The Graduate Route is an unsponsored, post-study work visa.

This is a 2-year visa and you cannot extend it.

If you are successful you will receive a 2-year visa if you have completed a Bachelors or Masters degree, or a 3-year visa if you have completed a PhD.

This scheme doesn’t lead to settlement.

To be eligible for this visa:

  1. you must be in the UK
  2. your current visa is a Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
  3. you studied a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or other eligible courses for a minimum period of time with your Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
  4. your education provider (such as your university or college) has told the Home Office you’ve successfully completed your course. Note that you do not have to have graduated to apply.
  5. The education provider for your course must be a licensed sponsor with a ‘track record of compliance’.

You must apply before your Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa expires.

You can include your family members that were dependants on your Tier 4 (General) or Student visa on your application. If they were not your dependant on your Tier 4 (General) or Student visa, you cannot add them on your Graduate Scheme visa application.

Note that not all degrees obtained in the UK are eligible for the Graduate Scheme Visa. For more information on the Graduate Scheme visa, please contact for further information.

Certificates of Sponsorship

Sponsor Visa

You must assign a certificate of sponsorship to each foreign worker you employ. This is an electronic record, not a physical document. Each certificate has its own number which a worker can use to apply for a visa.

When you assign the certificate to a worker, they must use it to apply for their visa within 3 months. They must not apply for their visa more than 3 months before the start date of the job listed on the certificate.

You may need to check if your worker needs an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before you assign a certificate of sponsorship.

Defined certificates

These are for people applying on a Skilled Worker visa from outside the UK.

You must apply for defined certificates for these workers through the sponsorship management system (SMS). You’ll get access to the SMS when you get your licence.

When you get the certificate

Applications are usually approved within one working day. It may take longer if UKVI need to carry out further checks on the information in your application.

Defined certificates will appear in your SMS account once they have been approved. You can then assign them to a worker.

Undefined certificates

These are for Skilled Workers applying from inside the UK, and applicants on all other visas.

When you apply for your licence you’ll be asked to estimate how many undefined certificates you’ll need for Workers and Temporary Workers in the first year.

If you’re sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker

You’ll only be able to assign one certificate of sponsorship, which must be assigned to the authorising officer so they can enter the UK.

Once they’ve got their visa, you can upgrade your licence to an A-rating and request additional certificates of sponsorship using the sponsorship management system (SMS).

Certificate costs

You’ll need to pay a fee when you assign a certificate to a worker. How much a certificate will cost depends on the type of sponsor licence you have.

Type of licence                                                                                                   Cost per Certificate

Worker (except workers on the International Sportsperson visa)£199
Temporary Worker£21
International Sportsperson – where the certificate of sponsorship is assigned for more than 12 months£199
International Sportsperson – where the certificate of sponsorship is assigned for 12 months or less£21

Criminal record certificate requirement (mandatory) for a Skilled Worker

Immigration Records

The applicant is applying for entry clearance and is being sponsored for a job in any of the occupation codes listed below, they must provide a criminal record certificate from the relevant authority in any country in which they have been present for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the 10 years before the date of application, and while aged 18 or over:

  • Validity of certificates A certificate will normally be considered valid in the following circumstances: 
  • for the applicant’s latest country of residence, where it is issued no earlier than 6 months before the date of application 
  • for other countries where the applicant was present, where it is issued within the last 6 months before their last period of stay ended (this can be any date)

The requirement for Skilled Worker entry clearance applicants to produce a criminal record certificate is determined by the standard occupational classification (SOC) code attributed to their employment role in the UK. Those with roles in the following SOC codes are subject to the requirement:

  • 1181 Health services and public health managers and directors
  • 1184 Social services managers and directors
  • 1241 Health care practice managers
  • 1242 Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
  • 2211 Medical practitioners
  • 2212 Psychologists
  • 2213 Pharmacists
  • 2214 Ophthalmic opticians
  • 2215 Dental practitioners
  • 2217 Medical radiographers
  • 2218 Podiatrists
  • 2219 Health professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2221 Physiotherapists
  • 2222 Occupational therapists
  • 2223 Speech and language therapists
  • 2229 Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2231 Nurses
  • 2232 Midwives
  • 2312 Further education teaching professionals
  • 2314 Secondary education teaching professionals
  • 2315 Primary and nursery education teaching professionals
  • 2316 Special needs education teaching professionals
  • 2317 Senior professionals of educational establishments
  • 2318 Education advisers and school inspectors
  • 2319 Teaching and other educational professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 2442 Social workers
  • 2443 Probation officers
  • 2449 Welfare professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 3213 Paramedics
  • 3216 Dispensing opticians
  • 3217 Pharmaceutical technicians
  • 3218 Medical and dental technicians
  • 3219 Health associate professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 3231 Youth and community workers
  • 3234 Housing officers
  • 3235 Counsellors
  • 3239 Welfare and housing associate professionals not elsewhere classified
  • 3443 Fitness instructors
  • 3562 Human resources and industrial relations officers
  • 6121 Nursery nurses and assistants
  • 6122 Childminders and related occupations
  • 6123 Playworkers
  • 6125 Teaching assistants
  • 6126 Educational support assistants
  • 6141 Nursing auxiliaries and assistants
  • 6143 Dental nurses
  • 6144 Houseparents and residential wardens
  • 6145 Care workers and home carers
  • 6146 Senior care workers

Availability of criminal record certificates

The majority of countries have procedures for the issuing of criminal record certificates to their own citizens and to third country nationals living there.

Separate guidance on the availability of a criminal record certificate for individual countries can be found at:

Immigration Skills Charge

Immigration skills charge

You might have to pay an additional charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to someone applying for a Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker visa. This is called the ‘immigration skills charge’.

You must pay the immigration skills charge if they’re applying for a visa from:

  • outside the UK to work in the UK for 6 months or more
  • inside the UK for any length of time

When you do not need to pay

You will not have to pay the charge if you’re sponsoring someone with one of the following occupation codes:

  • chemical scientists (2111)
  • biological scientists and biochemists (2112)
  • physical scientists (2113)
  • social and humanities scientists (2114)
  • natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified (2119)
  • research and development managers (2150)
  • higher education teaching professionals (2311)
  • clergy (2444)
  • sports players (3441)
  • sports coaches, instructors or officials (3442)

You also might not have to pay the charge if you’re sponsoring a worker who was assigned a certificate before 6 April 2017. You will not need to pay the charge for any of the worker’s dependents, for example their partner or child.

You will not have to pay the charge if a student in the UK switch to either a Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker visa and then extend their stay on the new visa.

How to pay

You pay the immigration skills charge when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to the worker.

How much it costs

The amount you need to pay is based on:

  • the size of your organization
  • how long the worker will work for you, using the start and end dates on their sponsorship certificate
PeriodSmall or charitable sponsorsMedium or large sponsors
First 12 months£364£1,000
Each additional 6 months£182£500

How to tell if you’re a small or charitable sponsor

You’re usually a small sponsor if at least 2 of the following apply:

  • your annual turnover is £10.2 million or less
  • your total assets are worth £5.1 million or less
  • you have 50 employees or fewer

You’re a charitable sponsor if you’re:

How much to pay based on how long the worker will work for you

If the worker will be in the UK for longer than 6 months but less than a year, you must pay for at least 12 months.

You must pay the full charge in one go.

The longest you can sponsor a worker for is 5 years, so the most you’ll have to pay is:

  • £1,820 (5 x £364) if you’re a small or charitable sponsor
  • £5,000 (5 x £1,000) if you’re a medium or large sponsor

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will contact you if you do not pay the charge or pay the wrong amount. You’ll have 10 working days to pay the charge – the worker’s visa application will be refused if you do not.


You’ll get a full refund if the worker’s visa application is:

  • refused or withdrawn
  • successful, but they do not come to work for you

You’ll get a partial refund if the worker:

  • gets less time on their visa than you sponsored them for
  • starts working for you but then changes to another sponsor
  • leaves their job before the end date on their certificate of sponsorship

You’ll also get a partial refund if you paid the medium or large sponsor fee when assigning the certificate, but had already notified UKVI that you’re now a small or charitable sponsor.

How long it takes

You usually get a refund within 90 days of:

  • telling UKVI that the worker did not come to work for you
  • the expiration date on the worker’s certificate of sponsorship, if they did not use it to apply for a visa
  • the date the worker’s visa application is refused or withdrawn
  • the date you assigned the certificate of sponsorship, if you had already notified UKVI that you became a small or charitable sponsor

If the worker’s visa application is refused, they can ask for the decision to be reviewed. This is known as an ‘administrative review’.

If they do not ask for an administrative review, you’ll get a refund within 90 days of the deadline for applying for one.

You’ll get a refund within 90 days of the administrative review being dismissed if the worker applied for one and were unsuccessful.

UK Immigrations: Knowledge of English Exemptions

You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re:

  • Aged 65 or over
  • Unable to, because of a long-term physical or mental condition

If you are unable to because of long-term physical or mental conditions, you will need to provide a completed exemption form from a doctor confirming your physical or mental condition.

Nationalities Exempt from Meeting the English Language Requirement

There are nationalities that are exempt from meeting the English Language requirement. These are:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

If you’re from a country that’s not on the list you’ll need to prove your knowledge of English, even if English is an official language.

Exemptions if you’re applying to settle:

You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re applying as:

  • A victim of domestic violence as the partner or spouse of a British citizen or someone settled in the UK
  • The partner or spouse of a person who has died who was either a British citizen or someone settled in the UK
  • An adult-dependent relative between 18 and 64 of someone who is present and settled in the UK, is a refugee, or has humanitarian
  • protection
  • A refugee living in the UK
  • Someone living in the UK with discretionary leave
  • Someone living in the UK for with humanitarian protection
  • Someone who has permission to stay in the UK as a retired person of independent means
  • A Commonwealth citizen on discharge from HM Forces, including Gurkhas
  • Someone in exceptional circumstances, for example as an orphan, widow or over-age dependant