and a familiarity with how things work in your job sector. This is a huge asset when you graduate and can set you apart from other prospects in the job market!
Build Connections Throughout Your Degree
Alongside the lifelong friendships you build throughout your degree, remember to curate your professional network too. You never know when a contact at a society you’re part of or someone you worked with or for creates a job opportunity for you. Having the guarantee of an employment opportunity at the time you’re applying for a Graduate visa is a huge advantage. You don’t have to deal with the uncertainty of job hunting and can enter employment soon after graduating! Even if this doesn’t happen right away, developing a professional network creates the potential for a lot more opportunities. You never know when the right one may come along!
Be Job Ready From the Get-Go
We recommend hitting the ground running with a clear idea of where you want to work and what you want to do before you apply for your Graduate visa. A clear vision and goal will reflect in your job application approach, too. Have a solid resume put together highlighting the skill sets that make you an asset within your field. What relevant experience do you have that reflects the qualities your employers are looking for? Remember, looking for full-time work is pretty different compared to part-time work. You have to put your best, professional foot forward. And this means putting together eloquent, thoughtful, and concise cover letters, building excellent interviewing skills, and more. Do you have a portfolio of work you completed for your degree? How about a research paper? Standout achievements in the clubs and societies you’ve been a part of? It helps to put all this together in a meaningful, effective way to present to employers. They won’t just look at the contents – they’ll also consider your forethought and initiative, how prolific, organised, and motivated you are.
If, for example, you’re applying for a post study work visa in the UK after master’s, you might already have some full-time work experience. Highlight these in your job applications, your cover letter, resume, and interview. We recommend drafting cover letters specific to the organisation you’re applying to. Employers can tell when someone is using a template versus when someone has taken the time to get to know the company they’re applying for. It says a lot about the type of care you’ll put into your work as a part of that company. Make sure you’re ready to hit the interview room as soon as you graduate for an edge in an already competitive job market!
Start Your Search Early
Don’t leave the job search until after you get your UK Graduate visa. You don’t need to have a sponsor or job lined up to qualify for a post study work visa for the UK. Nonetheless, it helps to know what options you have available before you take the leap and apply for the visa. Knowing what types of companies or jobs you’re aiming for helps you take a more informed approach to job searches and applications. If there’s a strong chance you’ll get the spot for specific companies or establishments, this also gives you the confidence to push ahead with your visa application.
Our Concluding Thoughts on Getting Your Post Study Work Visa for the UK
Thanks to the very streamlined application process, the Graduate visa route is an easy one to go down for eligible students! If a post study work visa for the UK is in your plans, make sure you start applying as soon as you officially complete your course. Remember, you must apply before your Student visa expires! Be sure that your course falls under the right eligibility requirements to qualify you for the Graduate visa. If you don’t qualify, there are other post study visa routes to consider instead! As with every scenario where visa applications and job searches are involved, we recommend planning and starting early. The more you know about what to expect, the better you can prepare for it!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the post study work visa UK duration?
If you graduate with a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a student sponsor with a track record of compliance, your visa is valid for two years. As a PhD or doctoral degree holder, you qualify for a three-year visa!
Can I settle in the UK after study?
You can apply for the Graduate visa route to stay and work in the UK after graduating! Although you can’t extend the Graduate visa, there are still pathways available for foreign citizens to live and work in the UK. These include Innovator or Entrepreneur visas, Skilled Worker visas, and so on. After five years of living in the UK, you may be eligible for the UK Ancestry visa. This qualifies you for indefinite leave to remain! In other words, you get to settle down in the UK, living, working, and studying here as long as you like.
Can I extend my post study work visa in the UK?
Unfortunately, no. However, you might qualify for a different visa that lets you stay and work in the UK after your Graduate visa expires. This includes the Skilled Worker Visa, a range of Temporary Work visas, Innovator, Start-Up, or Entrepreneur visas, and more!