A Guide to the Graduate Route
The Graduate Route is a post-study work visa that will allow you to stay in the UK to work or look for work for 2 years after your degree has been awarded, or 3 years, if you have been awarded a Doctoral qualification.
Fee increase for the Graduate Route
From 4 October 2023, the application fee for the Graduate Route will increase to £822. An increase to the Immigration Health Surcharge fee is also expected at some point in the autumn. We will update this page when we have further information.
You MUST NOT make your application before steps 1-4 are complete, or your application could be refused.
You must check that:
You meet all of the eligibility criteria (see below)
Your student record is fully up-to-date*, including:
your current Student/Tier 4 visa
*Note that Step 3 cannot be completed without this information
Your degree is awarded and is confirmed on your EUCLID student record (your student record will say ‘successfully completed an award’).
The University makes a report to the UKVI to tell them that your degree has been awarded and that you qualify for the Graduate Route. Please note that your eligibility will typically be reported within 2 weeks of your award being published, and your student record being updated, but this can vary.
The University sends you an email to your student and personal email accounts confirming that we have made the report and reminding you what your CAS number is. If you think you should have received this email, but have not yet received it, please contact us.
You complete the online visa application, pay the application and Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee. If you have a valid EU, EEA or Swiss passport, or hold a valid BRP, you will be able to apply using the UK Immigration: ID Check app.
You will need to prove your identity as part of the application process. If you can use the UK Immigration: ID Check app, you will be directed to scan either your passport, your BRP or both.
If you are unable to use the UK Immigration: ID Check app, you’ll be asked to get your fingerprints and photograph taken at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point instead.
You wait in the UK* for a decision about your application and, if you are a visa national, for your BRP to be delivered
*if you leave the UK before you receive a decision, your application will be deemed withdrawn and you may lose the opportunity to get a Graduate Route visa. If you leave the UK before you get your BRP (where applicable), you will need to apply for a replacement vignette before you can return to the UK (£165).
Do not apply for the Graduate Route until after you receive a confirmation email from the University containing your CAS
Ensure that your Student Record is up-to-date with your current visa and address
Apply before your Tier 4/Student visa expires
Qualifying for the Graduate Route (eligibility criteria)
You must have a valid Tier 4 or Student visa
You must make your application in the UK prior to the expiry of your Tier 4/Student visa*
If you have, in the 12 months prior to your application, received a full scholarship from a Government or International Scholarship Agency (i.e. fees and living costs), you must have written consent from your sponsor to make the visa application
You must not have previously been granted a visa under the Graduate Route or the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)
*If your Tier 4/Student visa has expired, but you have been granted Exceptional Assurance, which is still valid, you may still be able to apply for the Graduate Route. Contact us for advice.
You must have been awarded a UK* bachelor’s or postgraduate degree, or one of the following:
A diploma in Professional Legal Practice
A PGCE or a PGDE
Other professional courses requiring study at UK bachelor’s degree level or above in a profession with reserved activities that are regulated by UK law or UK public authority. Professional roles that have reserved activities include (but are not limited to) medical doctors, architects, lawyers, teachers, and nurses.
You must have gained your qualification during the validity of your most recent Tier 4/Student visa (you cannot use a course that you completed before starting your most recent degree programme)
*Please note, if you have studied at the University of Edinburgh as a visiting student and your degree qualification has or will be awarded by an overseas institution, you will not be eligible to apply for the Graduate Route.
Requirement 1: You must spend a minimum amount of time physically present in the UK during your studies to qualify for the Graduate Route.
Requirement 2: You must hold a valid Tier 4/Student visa for the duration of the qualifying period in the UK
The minimum time you must spend depends on the length of your programme of studies:
- Your programme is longer than 12 months
- You must spend at least 12 months* studying in the UK
- Your programme is 12 months or less
- You must spend the full duration* of the programme studying in the UK
*(This does not include holidays taken outside of term time).
Any period of distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021, or remote study outside the UK up to 30 June 2022, as part of a course of study lasting longer than 12 months whilst you held permission as a Tier4/Student visa holder, will not prevent you from meeting the study in the UK requirement
- Time spent on permitted study abroad programmes: this is defined as a part of your programme which is completed at a partner institution, such as a University or research institute, outside the UK. The study abroad programme must be an integral and assessed part of the course which you have already started studying in the UK. An example of a permitted study abroad programme is a mandatory student exchange year.
There are a number of issues that you need to consider when leaving campus during term time – not just your eligibility for the Graduate Route:
- The University’s study regulations require you to be on campus during term time. You may apply for a Leave of Absence if you will be away for more than 30 days, but this can only be granted if you need the leave of absence for study purposes (such as data collection or a course-related work placement), and you continue to engage in your studies. You can ask your School if you wish to have an absence of 30 days or less, but it will be dependant on whether it is academically appropriate. You cannot miss any on campus engagement points.
- Your Student visa is granted to allow you to study in the UK. You are expected to carry out your studies on campus, and the UKVI’s expectation is that, if you don’t need to be in the UK, you don’t need a visa. We tell the UKVI that students need to be on campus to access the library and other facilities, even if they do not have classes. It is important, therefore, that you continue your studies in Edinburgh. However, whilst you should be based in the UK during term-time, there may be extenuating circumstances that require you to travel overseas for a short-period and for personal reasons, during which you would generally be absent from your studies. For example, if you must return home for 1 to 2 weeks because of a family emergency. If your absence is for a short period and you have informed your School, this should not impact your student visa.
- The Graduate Route rules currently state that, to qualify, you must be in the UK for all term time periods of your course, including the dissertation module. At present, this means that you must be in Edinburgh at all times except official vacation periods and weekends (Masters’ students do not have a summer vacation).
We recognise that the current rules about travel and the Graduate Route are unreasonably restrictive and we are working with UKCISA and UKVI to make them more realistic. However, we do not yet know what the changes will look like, and cannot confirm at this time whether your absence would exclude you from the Graduate Route. We understand from verbal discussions with UKVI that short absences are unlikely to affect Graduate Route eligibility as long as you remain fully engaged with your studies. However, we cannot advise exactly how this works in practice until UKVI have published guidance which explains this. We will update this webpage as soon as we receive any new information from UKVI on this issue.
You will need your CAS number to be able to apply for the Graduate Route. The University will tell you your CAS number when they confirm (by email) that they have reported your award to the UKVI.
You must have completed the same qualification that is stated on your CAS, unless you changed your programme as permitted by your Tier 4/Student visa. Find more information about what is permitted on our website.
Conditions of the Graduate Route
You are permitted to:
Work in any profession, at any level, for any employer (including self-employment and voluntary work) EXCEPT work as a professional sportsperson
Study on short or recreational courses
You must not:
What you need to know
If you have completed your course you can work full time until your student visa expires, but it must not be in a permanent role, unless you meet all of the below:
You submitted the visa application for your Student visa on or after 6 April 2022; and
You submit your Graduate visa application in-time before your Student visa expires; and
You submit your Graduate visa application after you successfully completed your course (i.e after you receive notification that the University has reported this to UKVI)
If all of the above applies to you, you can start a permanent full-time role whilst your Graduate visa application is pending
If you start a business while you have a Graduate Route visa, you will no longer qualify for the Start-Up visa
If your current Tier 4/Student visa will expire before your award is confirmed, you will need to extend your Student visa before you can apply for the Graduate Route. You can only extend your Student visa if you have not yet completed your studies. It is important that you seek advice about this as soon as you are aware. Contact Us
Your Graduate Route visa will be valid for 2 years from the date that your visa application is decided (which is normally about 8 weeks after you make your application). You should think carefully about when you should make your application. For example, many graduate work programmes start in September and last for 2 years, so you should plan to make your application around 8 weeks before the start of the programme.
However, there is no guarantee of exact dates when your visa will start and finish.
Frequently asked questions
If you are on a programme of 12 months or more, travel should not affect your eligibility. If you are on a course of 12 months or less, then you must be on campus during term-time. This means you should only travel during your vacation periods. Masters students do not have a summer vacation, as you are expected to be working full time on your dissertation. As the rules stand, if you choose to travel during term time, we cannot guarantee whether this will have an impact on your Graduate Route eligibility.
The period of time between your programme end date, and your current student visa end date, is known as your 'wrap up period'. Travelling during your wrap-up period should not affect your Graduate Route visa. However, you must be in the UK to make your Graduate Route visa application, and once submitted, you must remain in the UK until you receive a decision from UKVI.
You are expected to carry out your studies on campus, and the UKVI’s expectation is that, if you don’t need to be in the UK, you don’t need a visa. We tell the UKVI that students need to be on campus to access the library and other facilities, even if they do not have classes. It is important, therefore, that you continue your studies in Edinburgh. If you choose to go home for your dissertation period, we would withdraw sponsorship of your student visa and you would no longer be eligible for the Graduate Route visa.
As a student visa holder, during your studies you will typically have a work restriction of 20 hours per week. Working within this should not affect your eligibility. The time between your programme end date and your visa expiry date is known as your ‘wrap-up period’. During this time, students who have a standard work condition (limiting your work to up to 20 hours per week) are allowed to work full time on a temporary basis. Please note, you cannot sign a permanent contract during this time. More information can be found here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/student-administration/immigration/at-the-end-of-your-studies
If you have submitted and paid for your Graduate Route visa and Immigration Health Surcharge fees, before the end date of your current student visa, then you can stay and work in the UK. You can remain, even if your student visa expires, until you receive a decision from UKVI. Please note, it is important that you do not travel outside of the UK while you are waiting for a decision, as this can negatively impact your application.
Unfortunately, we are not able to influence how quickly UKVI make a decision on your application. As we do not sponsor this visa, we would not contact UKVI on your behalf. You can read more about visa processing times on the UKVI website: