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New post-study work rights for international students from July 2021

14 Apr, 2021
New post-study work rights for international students from July 2021

The UK Government has recently confirmed that international students will be able to apply for a post-study work visa in the UK via the Graduate Route. This new option will be available from 1 July 2021 and will allow all international students who graduate from a bachelor’s degree or higher to stay in the country for up to two years to work (three years for doctoral students).

After the previous UK post-study work visa was abolished in 2012, the international education sector has been campaigning to have this reinstated and has been highlighting the invaluable contribution that international graduates make to the UK workforce, economy and society. We are pleased that this route has now been reintroduced and that students will once again be able to utilise this option from Summer 2021.

What is the post-study work visa?

The post-study work visa, or ‘Graduate route’, allows international students who successfully complete a course at degree level or above in the UK to work in the country for up to 2 years after graduation. This period is extended to 3 years for students who study at doctoral (PhD) level.

Key aspects:

  • Students do not need to be ’sponsored’ by an employer, meaning that applicants will not need a job offer to apply
  • No minimum salary requirements — students can look for work, work flexibly, or work part-time across any industry
  • No maximum numbers or nationality restrictions — all recent international graduates can apply
  • The new route will open on 1 July 2021, meaning any student who graduates after this date will be eligible to apply
  • Students must have a valid UK Student Visa at the time of application for the Graduate Route
  • Applicants must be in the UK in order to apply for the graduate visa
  • The Graduate Route is available for students who want to work and live across all areas of the UK — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Graduate employment prospects in the UK

The UK has a vibrant job market that offers great opportunities for recent graduates looking to take their first steps on the career ladder.

The graduate unemployment rate for the UK is incredibly low, at around 5% (2018, ONS). Although this has been impacted by the pandemic, unemployment amongst graduates remains low and the economy is expected to continue to recover quickly over coming months due to the success of the UK vaccination programme.

The average starting salary for graduates in the UK in 2021 was £24,000. This varies across sectors, with higher average graduate salaries for students with degrees in Engineering (£30,000), Economics (£29,700), Dentistry (£38,000), Physics (£28,000) and Politics (£26,000). (Complete University Guide 2021)

Average starting salaries at the UK’s leading graduate employers — such as Deloitte, BBC, Microsoft, Samsung, Unilever, Amazon and American Express — remained unchanged in 2021 for the seventh consecutive year at £30,000.

The ten universities targeted by the largest number of top graduate employers in 2020-2021 are Birmingham, Manchester, University College London, Nottingham, Leeds, Warwick, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London — many of which are popular choices amongst Kings students. (High Fliers, The Graduate Market in 2021)

Skills shortages across many industries in the UK also increase graduate employment prospects for students with degrees in these fields. Some ‘in-demand’ degree subjects for recent graduates in the UK include:

  • Engineering
  • Accountancy
  • IT
  • Marketing
  • Maths
  • Physics

The UK also has a huge number of graduate schemes and internships available at respected companies across a wide range of different sectors. A graduate scheme is “a structured training programme run by an employer to develop future leaders of their organisation” ( Graduate schemes typically last for 1 - 2 years and are specifically designed to offer a comprehensive training programme for recent graduates that very often leads to an offer of permanent employment within the company.

Can I continue to work in the UK after 3 years?

International graduates will be able to apply to continue working in the at the end of their 2 – 3 year Graduate Route visa through a number of alternative options:

  • Skilled Worker route: get sponsored by a UK government-approved employer to work in the UK.
  • Global Talent route: suitable for applicants deemed as ‘leaders or potential leaders’ in the fields of academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology.
  • Innovator route: suitable for applicants who want to set up and run a unique and innovative business in the UK.

Read more on the UK government website

Find out more about Kings' pre-university programmes in the UK, including Foundation and A-level.