Working in the UK after study

If you're an international student and you would like to work in the UK after graduating then please be aware of the immigration rules that apply to you.

There are several different visa categories available to graduating students, and each has their own eligibility requirements and application routes. 

New Graduate Visa

The Graduate Visa is a new UK post-study work visa for international students completing a UK degree from the summer of 2021.  The route opened on the 1 July 2021. 

PLEASE NOTE: You cannot apply for the Graduate Visa until you have received an email from the University confirming a report has been made to UKVI.  This will be some time after you receive your official award dates.  The dates you receive your official award can be found here: For Students | University of Leeds

The key points are:

  • You must have a valid Student or Tier 4 visa and apply from inside the UK.
  • You can stay in the UK to work, or look for work, or be self-employed, for up to two years (undergraduate or Masters degree) or three years if you have completed a PhD, with no restriction on the type of work you can do.
  • You will be expected to undertake your studies in the UK. However, if you have been distance learning from overseas for the whole course you will still be eligible providing you enter the UK before 30 June 2022.
  • If you start a one-year Master's course in January 2021 by distance learning from overseas, you must return to the UK before 30 June 2022 or before your current visa expires, whichever is sooner.
  • If you started a course in 2020/21 and came to the UK but then left the UK and switched to distance learning, you need to return to the UK and apply for your visa on or before the end date of your visa.
  • For courses longer than 12 months, anytime spent outside the UK distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 30 June 2022 will not prevent you from applying.  You must return to the UK while your Student visa is still valid and apply before your visa expires.
  • You cannot apply if you are not inside the UK by the above deadlines.
  • You will need to complete identity, criminality and security checks.
  • There is no requirement to show a certain amount of money in your bank account (maintenance requirement).
  • You will need to know your CAS number that you used for your last Tier 4/Student visa application.
  • You will need to pay a separate visa fee of £715 and pay a further Immigration Health Surcharge fee of £624 per year to cover each additional year you spend in the UK.
  • Dependants can apply providing they are already inside the UK as your Student/Tier 4 dependant and they are applying at the same time as you.
  • You must have permission from your financial sponsor (if your financial sponsor was a government sponsor).
  • You will not need any sponsorship to apply for the Graduate Route.
  • PhD graduates already holding the DES visa (Doctorate Extension Scheme) will not be eligible under this route.
  • If your visa expires or you graduate before this route is introduced you will not be eligible.
  • The visa is not extendable or count towards settlement but you will be able to switch into the Skilled worker visa if a suitable job is found. The Skilled worker visa requires you to have an employment offer with a minimum skill and salary level.
  • Taking resits or becoming an external student may affect your eligibility in applying for the Graduate visa.

PLEASE NOTE: You cannot apply until you have received an email from the University confirming a report has been made to UKVI.  This will be some time after you receive your official award dates.  The dates you receive your official award can be found here: For Students | University of Leeds

The visa application form is simple and user friendly and you can apply online here: Graduate visa: Apply - GOV.UK (

For further information on this visa route please read the UKCISA and UKVI website.

Please also watch the UKCISA webinar on the Graduate Route.

Doctorate Extension Scheme

If you're studying a PhD, the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) allows you to spend one year in the UK after you've completed your studies. You can be employed or self-employed. You have to apply under the Doctorate Extension Scheme before you hand in the final hard bound version of your thesis.

The current DES scheme has now closed and was replaced with the Graduate Visa from 1 July 2021, see above.

Please note you cannot apply or switch into the Graduate Visa if you have DES visa.

Skilled worker (formerly Tier 2)

After graduating from the University of Leeds, you are entitled to apply in the Skilled Worker category of the Points Based System. This was formerly called the Tier 2 route. You can find up-to-date Skilled Worker route information on the GOV.UK website. We will update this page as soon as possible with more details. You can find information about working after studies on the UKCISA website.

Start Up Visa

The University of Leeds can sponsor up to 20 students under the Start up scheme, which now replaced the previous Tier 1 - Graduate Entrepreneur scheme. We can only endorse University of Leeds graduates.

If you would like to establish your own business in the UK, you should book an appointment to discuss this with Brian Baillie in the SPARK team at the Careers Centre.

The Careers Centre can assist you to develop your business idea and if your idea is accepted, the University of Leeds will issue an endorsement letter to enable you make a visa application under the Start Up visa.

If you’re applying the UK, you need to hold £1,270 for 28 consecutive days in your bank account statement, with the statement being no more than 31 days old at the time of your visa application.  The cost of this application is £493.

If you’re successful in applying under this scheme, you will be issued with a 2 year visa. You cannot apply for a Start up extension visa, therefore you would need to switch to another type of visa before the visa expires if you wish to remain in the UK beyond the expiry period. 

Your spouse/child family members can apply to be your dependants on this visa. You will need £285 for your partner; £315 for one child and £200 for each additional child.  This amount needs to be held for 28 consecutive days in theirs or your bank statement to meet the financial requirements. 

If you currently hold an initial 12 month Tier 1 - Graduate Entrepreneur visa, you can apply to switch to the Start up visa before your current visa expires. 

The Student Visa Advice Team can check your visa application for you and we can also assist with enquires regarding this visa via e-mail.

For further information about this scheme please see the website.

Tier 5

There are several opportunities to apply to work in the UK under a Tier 5 category of the Points Based System. A full list of the categories can be viewed on the website.

If you're interested in working in the UK, you will need to obtain sponsorship, a full list of current Tier 5 licensed sponsors are available from the Home Office.


If you're planning to stay in the UK you must make an immigration application before your current permission expires.

Alternatively, you can make applications in your home country, but carefully check the criteria as there are different requirements when you make an application from outside the UK.

Further information

If, after reading these pages, you still have questions, you can call the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) advice line or seek independent legal advice.

The Careers Centre has a full list of services to assist you in finding employment following your studies. Below are some excellent tips and resources if you are not eligible for the graduate level visas. 

Identify organisations that may be interested in recruiting someone with your unique skills.

Most graduate employers will be happy to accept applications from international students, but some may not be able to sponsor visas for you as they may not be on the Sponsor Register or the jobs they have may not meet minimum salary requirements.

As the sponsor register doesn’t allow to search for jobs in a particular industry or geographical location, you may wish to use the UKTierSponsors website to help you identify companies in your desired sector/industry, their location as well as direct link to their website. Always check the cross-reference the company information with the official Sponsor Register.”