A Graduate visa gives you permission to stay in the UK for at least 2 years after successfully completing a course in the UK. Find out more about considerations to keep in mind before making an application.
The Graduate Visa is a post-study work visa that allows you to stay in the UK to work or look for work, for 2 years after completing your degree. Students awarded a PhD can be granted 3 years permission to stay under the Graduate Route.
There is no restriction on the type of work you can do (except professional sports) and no visa sponsorship is required by the employer. You do not need a job offer in place to apply for a Graduate Visa.
The Graduate Visa cannot be extended and does not count towards the qualifying timescales for settlement in the UK. During the period of your Graduate Visa, you can switch into the Skilled Worker route which can be extended and does count towards settlement in the UK. Only employers with a Skilled Worker sponsor license can sponsor staff for a Skilled Worker Visa.
You can only apply for a Graduate Visa if you have successfully completed your degree.
Shortly after you have received your results and been awarded your degree, the University of Leeds will directly report your eligibility to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Do not apply for a Graduate Visa until you receive confirmation that the University has reported your eligibility. If you do this, the application could be refused.
Important considerations before you apply for your Graduate Visa
The following points will impact whether you can or cannot apply for a Graduate Visa. Please read each section carefully before you consider making an application for a Graduate Visa.
Resits and examinations
If you are granted an extension, or need to resit an examination or part of your course resit modules, your Graduate Visa application depends on whether you’ll be resitting your modules as an ‘internal’ or as an ‘external’ candidate.
Your academic School will decide whether you need resit as an ‘internal’ or an ‘external’ candidate after the exam board has taken place and tell you what next steps you need to take. If you have any general questions about assessment, get in touch with the Student Information Service.
If you resit modules with teaching, you are considered ‘internal’ and can be issued a CAS to extend your Student Visa.
If you are granted an extension, or need to resit an examination or part of your modules as an ‘external student’, you cannot extend the Student Visas to cover the resit period. This means you will not receive your results before the expiry of your Student Visa and you will not be able to apply for a Graduate Visa.
If you are told that you must resit as an external candidate, you will not be allowed to change to an internal candidate for the purposes of extending your Student Visa and applying for the Graduate Visa.
Masters students and dissertation periods
If you are on a full-time taught masters course, you are expected to remain in the UK over the summer period to complete your dissertation. UKVI doesn’t currently allow Student Visa holders to study remotely.
To be eligible for the Graduate Visa Route and you are a student on a Masters course, you must show that you have studied within the UK for 12 months.
If you decide to complete your dissertation from home, the University may withdraw sponsorship of your Student Visa and you will not be eligible to apply for the Graduate Visa.
Students who are granted an extension to their dissertation deadline, and become registered as an external student, will not receive their results before the expiry of their Student Visa.
This means you will not be eligible to apply for a Graduate Visa.
Your dependents are eligible to apply with you as long as they are inside the UK and currently hold a PBS dependent visa. Your dependents cannot apply to join you in the UK at the point you apply to switch into the Graduate Visa Route, they must already be dependents of your Student Visa.
If you have dependent children in the UK, and wish for them to remain in the UK on the basis of your Graduate Visa, in most cases both parents must be applying for permission to stay. If you give birth to a child whilst you are in the UK on a student visa, they can apply for dependent status despite not being included on your Student Visa.
Outstanding fees to the University
If you have an outstanding debt to the University, you must pay any outstanding fees before your Student Visa expires. The University won’t issue your degree award until your debt has been fully paid.
The University will only report your eligibility for a Graduate Visa when you have cleared all your outstanding debts and you have formally received your degree award.
Studying on the Graduate Visa
The UKVI rules state that you cannot study any course which could be sponsored under the Student route while you hold a Graduate route visa. Examples of permitted study would include:
- Some professional courses
- Online study
- Evening classes
- Recreational courses
If you have any questions about your eligibility for a Graduate Visa please contact the Student Visa Advice team.
Can I apply for a Graduate Visa?
You can apply for a Graduate Visa if:
1. You have successfully completed your degree.
The list of eligible courses is below
- UK Bachelor’s degree
- UK Master’s degree
- UK PhD or doctorate
- UK Integrated Masters degree – If your CAS was issued for a 4-year integrated masters course, but you leave the University with a bachelors degree at the end of the 3rd year, you will be reported as eligible to UKVI and can apply for a Graduate Visa. You will need to apply to switch into the Graduate Route before the remainder of your Student Visa is cancelled by UKVI.
- Law conversion course approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority
- The Legal Practice Course in England and Wales, the Solicitors Course in Northern Ireland, or a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in Scotland
- The Bar Practice Course in England and Wales, or the Bar Course in Northern Ireland
- A foundation programme in medicine or dentistry
- A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
- A Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) – Please see GR 5.2, under the ‘Qualification requirements’ section of the Immigration Rules for more information
2. You have received a confirmation email from the University confirming your eligibility
After you have been officially awarded your degree classification, the University will inform the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) about your eligibility for the Graduate Visa Route.
Remeber, you can only start your application after the University has notified UKVI and you have received an email confirming that the notification has been sent.
This email will include the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number, which was assigned for your Student Visa application. The information on your degree award must match that shown on your CAS, unless you have been permitted to change your programme and the University has reported this to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
You will need your CAS number to apply for your Graduate Visa.
4. You have permission to apply for a Graduate Visa (if you are a sponsored student)
If you were financially sponsored in the last 12 months (for course fees and living costs) by a national government or international scholarship agency, you must have their permission to apply for a Graduate Visa. You do not need the permission of the University of Leeds, even if you have been awarded University scholarships or other financial assistance.
3. Your Student/Tier 4 Visa must be valid on the date you apply for your Graduate Visa (the date you submit the online application and pay the visa fee).
If your most recent Student Visa has expired, you cannot apply to switch to the Graduate Visa.
4. You are in the UK.
You cannot apply for a Graduate Visa outside the UK.
5. You have studied in the UK for at least 12 months with a valid Student / Tier 4 Visa.
If your course is 12 months or longer, then you must have studied in the UK for at least 12 months with a valid Student / Tier 4 Visa. If you are currently studying at the University on a different type of visa (such as a Skilled Worker or PBS Dependent), then you must switch into the Student route at least 12 months before the end of your course to be eligible for the Graduate Visa (permitted study abroad as part of your course does not impact your eligibility for a Graduate Visa).
6. You have not received immigration permission on the Graduate Route or the Doctorate Extension Scheme.
A Graduate Visa can only be obtained once even if you study multiple eligible courses.
How to apply for a Graduate Visa
The University will notify you by email that your eligibility for the Graduate Visa has been reported to UKVI. The email will have your CAS number, which you need for the application.
After receiving the email confirming your eligibility, collate all the documents you’ll need before you start your application.
Pay the visa fee and Immigration Health Surcharge and submit your application. You must pay both fees to be able to submit an application.
Provide your biometrics to UKVI. Most students will be able to do this via the UK Visas and Immigration ID Check App. If you are not eligible to use the ID check App, you will be notified to book a biometric appointment with UKVCAS.
It can take 8 weeks to process your application. UKVI will notify you when a decision has been made.
Graduate Visa – Frequently Asked Questions
What date will my visa start?
Your 2 years (3 years if PhD) of permission to stay in the UK under the Graduate route will start on the date that your application is granted. This means that it can overlap with the time remaining on your Student visa.
When can I start my job?
The work conditions attached to your Student visa will continue to apply while your Graduate route visa application is pending.
There are some types of work that you cannot do with a Student visa, including:
- Being self-employed or engaging in business activity
- Working as an entertainer
- Working in a position which would fill a permanent full-time vacancy.
If you applied for your most recent Student visa before 6 April 2022, then you must wait until your Graduate visa application has been granted before you can take up a full-time permanent position.
If you applied for your Student visa on or after 6 April 2022, then you can fill a permanent full-time vacancy while your application is pending.
You cannot be self-employed, engage in business activity, or work as an entertainer until your Graduate route visa application has been decided.
If I resit as an internal student
Students will only be allowed to resit internally in certain circumstances.
If you are allowed to resit or repeat part of your course internally, then you will need to request a new CAS and use this to apply for a new Student visa. You will then be able to apply for the Graduate visa only if your degree can be awarded prior to your new visa expiry date. Award timings will vary so you should check with your school to confirm when your resit results will be released.
You will not be issued a new CAS if you are resitting externally and so you will not be able to extend your Student visa. You will not be able to apply for the Graduate visa if your degree is not awarded before your existing Student visa expiry date.
What If I appeal my results?
You will lose the opportunity to apply for the Graduate visa if you are not awarded your degree before your Student visa expires.
You cannot extend your Student visa to give you more time to wait for the outcome of an academic appeal.
Will I receive a BRP or an eVisa?
If you submit your Graduate route visa application via the UK Immigration: ID Check App, the type of immigration documents you will receive if your application is granted will depend on your nationality.
If you have a nationality that does not require a visa when visiting the UK (non-visa national), then you will only be granted a digital ‘eVisa’ instead of any physical documents. You will be able to view and prove your immigration status online using your UKVI account. You can find more information about accessing and using your UKVI account here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/using-your-uk-visas-and-immigration-account.
If you have a nationality that does require a visa when visiting the UK (visa national), then you will be granted both an eVisa and a BRP.
If you apply for your Graduate visa by attending an appointment at a UKVCAS service point, then you will only receive a new BRP regardless of your nationality.
Why does my BRP expire on 31 December 2024?
If you have a BRP that expires on 31 December 2024, and this is earlier than your permission should expire, this is not an error. UKVI will not issue a BRP with a validity beyond 31 December 2024. From 1 January 2025 you will be able to prove your immigration status online, without a BRP.
UKVI will provide further information about how to switch to this online status for the rest of your time in the UK in early 2024. Until then, you do not need to do anything and your immigration status will not be affected.
Can I travel in and out of the UK whilst on a Graduate Visa?
You must not travel out of the Common Travel Area (the area consisting of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the Channel Islands) while your Graduate visa application is pending.
Once your Graduate visa has been granted, you can use it to travel in and out of the UK as much as you like until it expires. There is no requirement to stay in the UK once you have received your Graduate visa.
However, please note that you can only apply for the Graduate visa once. The Graduate visa cannot be extended and you cannot get it again. If you choose to spend most of the visa outside the UK, you cannot get the time you spent outside the UK ‘back’.
Can I study professional qualifications in the UK on a Graduate Visa?
Study is restricted under the Graduate visa route. You can only study with a Graduate visa if your chosen course is not eligible for a Student visa.
A course is eligible for a Student visa if it is taught by an institution with a Student sponsor license and the course meets the Student visa requirements.
If you are unsure whether you can study a specific course with a Graduate visa, check with the course provider whether they offer Student visa sponsorship for it. If they do, you cannot study the course.
If you have a Graduate visa and want to study a course that is eligible for a Student visa, you must switch to a new Student visa before you can commence the new course. You will not be able to switch back to the Graduate visa even if you successfully complete the new course. This means you will lose the time you had remaining on your Graduate visa.
Therefore, if you are intending to do further study in the UK after completing your degree, you should check to see if you can extend your Student visa instead of applying for a Graduate visa.
Graduate route dependents do not have any restriction on what they can study.
What If I switch from a PhD to an MPhil?
If you are issued a CAS to return to the UK and complete an MPhil, you will be eligible for the Graduate Visa provided you complete the rest of your studies from within the UK.