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5 Types of Post Study Work Visa in UK [2021]

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On 11 Sept 2019, the UK government has announced the return of post study work visa. International students who enrol to study in the UK universities for undergraduate level and above will be benefiting from this new post study work visa. This visa has been named “Graduate Route”, it will allow students to look for a job, work or stay for two years after they graduate.

The implementation date of this Graduate Route is on 1 July 2021. According to the statement made by the UK Home Office head of Student Migration Policy, students who graduate from the summer of 2021 onwards will benefit from this change. While the period of the Graduate Route is not implemented yet, the current immigration rule still applies.

Graduate Route

The graduate route is a post-graduate visa for international students who have completed a degree at the undergraduate level or above to continue to stay in the UK after they graduate. Find out more.

You must apply a work visa to work in the UK after you graduate. Even though you might have been given 4 – 6 months post study stay period depends on the course level or duration you w ere taken. This post-study stay period allows you to use this extra time to live and look for job in the UK, but it does not allow you to take any type of full-time jobs.

There are five types of work visa options that may be available to you.

  1. Tier 2 (General) visa is the most common work visa for international students to remain and work in the UK after their studies. The objective of this visa is to fill the shortage of the UK labour market. Therefore, applicants must meet a minimum salary of £30,000 per year and their employer must be a licensed Tier 2 sponsor to sponsor your work visa.
  2. Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme allows PhD students who complete their studies to stay in the UK for a further 12 months. Graduates can use this time to look for jobs, work to gain practical work experiences or set up a business as an entrepreneur.
  3. Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa is designed to help young adults from certain countries to experience life in the United Kingdom. This visa allows students from either Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea or Taiwan to work in the UK for up to two years after they graduate. There are limited places available for this visa and not allowed to apply from inside the UK.
  4. Tier 5 Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange visa route let international students stay in the UK for work experience, internship, training or research after their studies. Depends on the scheme you apply for, and the visa duration is up to 12-24 months. You will need to have a sponsor under an approved government authorised exchange scheme to apply for this visa. And this visa must apply from outside the UK.
  5. Start-up visa (replaces the formal Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa) is a visa option for international graduates who wish to develop ideas or entrepreneurial skills by setting up an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK. You must have an endorsement letter from your UK universities or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.

Below table gives a good overview of restrictions and conditions for different work visas.

UK Work Visa Requirements

Type of Visa Restriction Maximum Staying Sponsorship Needed Dependents Allowed
Tier 2 (General) visa Minimum salary of £30,000 per year 5 years and 14 days Yes Yes
Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) issue by your university 1 year Yes Yes
Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa 18 to 30 years old and from the nationals of certain countries* 2 years Yes but only for the nationals from Republic of Korea No
Tier 5 Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange visa Authorised exchange schemes 1-2 years depends on different schemes Yes Yes
Start-up Visa Endorsement letter from an authorised body 2 years No Yes

*The certain countries are Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and Taiwan.

Related Questions

How to apply for post study work visa in UK

You must apply online for all post study work visa except if you are living in North Korea. Besides the required documents, you should also read the individual visa guidance before you make the application.

Post study work visa for Indian Students in UK

In the normal circumstances, Indian students who have completed undergraduate and postgraduate courses can apply for employer-sponsored Tier 2 (General) visa. For PhD graduates, under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme, you can stay in the UK for 1 year to work without prior finding an employer. If you want to set-up a business, the Start-up visa is the best option for you. Read more on Top 4 UK Post-study Work Visa for Indian Students.

Post study work visa for Hong Kong Student in UK

Hong Kong started to participate in Tier 5 (youth mobility scheme) from Jan 2014. Since then, students have one more visa option apart from those common post study work visa. Students now no longer required to obtain a certificate of sponsorship from the HK government before making the application (since July 2019). There will be 1,000 places available for HKSAR passport holders, the selection criteria have changed to a lottery-based system to allocate places and managed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).