International students can stay on and work for two years

A new immigration route opened on 1 July, allowing international graduates to stay on and start their careers in the United Kingdom after they have finished their studies at a UK university.

The new Graduate Route, part of the points-based immigration system, allows international students who have completed a degree from a UK university at undergraduate level or above – or one of the limited number of professional qualifications at degree level or above – to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level for at least two years.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “International students are a vital part of our society, and those who graduate from our world-leading universities should have the opportunity to stay and build meaningful careers here, in the UK.

“That is why we are introducing this new route for international graduates, enabling British businesses to attract and retain some of the brightest graduates across the globe.”

International graduates must have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider, with a track record of compliance with the government’s immigration requirements, to apply to the Graduate route.

The Graduate Route is unsponsored, meaning applicants do not need a job offer to apply to the route. There is no minimum salary requirements nor caps on numbers. Graduates on the route can work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their career as required.

Chief Executive of UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), Anne Marie Graham, said: “We know that employability is a priority for international students coming to study in the UK.

“We welcome the Graduate Route as a unique opportunity for eligible international graduates to further enhance employability skills and gain experience of the UK labour market for a period after completing their studies.

“International students who are able to access this route will have the flexibility to apply for work in any sector or role that fits their skills profile, including self-employment, without the need for employer sponsorship.”

Extension to COVID concession

Meanwhile, UK Immigration Minister Kevin Foster announced on 1 July at the UKCISA conference that there will be an extension to the COVID concession that enables distance and blended learning.

This concession will extend to cover the first two semesters of the 2021-22 academic year, until 6 April 2022. This date is a deadline and is aimed at helping to avoid a surge in travel and the associated resources needed to comply with quarantining measures, and help manage the arrival of students.

In tandem, a coronavirus concession on the date by which students must enter the UK if they started courses in 2020 and are unable to travel due to the pandemic, has been extended to 27 September, recognising the continuing disruption manyfacedue to international travel restrictions.

Applicants who began their studies in autumn 2020 or in spring 2021 will need to be in the UK with permission as a student by 27 September 2021. Students beginning their course this autumn or early next year will need to be in the UK by 6 April 2022.

Stephanie Smith, head of policy for the Russell Group, comprising research intensive universities, said: “The pandemic has left many new and returning international students worried about what travel disruption may mean for their ability to access their course.

“The extension of the changes on remote learning rules for visas introduced last year is welcome, and will ensure universities can continue to provide high-quality online education while working with government to help students travel to the UK safely. Ultimately, this is a sensible move that will help protect student and community health.

“We will be liaising with the Home Office to ensure this flexible approach continues, and disruption to international travel or social distancing rules do not inadvertently impact on international students’ visa eligibility.”