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Post-Study Work Visas

22 November 2019

Thomas Miles


In what is likely to be a welcome change for both companies and the students involved, the UK government has announced its intentions to make the recruitment of graduates holding Tier 4 visas an easier process for employers.


The intention is to create a new “Graduate” route, open to all international students who have a student visa - i.e. Tier 4 (under the current system). According to the government’s publication, the Graduate route will be similar to the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme in that the migrants will be able to work in any job role, regardless of skill level or salary rate, for a period of two years. Some people may remember the previous UK post-study work visa systems, which were also similar to that now being announced.


Whilst the government has gone to some lengths to market this as being aimed at attracting highly talented migrants in key subject areas such as science and technology, the reality is that it will be useful for any company looking to recruit international students who are graduating from a UK university.


After the two years, it appears the intention is that the migrants would then be able to switch into the Tier 2 (General) visa, provided that at that time they were taking up a role that meets the usual visa requirements. Currently, that would mean a role at RQF Level 6 (in effect, a role that is at the skill level of a university degree), as well as meeting the minimum salary requirement. It is not clear at this stage, but it would seem likely that the minimum salary requirement would be at the “New Entrant” rate - which is the lower salary rate currently available for example to Tier 4 Students switching into Tier 2 (General).


Although the migrants would need to find a role that meets the Tier 2 (General) requirements in order to switch into that visa at the end of their two year period, for companies it does at least mean that there is a two year timescale for potentially starting an individual in a lower skilled role and then mentoring and training them into a Tier 2 (General) eligible role. This may be much more preferable than the current requirement of immediately putting a new graduate into a highly skilled position, with a salary that may also be higher than employers would like to pay for a recent graduate.


The government states that the Graduate route will launch for the 2020/2021 intake of students to university. On the basis of most degree courses being three years long, that would suggest that for the majority of individuals the route will not be used until the end of 2023 - although for students on one year courses that will of course be sooner.


Given the timescales before this route is in use, the other point to remember is that we do not know exactly what the rest of the immigration system will look like at that point. For ease of reference, in this newsletter we have referred to the Graduates as needing to meet the Tier 2 (General) requirements, but the actual government publication refers instead, (deliberately, it would seem) vaguely, to the “skilled work visa”. At the moment that is Tier 2 (General), but of course there is no guarantee that the Tier 2 system will still exist by the time the Graduate route takes effect, or what exactly its requirements will be.


Overall, this certainly seems a positive change to the system, for both migrant students and companies, but there is still some time until it will be possible to take advantage of this visa route and it will be necessary to see the full details of the requirements before knowing exactly how useful it will be.

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Solicitor/Head of Legal​​

Thomas Miles