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National Careers Week | Graduate Visa Requirements and Tips for Employers

National Careers Week | Graduate Visa Requirements and Tips for Employers

National Careers Week is a celebration of careers guidance and free resources in education across the UK. The aim is to provide a focus for careers guidance activity at an important stage in the academic calendar to help support young people leaving education. This National Careers Week we want to shine a spotlight on International Students and the Graduate Visa route. 

International Students

International Students on a Student visa are usually permitted to work for 20 hours per week during term time and full time during the university holidays. After graduation, many International Students would like to remain in the UK and gain more experience in their chosen field.

Graduate Visa

The Graduate visa is a useful stepping stone for students that wish to stay in the UK to work but haven’t yet secured a job offer, as there is no need to be sponsored by an organisation or employer. Those who do want to work can do so at any skill level and for any salary. This gives Graduate visa holders flexibility to explore career options and gain a range of experience in different industries. 

Graduate visa holders can stay in the UK for up to two years, or three if they have completed a PhD. The flexibility of this route is beneficial for employees and employers alike. As there is no skill requirement for the job offered, employers can hire Graduates into roles that would otherwise be excluded from the Skilled Worker route.

Moreover, businesses can hire a Graduate without first incurring the time and expense of applying for a sponsorship licence if they do not already have one. Some businesses may feel this is too significant an investment to embark on when hiring a new employee. For Graduates at the start of their career, they may prefer not to be tied down to a three- or five-year contract, as they would be under the Skilled Worker route. 

Where a business does wish to continue a Graduate’s employment beyond the expiry of their visa, the employee can switch to the Skilled Worker route from within the UK, so long as the employer obtains a sponsor licence. One potential downside of the Graduate visa is that time on the Graduate visa counts towards the 4 years a visa applicant can be considered a “new entrant”. The salary requirement for “New Entrants” is 30% lower than the rate for experienced workers in any occupation.

Potential changes 

In pursuing his ambition to reduce immigration to the UK, James Cleverly, has suggested that he may seek to end the ability of foreign students to apply for a two-year work visa once they have successfully completed their studies. The UK government has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to review the Graduate visa route to ensure it works in the best interests of the UK and to ensure steps are being taken to prevent abuse. The Graduate visa allows international students the chance to gain work experience in the UK and contribute to the UK economy. It is difficult to see how this two-year visa can be “abused” and would reduce the opportunity for International Students to explore career options in the UK as they would need to proceed straight to a Skilled Worker visa. Even when Graduate visa holders are working in lower skilled occupations, they are learning vital transferrable skills and gaining experience in the UK job market. Our expert Immigration Team can assist with navigating the Skilled Worker visa requirements and application process. Further information on the Skilled Worker visa is available on our website

Employment law considerations

In the current format, the Graduate visa, in its current form, provides a healthy competition for Graduates coming out of university and increases the talent pool for selection. Employers should always be mindful of the potential for discrimination if selections for their Graduate schemes are made based on anything other than the capabilities of the individual. A decision not to hire the best candidate because they would require a Graduate visa would be less favourable treatment because of a protected characteristic, even if the decision was made because of the time limitation on Graduate visas or because the employer was uncertain on how the legal position on Graduate visas may change in the future. 

If you do have any queries about the Graduate visa scheme or sponsorship licences, or potential pitfalls of any recruitment process then please get in touch. Our Employment and Immigration teams work closely together to help advise individuals and businesses. Our specialist teams can be contacted on 03330 430350.

About the authors

Louise Crichton
Louise Crichton

Louise Crichton

Senior Solicitor

Immigration & Visas

Andrew Wallace
Andrew Wallace

Andrew Wallace



For more information, contact Louise Crichton or any member of the Immigration & Visas team on 0141 483 9020.