Visa Options for International Students in the UK After Graduation

There has been considerable recent discussion regarding the future of the Graduate visa in the United Kingdom. Despite the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommending its retention, it is important to explore the range of alternative visa options available to international students upon completing their university studies.

Graduate Visa

The Graduate visa, recommended for continuation by the MAC, allows students who have completed a degree at a UK accredited institution to remain in the country for up to two years following completion of a master’s course, or three years after obtaining a Ph.D. Graduates are free to work in any capacity, including self-employment or voluntary work, provided they earn at least the national minimum wage. However, this visa does not lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and cannot be extended beyond its initial term.

Skilled Worker Visa

Many graduates opt to switch to the Skilled Worker route, either immediately after their studies or towards the end of their Graduate visa. This visa requires sponsorship from an employer holding a sponsor licence, offering a role that meets minimum skill and salary requirements. Exceptions to the standard salary threshold exist for recent graduates, holders of STEM Ph.D.s, or jobs on the immigration salary list. The Skilled Worker visa allows for eventual settlement after five years of qualifying residence and provides flexibility for dependents to join the visa holder in the UK.

Innovator Founder Visa

Graduates interested in starting a new business in the UK can consider the Innovator Founder route. This visa requires endorsement from an approved endorsing body, indicating the business’s innovative and scalable nature. Successful applicants can achieve settlement in three years, with provisions for dependents to accompany them.

Global Talent Visa

Designed for individuals recognized as exceptional talent or promising professionals in fields such as science, medicine, engineering, digital technology, humanities, arts, and culture, the Global Talent visa allows for work in the UK without employer sponsorship. Endorsement by a relevant endorsing body is required, leading to settlement eligibility in three years and allowing dependents to reside in the UK.

Each of these visa routes offers distinct advantages and considerations for international graduates seeking to continue their careers in the UK post-graduation.

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