Just 3% of UK employers use Graduate Route visa 

06 Jan 2023

New findings from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) reveal that many employers don’t accurately understand international students’ post-study working rights in Britain. This is despite the Graduate Route visa being a potential solution to skills shortages throughout the country. Launched in 2021, this visa permits international students to remain in the UK to work for two years (three for doctoral students) with no job or wage restrictions that are applicable to other work-related visas. 

HEPI findings

The report entitled ‘Not heard of this’: Employers’ perceptions of the UK’s Graduate Route visa (HEPI Policy Note 43) notes: 

  1. Employers widely dislike the current migration system for the level of bureaucracy involved in recruiting people from other countries.
  2. A sizeable minority of employers avoid recruiting people from overseas primarily because of the hassle, cost and time involved.
  3. The Graduate Route, which removes the bureaucracy for employers and enables former international students to stay in the UK to work, has been knowingly used by only a tiny handful of employers (3%). In comparison, a much bigger proportion (27%) say they are unaware of it and a further 20% say they have not used the route and have no plans to do so.

“The current situation is bad for the UK, which is missing out on talent. It is bad for international students, who are missing out on opportunities. It is also bad for those educational institutions that want to recruit a higher number of international students in the future, as ambitious applicants may look to study in another country instead,” the report adds.

Is the Graduate Route visa sustainable?

Suppose an insufficient number of employers are making the most of the initiative to hire grads through the Graduate Route visa scheme. In that case, it may prove to be unsustainable, according to the HEPI policy note. The temporary nature of the program may not be appropriate in all circumstances, despite its strengths. “Alongside any general improvements in the migration regime, if the Graduate Route visa is to work as well as possible for both employers and graduates, not to mention the Exchequer, then it would make sense to convey its benefits more clearly to employers,” the report added. The scheme is unlike other related programs as no bureaucracy is involved; it’s free to employers and allows them to evaluate an international grad for a couple of years before deciding to make a longer commitment. “The Graduate Route visa could make an important contribution to the government’s growth agenda if only more employers understood its benefits and ease of operation,” said Linda Cowan, Senior Vice President of UK and Middle East at Kaplan International Pathways. This was echoed by the Institute of Directors' principal policy advisor for sustainability, skills and employment, Alex Hall-Chen: “This research highlights a lack of knowledge among many employers about the visa, and we would encourage the government to work closely with business representatives organisations to raise awareness about its benefits.”