2021 Graduate Route: How to Hire International Talent

Graduate Route 2021

What is the 2021 Graduate Route?

On the third of March 2021, Rishi Sunak announced the annual budget. Along with it, he announced in a tweet “a new unsponsored points-based visa to attract the best and most promising international talent in science, research and tech.” This came to be the 2021 graduate route.

The scheme is for international students who want to work after they graduate from a UK university. The scheme gives 2 years of work eligibility to undergraduate and masters students. PhD students have 3 years, one more than the current Doctoral programme.

To be eligible for the Graduate Route an applicant must:

  • Have a valid tier 4 or student visa.
  • Complete an eligible course at a UK university.
  • Not have used the doctorate extension scheme or had a graduate route visa previously.
  • Apply from the UK.
  • Apply before their tier 4 or student visa runs out, if this is before July 1st, they are not eligible.

The Graduate Route is not subject to sponsorship, minimum salary or job type. Graduates are able to work on a self employed basis, and even change jobs.

How does this fit into the Government’s wider agenda?

The Graduate Route is part of the government’s post-Brexit points based immigration strategy. The minister for future of border and immigration Kevin Foster elaborated “As we rebuild from the global pandemic we want the world’s brightest talent, who aspire to a career at the highest levels of business, science, the arts and technology to see our United Kingdom as the natural place to fulfil their aspirations.”

The scheme is working towards the government’s aim of increasing the number of international students in higher education in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.

Overall, the 2021 Graduate Route is part of a new skills based immigration policy. Where immigration has shrunk from the EU, it is opening to all skilled global citizens. This extends beyond universities. Highly skilled migrants with a job offer from a recognised high-growth firm qualify for a visa without the need for sponsorship or third party endorsement. This HIghly Skilled worker route has replaced the Tier 2 immigration scheme on the 1st of December 2020.

How can employers make the most of the Graduate Route?

Finally, what does this mean for a small business owner? Essentially, this means a larger pool of talent. To make the most of it, employers should post their vacancies where the whole talent pool can see them. What’s more, contracts for Graduate Route employees don’t have to be fixed contracts. However, employment must be terminated if at the end of the Graduate Scheme visa the individual has not obtained some other permission to work. 

Right to work checks have to be carried out and should be arranged before the graduate course ends.

One route for staying on after the Graduate Route is to obtain a sponsorship, therefore graduates may ask the employer to sponsor them. For this, an employer needs to obtain a sponsor licence. Employer sponsorship depends on whether they offer skilled roles. This makes it essential that there is a training and skill development plan in place for the graduate as this opens long term possibilities. To make the most attractive offer to international graduates, employers should have development plans in place.

Next steps

Do you have a development and training plan for graduates? If you need help creating one, or just updating it for hybrid or remote work, find out how we can help! Get in touch via the contacts page or via our twitter, instagram, or linkedin.