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Franka Zlatic

Croatian in the UK. Franka is full-time PhD student at University of Nottingham, pursuing her degree in Sociology.

A quick guide to UK’s Post-Study Work Visa

The UK government announced a new post-study visa policy to allow international students from approved UK universities to stay in the UK for up to two years after graduation.

The new Graduate Immigration Route will be launched in the summer of 2021, meaning that any student who graduates in the summer of 2021 or after will be eligible to apply.

As an international student in the UK, I know this will make a big difference for current and prospective students who are looking to take full advantage of this opportunity to pursue their careers in the UK.

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What’s changed for UK international students?

The changes to the UK Post-study visa is not new, rather it is an old policy that’s being revived. Prior to 2012, the UK allowed students on Tier4 visas to stay in the UK and look for a job for two years after their graduation from a UK university.

However, in 2012 UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May changed that policy and currently graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees are permitted to look for work for only four months before they are required to return to their home countries.

The Graduate Immigration Route is a major benefit for international students. The two years post-study visa not only gives graduates more time to look for a job, it opens a window to recent graduates to take the time to look for jobs within the area of their degree.

The route will also allow students to apply for longer-term work visas later on, such as switching into a skilled work visa. This is a big bonus for international students who are looking for long-term employment in the UK after graduation, or the opportunity to transition into permanent settlement.

What does it mean for you?

In 2019, UK universities had around 342,000 international students (excluding students from the EU). The majority of international students coming from non-EU countries were from China, India, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

With such as high volume of international students, you might be concerned about a cap on the number of visas offered. The great news is there is no cap on student numbers or course exceptions, meaning every international student graduate in the summer of 2021 or after can apply for the route, no matter what field or subjects you’ve studied.

The new Graduate Immigration Route would positively impact not only international students, but universities as well since graduate employment is one of the criterias used in world university rankings.

An impressive graduate employment rate is very important for each university and their Careers & Employability centres. What this means for you is that you will have your University’s support and advice in applying for jobs, since you will have the right to stay and work in the UK once you graduate.

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What if my course is online due to COVID-19?

So much has changed in the world since the new policy was first announced in October 2019. With the COVID-19 global pandemic forcing universities to quickly transition to online or distance learning across the world, the question on the minds of many current and prospective international students are, ‘what happens if universities continue with online teaching into the 2020/2021 academic year?’ 

Some of the most famous universities around the world have already made tough decisions to protect their students. For example, world-renowned universities like Harvard, Princeton and Yale in the USA announced that they will drastically limit the number of students who are allowed to stay on campus and most of their teaching will be held online for the fall 2020 semester.

In the UK, some universities such as Cambridge have already made a decision that all its lectures will be online-only until the summer of 2021. Oxford on the other hand, among others, intends to use a blend of face-to-face and online teaching at the start of the new academic year in October 2020. 

Regarding the new post-study visa policy, the Universities UK fact sheet takes the position that students ‘who study part of their course online and spend less than 11 months in the UK as a result, should not miss out on the Graduate Route’.

The UK Home office also confirmed that those studying by distance/blended learning will still be eligible to apply for the Graduate route as long as they are in the UK by April 2021 and complete their final semester in the UK.

That means that if you spend most of your studies in an online setting, you can still be eligible to apply for a post-study visa. Post study visa offers a unique way to approach and attract international students, who make up a big part of UK Universities.

If you’re still thinking about whether to apply to an UK University, now might be the best time to apply to study in the UK. Having a UK degree already opens doors to the international job market, but the two-year post-study visa offers the additional incentive of allowing you to stay in the UK to start your career with the help of your university.

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