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Potential Changes for the Graduate visa

graduates throwing hats in air

A few days ago, reports emerged that the UK Prime Minster, Rishi Sunak, is considering imposing restrictions on applicants who are interested in applying for the Graduate Route visa. These changes could include a minimum salary requirement, a cap on the number of international students who can stay in the UK on the Graduate route, and a more stringent process for those switching to a Skilled Worker route.

 

We have previously discussed the benefits and the eligibility for the Graduate visa. As a recap, the Graduate route is unsponsored, which means applicants can use the period after graduation to work, or look for work, at any skill level. Applicants will have the flexibility to gain work experience, undertake an internship or work as a freelancer in the UK, normally for up to 2 years. As of today, there is no minimum salary requirement, and there is no limit on how many international students can have the opportunity to stay in the UK through the Graduate Route. Once an Graduate visa holder finds suitable employment in the UK, they will have the chance to switch to the Skilled Worker route and start their route to settlement.

 

Imposing restrictions on the Graduate Route visa or even scrapping the route entirely would significantly affect international students and UK universities. Drastic changes to the Graduate Route visa would arguably make UK universities less appealing to international students. The timing could not be worse for UK universities, which are already struggling financially after seeing lower international admissions during the Covid pandemic. The fees paid by international students have been an integral part of universities’ budgets. Many UK universities are currently laying off some academic staff or have frozen their recruitment. That, in effect, lowers the level of higher education in the UK which has historically been regarded as exceptional. Universities arguably need international students now more than ever, and the recent news of potential restrictions on Graduate visas is alarming. In the words of John Foster, who works as a Chief Policy and Campaigns Officer for the Confederation of British Industry:

Studying at university is one of our biggest export successes. Attracting international students boosts local economies, and losing competitiveness would put support for undergraduate teaching and innovation at risk.

In its recent statistical report (dated 14 May 2024), the Home Office provided an interesting analysis of migrants use of the Graduate route. In the report, it is noted that “the latest Immigration system statistics extensions data shows that 213,250 main applicants and 45,836 dependants were granted Graduate visas between its launch in July 2021 and the end of 2023.” This data also includes information on the top nationalities of Graduate visa holders, the sectors they are employed in, and the routes they switched to after their Graduate leave expired.

 

Regarding the main beneficiaries of the Graduate route, nationals of India, Nigeria and China are leading in the number of visas granted, with Indian nationals constituting 42% of all Graduate visas granted in the period between 2021 and 2023.

Source: Home Office, Analysis of migrants use of the Graduate route, 14 May 2024


Another interesting statistic is provided by Figure 4 of the Home Office report, which demonstrates what international students who had switched to the Graduate route did before their Graduate leave expired, indicated by their latest visa. Figure 4 shows that 63% of the 25,469 people whose Graduate visas had expired by the end of 2023 had switched to another route. 46% of Graduate visa holders had switched to a work route (33% extending into Skilled Worker, 9% into Skilled Worker - Health and Care, and 4% into other work routes). These figures reveal that almost half of those individuals decided to remain in the UK and work.

Source: Home Office, Analysis of migrants use of the Graduate route, 14 May 2024


It is important to note that Graduate visa holders who have transitioned to working roles are employed in crucial sectors of the UK economy, including administration, healthcare, social care, education, and science. These statistics should be taken into consideration when evaluating potential changes to the current rules governing the Graduate route. Many argue that the Graduate route produces highly skilled workers who make significant contributions to the UK economy. Therefore, it is only fair that they are able to work in the UK after studying in the country and graduating from UK universities.

Source: Home Office, Analysis of migrants use of the Graduate route, 14 May 2024


 

Contact us today if you want to make an application for a Graduate visa, or if you are unsure about which supporting documents are required. We are here to help you navigate through the potential changes to the Graduate Route visa and to ensure that you have the best chance of securing your future in the UK.

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