On 11 September 2019 the UK Government announced the creation of a new immigration route which will enable international students to remain in the UK for two years after they have completed their studies.
In the year ending June 2019, the number of sponsored student visa applications rose 9% to 236,679. This included an 11% increase for the higher education sector to 201,919.
It takes time to develop a new immigration route and ensure the framework is in place for it to successfully operate. Introducing the route in the summer of 2021 will mean that all students who graduate in the summer of 2021 or after will benefit, regardless of when they started their course. This route was announced in September 2019 to ensure that universities and stakeholders could promote the route when attracting prospective students. It will enable students to decide where to study, knowing they have the option of staying in the UK to work after completing their studies.
Any student who successfully completes their degree-level course at a qualifying institution in the summer of 2021 or after will be eligible. This includes students who are already studying. Those whose Tier 4 leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible for it, however, most of these students will have had no expectation of benefitting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK. These students can still benefit from the generous provisions which allow them to switch in the skilled work route on favourable terms.
Individuals applying for the Graduate Immigration Route will not need a sponsor. Tier 4 sponsors will not need to fulfil any sponsorship duties for their students if they switch onto the Graduate Immigration Route and students will not need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to apply under this route. Tier 4 sponsors, however, will continue to be responsible for their students while they are studying.
The route is non-extendable and does not count towards settlement. However, graduates who find an appropriate job and meet the requirements will be able to switch into skilled work, which is a route to settlement.