The new graduate route, announced in 2019, will finally commence on 1 July 2021.
From 1 July 2021, Graduates who have completed a Degree qualification or higher may benefit under this Route. Graduates will be granted a 2-year or 3-year visa (3-year visa for PhD Graduates) to enable them to live and work in the UK without the need for sponsorship from a licensed employer.
Once they are under this Route, they can undertake any work in the UK and not need to be sponsored, meet a minimum salary threshold or permission to switch jobs.
To qualify under the Graduate route, graduates must meet the following three requirements:
Successful Completion Requirement, i.e. having completed the course of study in the last grant of leave with a sponsor with a track record of compliance.
Qualification Requirement, i.e. the qualification must be a UK bachelor's degree, UK postgraduate degree, a PhD course or a relevant qualification (for example, professional courses such as Legal Practice Course)
Study in the UK, i.e. for the course duration; the student must spend a specified amount of time in the UK studying. The only exception is distance learning between 24 January 2020 and 27 September 2021 in specified circumstances.
What are the potential benefits under this Graduate Route?
Under the Skilled Worker category, there are 'new entrant rates' that allow employers to meet a lower salary threshold to sponsor (generally younger) workers. This 'new entrant rate' will apply to those switching from the Graduate Route.
To put this in perspective, a sponsor worker must meet the basic minimum salary of £25,600 or the going rate, whichever is higher. Under the new entrant rate, the salary threshold will be £25,600 or 70% of the role's going rate, whichever is higher.
This Route also allows a 3-year visa for PhD graduates.
Lastly, there is no maintenance requirement under this Route.
What the downsides to this Route (especially when compared with its predecessor)?
Under the old Tier 1 - Post Study Route, the new entrant rate' may be relied upon for the first three years of sponsorship despite spending two years under Tier 1 - Post-Study Work category. Instead, under the new rules, although the 'new entrant rate' may be relied upon for the first four years of sponsorship, those switching from the Graduate Route may only rely on this provision for the balance number years remaining between 4 years and the number of years granted on the Graduate Route. Essentially, leaving most employers employing Graduate Route switchers with the 'new entrant rate' for two years (or one year if the student was a PhD Graduate).
Then there is the more bizarre rule that one didn't see under the old Tier 1 - Post Study Work Route. Under the Graduate Route, no new Dependants are allowed. This means that, unless the individual switching into the Graduate Route already has Dependants under their former Student visa, any Dependants from newly formed relationships or children born outside of the UK will not be allowed to join the Graduate.
So, comparing these two routes, one may feel that the Tier 1 Post Study Work route is far superior to this new Graduate Route, and one may be correct. However, with Tier 1 Post Study Work having been cancelled for so long (since 2012), any introduction of a similar route will is exciting.
The ultimate question is, how long will this Route remain in circulation? The Tier 1 - Post Study Work started in 2008 and lasted for roughly four years. One of the critical reasons for the cancellation was cited as the Route being ""too generous" and allowed people to stay in the UK whether they found work or not, and irrespective of the skill level of any job they found".
The world is very different now compared to 2012, especially after COVID and Brexit. Will the same rhetoric resurface in four or five years?
For now, irrespective of whether the Route is to stay or not, the Graduate route is an excellent addition to the rules, and Graduates should consider applying for this come 1 July 2021.
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