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The new Graduate visa category will benefit UK businesses


Almost a decade after the Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) route closed in 2012, the new Graduate visa category will be open to applications from 1 July 2021. This will be welcome news to international students, and to UK employers – especially with the loss of unlimited access to the EU labour market, and since the Skilled Worker route is not suitable for lower paid jobs (which has been a worry for some of our hospitality and care home clients).

What are the headline points?

  • Open to international students in the UK who have successfully completed an eligible course of study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above – most recently/ currently as a Tier 4 (General)/ Student migrant
  • Only current dependants of Tier 4 (General)/ Student migrants can apply to be dependants on this route
  • Visa will be valid for 2 years or 3 years (for PhD or other doctoral qualifications)
  • Cannot be extended further
  • Not a route to settlement

How will this benefit UK employers?

As an unsponsored visa category, UK employers are free to hire these visa holders (including dependants) without needing to apply for a sponsor licence – with the usual exception of work as a professional sportsperson. There isn’t, for example, a:

  • restriction on who visa holders can work for – they can therefore work for multiple employers
  • restriction on the maximum number of hours someone can work
  • minimum skill level requirement
  • minimum salary threshold to be met (although employment legislation on minimum wage still applies).

This route will therefore be a potential lifeline to UK employers who have been worried about how they will “plug” the labour gap, as a result of Brexit and other immigration constraints. Although not a long-term fix, hopefully some of our hospitality, care home, and other clients can take some comfort with this new visa category.

Employers are also well-advised to undertake compliant right to work checks on all prospective employees prior to employment commencement, and at regular intervals as appropriate to minimise risk of receiving a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker. Care should also be taken to avoid discrimination.


Besides summarising the new Graduate route, other changes and immigration related news/cases you might want to take a note of include:

  • there is just over 3 months left until the EU Settlement Scheme deadline of 30 June 2021 – EU nationals who were resident in the UK before the end of December 2020 would be well advised to submit an application in good time. Employers who have recruited these staff should encourage them to apply!
  • employers may wish to consider applying for a Skilled Worker and/or Intra-company Transfer sponsor licence in anticipation of the EU Settlement Scheme closing – the standard processing time is 8 weeks but an additional premium can be paid for, usually resulting in a decision within 2 weeks
  • in R v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] UKSC 7, it was decided by the Supreme Court that Shamima Begum is not allowed to return to the UK to argue her case about whether she should be deprived of her British citizenship or not; however her case about deprivation of her citizenship remains outstanding

First published: 22 March 2021

Further information

If you have any questions and/or would like tailored advice on any UK immigration matter, please speak to us at: or to your usual Dixcart contact.


The data contained within this document is for general information only. No responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are also advised that the law and practice may change from time to time. This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute accounting, legal or tax advice. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.

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