The Graduate Route
The Graduate Route – the Home Office first-ever entirely digital evidence-free visa application
The long-awaited Graduate route visa has been introduced for the UK graduate from 1 July 2021 which is the first-ever entirely digital application that does not require evidence if the applicant has a Biometric Resident Card or Permit. The application has been designed differently compared to exiting point-based visa applications e.g. student or skilled worker route. In respect of design, it matches more to the Pre-Seltted or Settled Status applications under the Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules (EU Settlement Scheme).
The application needs to be started at GOV.UK website, where the applicant will first need to create a UK Visas and Immigration account. Once this is done, the application will prompt the applicant to use the ‘UK Immigration ID Check’ mobile application to verify the applicant’s identity. The applicant will need his or her Biometric Residence Card or Permit endorsing Student (or Tier 4) visa and compatible with Android phones and iPhone 7 or newer models. If the applicant is an EU, EEA or Swiss national, he or she can also use their biometric passport to verify the identity on the application. The application works almost in a similar way to the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ mobile application except for a QR code is generated in the online application form to link the ID to the application. Unless the applicant’s Biometric Residence Permit is lost or stolen, he or she is not required to provide biometrics at the UK Visas and Immigration’s commercial partner UKVCAS potentially savings the fees for booking the appointment at UKVCAS service centres. If the Biometric Residence Permit is not available, the applicant will be prompt to an old-styled (similar to a student visa) application. In such a case, the applicant will be required to book an appointment and provide biometrics at one of the UKVCAS service centres using his or her national passport as the identity document.
If the Biometric Residence Permit is available and once the identity is verified via the ‘UK Immigration ID Check’ mobile application, the rest of the form needs to be completed and the rest of the questionnaires are similar to the student visa applications. Although the dependants’ number and details can be provided in the application form, the dependants need to apply separately in a similar way.
Unlike the previous Tier 1 (Post-study Work) visa, which was closed in 2012, the Graduate route visa does not require to show funds for maintenance and it seems that the logic behind the same is – currently the students living in the UK for twelve months are exempted from showing funds for maintenance. Also, the applicants do not require to provide their original certificate or transcript or even official award confirmation as proof of their degree. The Home Office seems to obtain confirmation of the award directly from the university that has awarded the degree. Further, if a dependant has previously been granted a visa as the dependant of the main (student) applicant, which is the requirement anyway to be granted a dependant visa under the Graduate route except for a child who has been born in the UK during the main applicant’s student leave, it is unlikely that further documentation will be requested for the proof of relationship e.g. marriage or birth certificate and proof of cohabitation.
The main requirement for the Graduate route visa is – the applicant has successfully finished his or her bachelor/masters/PhD degree and he or she has a student visa at the time of making the application on or after 1 July 2021 and the application must be made inside the UK. If someone’s student (or Tier 4) visa has been expired before 1 July 2021, he or she is not eligible to apply. Further, the applicants with permission as a Student who began their studies in autumn 2020, or in spring 2021 and could not enter the UK due to COVID-19 pandemic and commenced to pursue their course remotely, will need to be in the UK, by 27 September 2021; the applicants beginning their course this autumn or early next year will need to be in the UK by 6 April 2022. For making a Graduate route application, no sponsorship is required from the university. However, if an applicant has completed the course with a scholarship or sponsorship a letter from the scholarship or sponsorship provider approving the application will need to be provided if they paid for the course fees or living costs in the last 12 months.
The Graduate route visa is issued for two years for the students who have completed a bachelor or masters degree and for three years who have completed a PhD degree in the UK. The application fees are currently £700 for both 2-year or 3-year visas. However, the applicants are required to pay the immigration health surcharge (IHS) additionally at the rate of £624 per year (higher than the IHS fee for the students which is £470 per year). Therefore, a PhD graduate will pay £2572 (£700+£1872) for a 3-year Graduate route visa and other graduates will pay £1948 (£700+£1248) for a 2-year visa.
Although the standard time frame for deciding a Graduate route application is 8 weeks, however, at this moment the decisions are being made quite quickly and possibly because no evidence is required to be considered as part of the application or simply because it is a newly introduced route and the department is not yet received many applications. The decisions are communicated via emails to the applicants. The visa is issued digitally in the Home Office system just like Pre-Stteled or Settled status, however, a Biometric Residence Permit is also issued. Most importantly, the status can also be proved immediately after receiving the decision by sharing code even before the Biometric Residence Permit is issued.