News & Insights

The Graduate Visa – Here to Stay?

In response to suggestions that the route ought to be abolished, the Migration Advisory Committee have published their report on the Graduate visa route.

The Graduate visa route allows migrants currently in the UK on a Student visa to extend their stay and work in the UK after the completion of their studies. Unlike the Skilled Worker visa, it is not a sponsored route – meaning that a migrant with a Graduate visa does not need to be sponsored by an employer to work.

This makes it a rather popular route with migrants and employers alike. Migrants with a Graduate visa can move between jobs, without needing to persuade their employers to sponsor them or make a fresh visa application. Employers also do not have to incur the financial costs associated with sponsorship, while the Graduate route supplies them with a pool of degree-educated talent to hire from.

Despite these positives, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly wrote to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on 11 March 2024, to commission a rapid review of the Graduate route. In his letter, Mr Cleverly suggested that the route might not be supporting high standards in UK universities and that an increased demand for Student visas might be primarily motivated by the opportunities for immigration, rather than education.

The MAC have now published their report on the Graduate route. They found that the route is a net financial benefit to the UK economy, while also helping the Government to meet its objectives under the International Education Strategy.  The MAC found no evidence that the Graduate route in any way undermines the integrity or quality of UK higher education.

They did concede that some international students were being exploited by agents misrepresenting visa routes. However, the MAC’s proposed course of action for dealing with this would involve the Government establishing a mandatory registration system for international recruitment agents, with stronger transparency obligations imposed on universities regarding the use of such agents.

The MAC also warned that, due to recent political discourse and more onerous restrictions being imposed on international students and migrants more generally, some international students may already feel unwelcome in the UK. Given the important financial contribution that they make to UK universities, this “chilling effect” on international applications for university places could have disastrous consequences for UK higher education.

The MAC’s conclusions would suggest that the Graduate route is here to stay – for the time being, at least. Their report comes only days after the publication of the Taking Back Control report by the Centre for Policy Studies, former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, and MP Neil O’Brien. In stark contrast, that report suggested abolishing the Graduate visa route entirely. You can read more about that below.

If you would like advice or support with a Graduate visa application, or with switching from a Graduate visa to a Skilled Worker visa, please get in touch at [email protected]