June 6, 2024

UK: Graduate visa review by The Migration Advisory Committee


The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has conducted a rapid review of the Graduate visa route. The review was commissioned by the government in March 2024 with the aim of understanding who is using the graduate route, what they are doing whilst on the route and whether the route should remain open in its current form.

Spain golden visa working team


What has changed?

The graduate visa route allows students who have successfully completed a UK course at degree level, to remain in the UK for a further 2 years (3 years for PhD students), during which they will be able to work freely, without need for sponsorship.

Currently the MAC recommended retaining the Graduate visa in its current form; no changes are anticipated however it is for the Home Office to review MAC’s recommendations and take any action they deem required. As of the time of writing, the government has yet to publish a formal reply to the MAC review. However, the general belief is that they are likely to introduce tougher compliance standards for institutions recruiting students from overseas and raising financial maintenance requirements for international students.

Who is affected?

Users of the graduate visa route, as well as education institutions who rely on income from foreign students, could have been significantly impacted should the review have found that the route should close. As the review has not found this, users and institutions should not be affected however it remains for the Home Office to interpret these findings and act as necessary.

The review takes into consideration how the graduate route has been affected by the changes to the students’ dependents route that came into effect in January 2024: dependents cannot apply for an Entry Clearance visa to join the main student applicant in the UK (aside if the main applicant has applied for a research degrees).

The MAC review analyses the graduate visa in detail, with very interesting insights about i.e. graduates’ countries of origins, choice of universities and average salary on first job: interestingly the MAC found that graduates were most likely to study at a lower ranking universities and were earning salaries within the national average upon entering the workforce.

The clear conclusion of the MAC review was that it is too early to confirm if changes to the student visas will have a ripple effect on the graduate visas, mainly in lowering net migration. It was found that changing the graduate route at this time, will not bring any positive impact, therefore they have recommended keeping the graduate visa as it stands currently.

Finally, in order to upheld the quality and integrity of UK higher education system and to protect students from exploitation, the MAC strongly recommends the government to establish a “mandatory registration system for international recruitment agents and subagents”. Albeit no evidence was found of any significant abuse within the graduate route itself, it has come to light that some universities employ UK recruitment agents which provide misleading information to prospective international students in order to entice them to come and study in the UK (approximately 50% of international students are recruited via education agents). The full review shows how international students have been misled by these agents i.e. by pushing certain courses; booking the students onto expensive unnecessary pre-degree courses, leaving the students vulnerable once they arrive in the UK.

What to expect /impact?

Should the Home Office disregard MAC’s findings, it remains a possibility that detrimental measures will be taken against the graduate visa route however typically MACs recommendations are followed in the main.

What you need to do

For further information on changes to visa system and work routes, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team at immigration@sterlinglexicon.com


Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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