The Tier 4 Graduate Route was first announced by the Home Office on 11th September 2019. If brought into force in line with information currently available, the route would provide two years of leave to those who are studying on Tier 4 student visas. It would permit employment and self-employment and facilitate the move into other work routes that potentially lead to settlement.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for general information only and reflects the position in the law at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated or relied upon as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

There has been no further information about The Tier 4 Graduate Route since the General Election which took place in December 2019. However, Home Office policy staff are still developing the scheme and have said that they might be able to publish more details this summer. However, the Home Office has said that it is unlikely that the route will be launched until at least April 2021, and possibly later, because its current focus is on designing and implementing a new immigration system to come into force by January 2021.

The information below sets out what we have heard and read so far about the Graduate Route, which is all subject to change.

Which students might be able to apply for the Tier 4 Graduate Route?

  • Only students with Tier 4 (General) student leave are likely to be able to apply fot the Tier 4 graduate route – it is unlikely that anyone else will be covered.
  • Students whose leave has not expired when the scheme is introduced – this is because you will have to apply for the Graduate Route in the UK and there will be no provision for applications outside the UK.
  • Students who have successfully passed their course – Home Office information refers to students ‘graduating’ in summer 2021 but in practice this means students who have been notified that they have passed their course.
  • Students who have successfully completed a recognised UK degree – although the Home Office information talks about ‘degree-level’ qualifications, its current thinking appears to have changed to degrees only. This means that certificates, diplomas and other non-degree qualifications at RQF 6 or SCQF 9 and above may not qualify, even though many of them are vocational qualifications, including teaching and law.
  • Tier 4 (General) students who successfully complete the course on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) they used to obtain the Tier 4 leave they currently hold – the Home Office has suggested that students who change course, even if their study condition permits this, may not qualify for this route.
  • The Home Office has stated that it does not intend to extend this route to students who spend only a short period of time in the UK, for example, a semester as a distance learner or possibly students who spend a top-up year or less in the UK.
  • In the future, anyone who has already been granted Graduate Route leave will not be able to apply for it again

What kind of work might be permitted?

  • ​Most types of employment and self-employment might be permitted under The Tier 4 Graduate Route, like its predecessor route, Tier 1 (Post-study Work). However, there may be a prohibition on work as a professional sportsperson and as a doctor or dentist in training, though some immigration categories allow the latter if the applicant has studied medicine or dentistry in the UK. Work as an entertainer should be permitted, as it is under most other work routes.
  • The Home Office has stated that full-time and part-time work at any level will be allowed. However, it has also implied that the route could be closed if evidence suggests that it is used to obtain jobs it regards as ‘low skilled’, which is what happened with Tier 1 (Post-study Work). For an idea of the type of jobs the Home Office regards as ‘skilled’, see Appendix J of the Immigration Rules, which sets out job titles, descriptions and wages required for sponsorship under Tier 2 (which is a ‘skilled job’ route). The Graduate Route has the advantage of not requiring sponsorship or a minimum wage.

Will there be a maintenance requirement?

  • The Home Office has not yet given any indication of this, and there is the possibility that there will be no maintenance requirement. However, most other immigration categories have such a requirement, so it is likely that one will be imposed.
  • If you were wholly sponsored (all your tuition fees and maintenance) for your studies by a government or an international scholarship agency, you will need your financial sponsor’s consent to stay in the UK under this new route, as with other work categories.
  • You will need to pay an immigration application fee, which has not yet been set, and the immigration health surcharge for a period of two years. The applicable rate is yet to be confirmed.

What about my partner and/or children?

  • The Home Office has not yet provided any detailed information about this but has suggested that eligibility will be restricted to dependants who are already in the UK with the Tier 4 student who wishes to apply under The Tier 4 Graduate Route.
  • The Home Office’s proposal would therefore have the effect of keeping many families apart, contrary to fundamental principles of human rights law such as Article 8 ECHR (the right to a private and family life). We are strongly opposed to such a restriction and are currently lobbying the Home Office to review its position on this. The restriction is not applied to other post-study work routes, fails to take into account the realities of everyday life and risks the loss of international graduates’ talent from the UK’s labour market.

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