Which UK visa will allow me to stay work after graduation?

There are few visa options for recent international graduates that would like to stay work in the UK and London. Here below is a list of UK work visa options for international student graduating this year. If you are a recent graduate we also recommend you try Migreat free visa tool to check your eligibility to a UK work visa,

Young Woman with smartphone walking on street

1. The toughest to get: the Tier 2 general work visa.

This visa is the most known from international graduates who want to secure a full-time job in the UK after graduation. It is tough to get and also one that grants you the most freedom and time in the UK compared to others: from three to five years in the UK, without freeze time or requirement to create jobs. To get the Tier 2 general worker visa, your employer will have to sponsor you and your job position must fit the Tier 2 requirements. The process is bureaucratic but doable: here is a guide we wrote on how to get the sponsorship.

To qualify:

You must have an offer from a sponsored employer and the job must at least be to the level of a ‘manager” (NQF6 in the legal jargon of the UK immigration border agency). You must be paid an appropriate salary for your job – at least £22K a year. For the documents to include in your application, we have created a simple detailed list in a previous blog post.

What if my employer is not a sponsor yet? You will have to convince your employer to become a sponsor. Here are tips to help your employer understand the costs and benefits of the sponsorship licence for his company. Else, you can consider another visas out of this list here that do not require your company to sponsor you.

Tips and advice:

If you don’t have enough money on your bank account to sustain yourself – you can ask your employer to guarantee it by ticking the box on the visa application.

The sponsorship is obtained in two to three months after the application is sent by your employer. If you hire a lawyer to do the sponsorship, from experience, it takes much less time and removes the hassle.

If you have questions on the topic, we wrote a Q&A out of the most popular questions on the sponsorship licence.

job interview, senior manager and young apprentice isolated on w

2. For recent graduates – the tier 5 internship visa option

That is one new visa that promises a great opportunities in the next years. It is a visa for graduates that would like to come or stay in the UK to do an internship. Any graduate can apply. It is not restricted to UK graduates. It does not require the employer to apply for a sponsorship license.

To qualify:

The most important thing for you to qualify is that you get offered the internship; and that this internship fits your skills or graduate diploma – which only a trusted overarching body can testify. Click to the link to find the list of overarching bodies.

The process of applying to the visa depends on how long it takes your employee to gather docs and which overarching body you choose to work with (this is compulsory), but it can be as quick as a week with Migreat partners.

Tips & advice: 

The scheme does not allow you to stay more than a year officially. However you can extend to a one year more if you go back to your country of origin and apply from there, or you can switch on to a Tier 2 general with your employer. The visa is a good test for your employer to know if he/she should invest in becoming a sponsor to switch you on a tier 2 visa. To know more about the advantage of the scheme, you can read more from our expert Zenia online.

International students in a park with a laptop

3. For Commonwealth country nationals

If you are from the following countries: Australia, Canada, Hong-Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, South Korea and Taiwan, the Tier 5 category offers for you special temporary work visas that allows you to stay at least for two years in the UK.

To qualify:

It is all government managed. Basically, you just have to prove you are a national of that country, and that you have the money to sustain yourself while in the UK.

Good to know:

Be aware that the years you spend in the UK under this scheme does not qualify for citizenship and you will have to return to your home country after it. A renewal or switch of visa is almost impossible from within the UK.

4. & 5. For talented Guinea pigs of visa – the Tier 1 Category visas 

The tier 1 category of visas in the UK is dedicated to a small elite of highly skilled people. In this category, you will find a visa for investors, entrepreneurs, graduate entrepreneurs and exceptionally talented people.

People at the airport waiting for flight

To qualify: For each of these visas, there are particular requirements that make them hard to get, less applied to but worth considering given that it provides freedom from needing an employer to sponsor and time granted is three to five years, with a fast tracked process to citizenship if you meet and excel the requirements. Given the few people that apply to it (only 220 people were granted a graduate entrepreneur visa in between 2012-2013 out of the 1920 available), you have your chances but you will need good legal help to get it with no stress (see below).

For investors, the qualification will be around the amount of investment you are bringing to the UK. For entrepreneurs and graduate entrepreneur, it will rely heavily on the source of the investment capital and endorsement you get from institutions on your business idea. For exceptional talents, you will have to prove endorsement from the institutions that recognize your specific talent here in the UK (for example Tech city if you want to work in Tech).

Tips and advice:

The drawback of these visas is the costs at which it comes and their sometimes hazardous process. As such, we want here to redirect you to the right information and person that can help you go forward with your application.

For more information on the Exceptional talent visa, read our expert Leslie Sarma who is the most knowledgeable person on the matter in the whole UK as she advised the government on it!

For more information on the Entrepreneur visa, our partners at Gherson are always happy to answer questions online on Migreat, and have produced some guidelines to meet the funding requirements as it often is the trickiest part of the application process.

Finally if you are interested in the Graduate Entrepreneur visa, watch this space as Migreat is partnering with Startup Britain and other entrepreneurial organization to bring up informational guides, tips and support for any applicants to the visa. Meanwhile you can also check our blog post about the advantages of the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa over the Entrepreneur Visa.


Other options, like spouse or dependent visas are options available for you and will allow you to work and stay in the UK – but these visas are not made specifically for that use, so they are here excluded

We hope this visa list can help you make your mind of you options to stay here with us in the UK. You should know and bear in mind that each of these visa options have specific requirements that make them more or less easy to get; and a good or bad fit for your work situation. It is always good to ask the expert opinion of a solicitor. Feel free to check out which visa is best suited for you by using our free visa solution tool online, or just ask one of our immigration partner on the Questions & Answers forum. We are free and will always be.

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