International students who graduate from a UK university can apply for a post-study work visa called the Graduate visa. We take an in-depth look at how you can use this visa to stay in the UK.

Graduate visa

If you’re studying in the UK and your graduation is on the horizon, you might find yourself wanting to extend your time in the country. The UK’s Graduate visa allows international students who are awarded a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD degree from a UK university to live and find work in the UK for a period after they have graduated.

The amount of time you’ll be able to stay depends on the degree you studied. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you will be awarded two years. Whereas if you have a PhD or other doctoral degree, you will get a visa for three years.

Are you eligible for the Graduate visa?

Graduate visa eligibility

In order to be eligible for a graduate visa you need to satisfy all the following:

  • You must be in the UK
  • You must hold a Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
  • Your education provider must tell the Home Office that you’ve successfully completed your course
  • You studied a UK bachelor’s or postgraduate degree or other eligible course while on your Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa

The course you studied must have been for a minimum:

  • of at least 12 months, if your course’s total length is more than 12 months
  • the total length of your course, if its total length is shorter than 12 months

Degrees eligible for the Graduate visa

You usually must have one of the following to apply:

  • A UK bachelor’s degree
  • A UK master’s degree
  • A UK PhD or doctorate

What you can and can’t do on a Graduate visa

The Graduate visa gives you much more freedom than some other visas do. During your time in the UK on a Graduate visa, you can do any kind of work, even volunteer work. The only exception is that you cannot work as a professional sportsperson.

You canYou cannot
Work and look for workClaim public funds
Switch visa categoriesExtend the visa or apply for the visa more than once
StudyWork as a professional sportsperson
Study for a course that meets the Student visa requirements*

* At an institution that also holds a Student visa sponsor licence. You will have to apply for a Student visa instead.

The Graduate visa application process

Despite the name, you don’t have to wait to graduate before you apply. But the following two things must be true:

  • Your education provider has communicated your final results to the Home Office.
  • Your Student visa has not expired yet.

This means that your window to apply is after the university has let the Home Office know your passing results and before your Student visa expires. It’s very important to have all your documents ready to apply.

If your Student visa expires while you awaiting a decision on your Graduate visa application you will be protected by section 3C leave. Section 3C comes into play when you have made an in-time application to extend your leave to stay but are still awaiting a decision on that application. This prevents you from becoming an overstayer.

How much does a Graduate visa cost?

Graduate visa fees

When you apply for a Graduate visa, you’ll need to pay the following:

Application fee£ 715
Immigration health surcharge* for two years£ 1,248
Immigration health surcharge for three years£ 1,872

*The IHS needs to be paid in full for the entire duration of the visa. The current IHS fee is £624 but is due to be increased soon.

Can I extend my Graduate visa?

The Graduate visa cannot be renewed or extended. You can, however, switch visas while you hold a Graduate visa. If you are able to secure a job that requires a sponsor, your employer can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship which allows you to apply for a Skilled Worker visa. You can also switch to a spouse visa or switch to a dependant on your spouse’s Ancestry visa.

Read more:  Switching visas in the UK – Our extensive guide



If you are interested in applying for a Graduate visa, please get in contact with one of our experienced immigration consultants who will help you every step of the way. Get in touch with us at or call on +27 (0) 21 657 2180 or +44 (0) 20 7759 5330.

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