The Post-Study Work (PSW) visa was first introduced in 2004. Initially, it allowed international STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates to gain one year of work experience after graduation.
Over time, the rules became very generous. They allowed all graduates with any degree to stay in the UK for two years without restrictions on skill level. However, in 2012, the PSW visa was eventually closed to all international applicants based on concerns about the increasing unemployment rate of British graduates.
Overseas students need to be provided with a post-study work visa. They can stay in the UK for only four months after completing their course. In 2016, the UK Parliament's Scottish Affairs Committee suggested that the PSW visa for international students should be reinstated because the number of non-EEU graduates moving onto work visas in Scotland has declined by 80% since 2012. However, the suggestion was rejected by the British Government, which stated that "applying different immigration rules to different parts of the UK will be more complicated, not only for national immigration security reasons but also for the employers with a presence in many parts of the UK."
In 2019, the British Government announced a new two-year post-study work visa to allow successful international students to take up a career in the UK.
This new pathway was referred to as the "Graduate Immigration Route." The guidance for the Graduate Immigration Route was updated again in 2020 with key features of the route like the application process, eligibility, etc.
The new post-study work route is available to all students who apply for courses in the UK in September 2020 or later. It takes time to develop and implement new immigration rules. Hence, introducing the route in the summer of 2021 means that all the students who graduate in the summer of 2021 or later will benefit, regardless of when they started their course.
The new graduation immigration route is available to all international students who have completed any bachelor's or master's degree with a track record of compliance. This will be launched in the summer of 2021, which means the students who enter the UK for the 2020–21 academic year intakes will only be able to apply. Students will benefit from this policy if they enter the UK before April 2021 and complete their final semester in the UK. Also, this immigration route includes students who have already started their courses. As a result of COVID-19, current and prospective students may be required to continue their studies via distance or blended learning. In such cases, the students will be eligible to switch to the Graduate Route on a concessionary basis even if they have spent some of their study time outside of the UK. This only applies to some students who completed their studies in the summer of 2020. The students should have a valid Tier 4 visa at the time of application. Students whose Tier 4 visa expires before the route is introduced are not eligible for the post-study work visa.
The Graduation Immigration Route, also known as the Post-Study Work Visa, will require an in-country application. Students will be subjected to various security checks. Application fees and payments for the Immigration Health Surcharge may also be applicable.
The new post-study visa allows students to work after their graduation. Any student who enrols at a UK university can stay in the UK to work or look for a job opportunity for up to two years. This applies to graduates of all higher education providers recognised as "licenced visa sponsors." The postgraduate work visa is meant to provide more time for students to find a job after attending university. It only affects how much a student works while studying.
Successful applicants for this route can stay and search for work in the UK for two years. Post-study work visas are not extendable after two years. Students can switch to a skilled worker visa if they find a suitable job.
After graduating, the student should be able to get a job in the UK within two years. After the post-study work visa expires, if the student wishes to stay longer in the UK, they have to apply for a transfer of their current access to a "general" or "skilled" work visa. The student must satisfy the Tier 2—General Work visa requirements for this visa transfer. If the student has a job after two years, they must leave the UK.
International graduates from all UK universities and academic disciplines are eligible for the Graduate Immigration Route. In 2019, the visa rules for students completing advanced degrees such as Masters's or PhDs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) will be relaxed. However, in 2020, the relaxation will be extended to all graduates, regardless of degree level. However, the student should complete a full-time course at a UK university. These new visa rules may not apply to some courses, like English language courses, A-levels, baccalaureate courses, or any short-term course. All the universities recognised by the British Government as trusted institutions, also called "licenced sponsors," are eligible for the post-study work visa. Such universities are required to keep their "proven track record" regarding upholding immigration and visa checks updated. The students should double-check and confirm that their chosen university is on this list.
This new policy by the British government is a positive change aimed at retaining global talent in the UK. It also helps boost the UK economy. After the announcement of the new post-study work visa, there has been a significant increase in international applicants to UK universities.
A residence and work permit are provided to overseas students even after course completion. Students can expect to start their international careers in the UK. Few European countries other than the UK have liberal student work visa policies. After two years, there is a better chance of a smoother transition from Tier 4 (student visa) to Tier 2 (work visa).