Since 2021, the UK government has reintroduced the stay-back program for international students pursuing higher education courses in the UK. The corresponding visa has been christened Graduate Visa and is valid for at least 2 years.
As of December 2021, I have transitioned from Student Visa to Graduate Visa and I want to share my experience with you guys.
Who can apply?
In order to be eligible for the Graduate Visa you have to meet certain criteria.
The first of course is that you have to be on a Student Visa and be in the UK at the time of the application. Along with this, you have to successfully complete an eligible educational course: usually a bachelor's or postgraduate degree from a recognized UK university. Further, your university has to inform the home office that you have successfully completed all the requirements for your degree.
In most cases, this last part is not something you have to worry about. Once you apply for the visa the home office will request relevant information from your university and they will confirm the status of your degree. However, some universities might require you to wait for them to send you a confirmation mail stating you can now apply for Graduate Visa.
My eligibility for the Graduate visa was based on my successful completion of my MSc in Management from the University of Leeds. I completed my course in September 2021 and received my results in November 2021. I applied for my Graduate Visa on 15th December 2021 and was granted the visa on 22nd December 2021.
How to apply?
The application for the Graduate Visa can be done online through the UK Government website (click here to apply).
Beware of fake websites and agencies trying to scam you. I would recommend avoiding applying through any third-party websites or agents as the process is quite easy and can be done by yourself.
You can apply from home using your laptop or smartphone and will require the following documents:
Original BRP (Student Visa)
Passport (for the number)
Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) reference number from when you applied for your student visa.
Additionally, you would require a smartphone with an NFC reader to verify your BRP. This doesn't have to be your own phone as you can borrow an NFC-enabled phone from someone to complete this part of the process. In case this is not available, you will have to make an appointment to complete the verification process in person.
Once you start the application, the website will ask you several questions to confirm your identity as well as your eligibility. The website itself is quite user-friendly and will guide you from start to finish.
For the verification of your BRP, you will require a phone with an NFC reader and you will be instructed to download the UK Immigration: ID Check App (download here).
Keep in mind that sometimes, despite having an NFC reader, some phones fail to read the BRP. Not sure if this issue is with the phone or the app. From personal experience, my friends have faced this issue while using certain versions of iOS. This may have been fixed in the later updates, but it is good to have a backup device just in case.
While some of the questions may feel silly or irrelevant, it is important that you answer all questions honestly and to the best of your knowledge correctly. the UKVI has access to all your information from prior applications and can verify other information you provide them. In case they feel you have been dishonest, your application can be rejected, often without appeal. If this happens, you will have to leave the UK and may be forbidden from entering the country for a long time.
Toward the end of the application, you will be asked to pay for the visa and the IHS.
How much does it cost?
The total cost can vary depending on the duration of your visa, your age as well as the number of dependents applying with you.
The cost of the visa itself is £715 per person for the entirety of its duration. The IHS on the other hand will be £624 per person per year. For graduates, the visa will be valid for 2 years and the total cost of IHS will come to £1248 whereas, for those applying after completing their Ph.D. the visa will be valid for 3 years and the total cost of IHS will come to £1872.
My total cost of application for a 2-year Graduate visa came to £1948: £700 for the visa and £1248 for the IHS. However, the cost of the visa has since gone up o £715 and a current applicant will have to pay £1963 for the same.
Once you have completed your application you will receive a mail confirming the same. From that point your visa approval can take anywhere from a few days to over a month depending on circumstances.
Upon completion of your visa application, you are allowed to stay in the UK till you get a decision even if your current visa gets expired. Do note however that you cannot apply for a Graduate Visa unless your Student Visa is valid at the time of your application.
If you have any doubts or questions about this process, fee free to reach me here via the Ask Me section at the bottom of the page or via LinkedIn.
All information provided here is accurate at the time it was published. However, immigration rules can be changed or updated at any time and the best source of the latest information regarding UK Student Visas is Student visa : Overview - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).