The Graduate visa allows international students to remain in the UK for at least two years after completing their studies and provides a stepping stone to UK immigration. Despite the government’s concerns that the route was being abused by foreign students, a major independent review, released on Tuesday, found this was not the case.

Amidst widespread speculation about potential modifications or even the elimination of the Graduate visa route, The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has concluded its review and has recommended the visa should be maintained in its current form, providing a measure of relief for international students.

The MAC’s findings on the Graduate visa

Since its introduction in 2021, the Graduate visa has contributed to a significant increase in the number of students remaining in the UK post-study. From 2019 to 2023, the proportion of students who secured further leave to remain after their studies jumped from 18% to 56%. Specifically, 32% of these students extended their stay through the Graduate visa.

Before the introduction of the Graduate visa, between 80% and 85% of students did not remain in the UK after their student visas expired. By 2023, this figure had decreased to 44%.

The MAC's review also provides insight into the paths individuals take after their Graduate visas expire. Of the 25,469 individuals in this category, 63% transitioned to other types of visas:

Read more: Could the UK Ancestry visa be your ticket to British citizenship?

It seems likely that postgraduate and PhD students are applying for the Graduate visa, as the MAC review shows that most applicants tend to be in their mid-to-late 20s, with more than half (58%) being between the ages of 24 and 29.

The latest changes to the Student visa, mainly that they cannot bring dependants with them anymore, will have an effect on the amount of people that subsequently apply for the Graduate visa. As of January 2024, only PhD or doctoral candidates are able to include their dependants on their visas. You will only be able to include your dependants on your Graduate visa application if they were also included on your student visa.

Graduate visa eligibility

To qualify for a Graduate visa, applicants must meet all of the following criteria:

  • You must be currently residing in the UK.
  • You must hold a valid Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa.
  • Your educational institution must confirm to the Home Office that you have successfully completed your course.
  • You must have completed a UK bachelor's or postgraduate degree, or another qualifying course, while on your Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa.

Additionally, the course you studied must meet the following duration requirements:

  • If the total duration of your course exceeds 12 months, the course must have lasted at least 12 months.
  • If the total duration of your course is less than 12 months, you must have completed the full length of your course.

The duration of the visa depends on the level of degree obtained. Those with a bachelor's degree are eligible to stay for two years, while those with a PhD or other doctoral degrees can remain for three years.

How much does a Graduate visa cost?

Application fee£822
Immigration health surcharge* for two years£2,070
Immigration health surcharge for three years£3,105)

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

If you are studying in the UK and are interested in applying for a Graduate visa, get in touch with our knowledgeable UK immigration consultants who are happy to help you navigate the complex world of UK visas.

Speak to one of our immigration consultants on +27 (0) 21 657 2180 or email us at

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