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Work visas for graduates

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Working in the UK after you graduate is a great chance to gain experience in an international environment.

UK immigration and visas are managed by the UK government’s Home Office. Please check the UK Visas and Immigration website for more information.

Do I need a visa to work in the UK after graduation?

This depends on your nationality and immigration status. Find out if you need a visa to work in the UK here: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa

What kind of visa can I apply for?

The following two visas are suitable for graduates who want to work in the UK:

·        Tier 2 (General) visa: Open to recent graduates with a Bachelor's or Master's degree, PhD, PGCE or PGDE from a UK recognised or listed body. You can apply for a Tier 2 visa without first having to leave the UK if you have an offer of a skilled job from an employer that is a licensed sponsor. The job must meet minimum salary criteria – this depends on the profession you wish to work in.

There is no limit to the number of students who can gain a Tier 2 visa, provided you meet these requirements. You can stay in the UK for three years, with the possibility to extend.

·        Tier 5 temporary worker visa: You must leave the UK and apply from overseas for this category. The exception to this is if you are undertaking postgraduate training or work experience relevant to your qualification – in this case you can switch into the Tier 5 government authorised exchange scheme from inside the UK. To apply for most Tier 5 categories, you must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor and pass a points-based assessment.

There are different requirements under the youth mobility scheme. Tier 5 work experience and internship schemes are limited to 12 months, but other schemes covering research, fellowships and training in the fields of science and medicine are limited to two years.

The following visa is suitable for graduates who want to start up their own business in the UK:

·        Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa: To be eligible, you need to be endorsed by a UK higher education institution (HEI) participating in this scheme. This does not necessarily need to be the instutition where you previously studied. On this scheme, you can stay in the UK for one year with the option to extend for a further 12 months if an authorized institution is willing to endorse you. Click here to see the authorised endorsing bodies (PDF).

Please go to Working in the UK after your studies: A guide to visas for more information about visa requirements and how to apply.

Doctoral students

Doctoral students (e.g. PhD students) who have completed their UK studies can now stay in the UK to search for skilled employment or establish their own business for up to 12 months after they have completed their doctorate. Applications for the doctorate extension scheme need to be made before the expected completion date of the doctorate, and cannot be made after a doctorate is completed.

Find out more

You can find out more on the UK Visas and Immigration website – see the Work visas section.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs also provides student-friendly advice about visas.

For career advice and more details about work visas, go to Entering a career.