Graduate route

Details on the Graduate route for Royal Holloway students

Graduate route

The Graduate route is a new visa route that was opened on 1 July 2021. It is designed for students that are completing their studies and will allow successful applicants to remain in the UK for 2 or 3 years (depending on qualification) after completion. Holders of a Graduate route visa will be able to conduct most types of work, including self-emplyoment/freelancing/contracting and working as an employee.

An application under the Graduate route costs £700 (per applicant) plus the immigration health surcharge, charged at £624 per year of leave granted, per applicant. Nationals of the 26 CESC European countries will have a £55 discount.

For example, a PhD graduate with two eligible dependents would pay a total of £7,716

How to apply

Please read all of the content below before applying.

Applications for the Graduate route are made online here. Please note that you must be in the UK to apply, it is not possible to apply overseas. 

You must have valid leave for the UK (some exceptions apply relating to covid-19, see below) when you are making the application.


Qualification (relevant course)

You must have completed your qualification before applying to be eligible.

To be eligible for the Graduate route, you must have studied a "relevant course". A relevant course must be one of the following:

  • Undergraduate degree
  • Master's degree
  • PhD or other doctoral qualification

You must normally have completed this relevant course during your current Tier 4/Student permission, and it must normally be the same course for which your CAS was assigned. There are some exceptions however:

  • your CAS was assigned for an integrated programme and you completed the lower level part of that programme (i.e. CAS assigned for MSci, switched to BSc and completed successfully)
  • you were allowed to switch to a different course without applying for new Tier 4/Student permission
  • the College changed the name of your course without changing the content
  • you added or removed a work placement/year in industry/study abroad year
  • your last grant of leave under Tier 4 / Student was as a Students' Union Sabbatical Officer (please contact International Advice for further guidance)

Current visa 

You must have valid leave on Tier 4 or the Student route to apply. You cannot apply for the Graduate route if you hold any other type of visa in the UK.

If you have previously applied under the Doctorate Extension Scheme you will not be eligible for the Graduate route. If you have previously had permission under Tier 1 (PSW), you can apply for the Graduate route. 

You can only hold permission under the Graduate route once. 

Covid-19 Exceptions
  • If you are in the UK under exceptional assurance, you may still be eligible as long as you have not overstayed the last grant of exceptional assurance (please contact International Advice if you think this affects you)

Time studied in the UK (relevant period)

To be eligible for the Graduate route, you must have studied in the UK for the "relevant period". The immigration rules outline the relevant period as follows:

  • For courses of 12 months or less - you must have spent the full duration of the course in the UK under Student/Tier 4 permission
  • For courses longer than 12 months - you must have spent at least 12 months of the course in the UK under Student/Tier 4 permission

If you applied for Student permission before you started your course but it was not granted until after you had started studying on that course, the Home Office will treat this as you having had Student permission from the start date of your course. 

Covid-19 Exceptions

Due to covid-19, there are many exceptions and concessions in place. These are designed so that students that have been unable to come to the UK are not disadvantaged in applying for the route. 

  • If you have been studying remotely due to covid-19, you may still be eligible for Graduate route as long as you return to the UK by certain deadlines:

My course is 12 months long or less, I started in 2020 or 2021, and I have not entered the UK: you must arrive in the UK on/before 27 September 2021 or before your visa expiry date, whichever is sooner.

My course is 12 months long or less, I started in 2020 or 2021, I have previously entered the UK: you must be present in the UK before your visa expiry date

My course is longer than 12 months: you must be present in the UK before your Tier 4/Student permission ends & any distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 will not affect your eligibility for the route

Application requirements

There are no financial requirements for the route, so bank statements or other financial documents will not be required (unlike the Student route). The only exception to this is if you have been financially sponsored by an official financial sponsor in the last 12 months. If this is the case you will need to submit a consent letter from your sponsor to apply for the route (please note that Royal Holloway does not count as an official financial sponsor in this context). 

Likewise there are no requirements to provide proof of English language. It is assumed that having completed a UK degree-level course that your level of English is sufficient. 

Application process 

It is important that you are aware of the process for applying for the route as there are some important moving parts that affect you. If you have any questions regarding this process, please contact us.

Application process flowchart 

It is important you do not apply before you have received confirmation from the College that we have reported your successful completion. If you do apply before this, your application will be delayed and potentially refused.

We are required by the Home Office to report all students, regardless of your actual intention to apply for the route or not and you do not need to take any action for us to report you. Please do bear with us, this is a new route for the sector so this first year of the route may take longer that we hope whilst we resolve any potential issues/put new systems in place.

How will the College inform me that I am ready to apply?

The College will contact you via email to your College email address. This email will write to you to confirm whether we believe you are eligible for the Graduate route, and will provide you with the relevant information to make your application.

If we believe you to be ineligible for the route (i.e. you have not met the relevant period or relevant course requirements) we will also contact you. 

Below are the two emails you need to look out for:

Graduate route confirmation - eligible students

Graduate route confirmation - ineligible students

What can you do on the Graduate route?

Once you have successfully received your Graduate route visa you are able to remain in the UK until the expiry date of the leave. Please note that you can only receive Graduate route leave once and it is non-extendable. 

The route is very flexible with regards to work, unlike the Student route, and most activity is allowed:

  • You can work for any employer
  • You can work full-time, part-time, or on a zero-hour basis
  • You can take internships or work experience opportunities
  • You can be self-employed, freelance, consult, or contract out services
  • You cannot work as a professional sportsperson or coach

Employers should be aware of the route, however you may find that they do not fully understand it. You may also be their first employee with Graduate route permission, so do be prepared to be able to discuss it with employers if required. Further assistance and advice can be sought from ISSO.

You are also able to undertake some types of study. This includes:

  • Part-time undergraduate study
  • Study at a College/University without a Student sponsor licence
  • Online, evening, or recreatonal study
  • You are not able to study any course that could be sponsored under the Student route (i.e. full-time degree level study)


Dependents are permitted on the Graduate route, however there are some important things to note. 

Firstly, any dependant applying with you must have previously been a dependant on your previous Tier 4/Student visa, and must also apply in the UK. You are not permitted to bring any new dependents to the UK, and are also unable to switch from another UK visa to Graduate route if they enter on a different type of leave.

Any child that applies as a dependant must have both parents in the UK, and they must both be applying at the same time (usual exceptions apply where a parent is the sole surviving parent, has sole custody, or there are compelling circumstances). 

if you have a child that was born in the UK prior to your Graduate route application, they must have held Student dependant permission. If you have a child during your period of Graduate route permission, they can join you as a Graduate route dependant.

Please contact the International Advice team for any help with the Graduate route and dependents. 

Frequently asked questions

Will I be granted 2 or 3 years?

The length of the visa you receive depends on the relevant course you successfully completed:

Undergraduate degree: 2 years

Master's degree: 2 years

PhD: 3 years

Will I receive the Graduate route visa automatically?

No. You must apply for the Graduate route, it is a new immigration application.

If you do not apply, you will not receive it.

I am in a red list country, can I still travel to the UK for the Graduate route?

As things stand in July 2021, yes, as long as you have an active Student/Tier 4 visa (this can be a BRP or an entry clearance vignette).

You should take any quarantine rules that may be in place at the time of your travel however. Details on this can be found here.

I have not managed to get a placement, am I still eligible?

As mentioned above, removing a work placement/year in industry) is acceptable and you should still meet the relevant course requirement.

How long will the process of reporting my successul completion take?

We expect there to be a lead time of at least 3-4 weeks after your course end date before any reporting is made to the Home Office, especially this year.

It may be shorter or longer than this, but rest assured we will be working as quickly as possible.

Can I switch out of the Graduate route?

Yes, you can switch out of the Graduate route. You will likely be doing this anyway if you obtain a full-time job role that requires sponsorship.

Some examples of the routes you would be able to switch into:

  • Skilled Worker route for permanent, sponsored work (you would qualify as a new entrant)
  • Family routes
  • Student route if you want to go back to full-time study (note that you would not qualify for the Graduate route again)
  • Other routes

The list above is not exhaustive. For help on future options, please contact International Advice.

Useful links and resources

There is a lot of information online about the Graduate route, and not all of it is accurate. The links we provide here will be kept up-to-date and are from reliable sources.

UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) details on the Graduate route

UKCISA Student Fringe sessions on the Graduate route and career success from the UKCISA Conference 2021

UK Immigration Rules Appendix Graduate  

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