Hiring under the Graduate route visa vs Skilled Worker - Nichola Carter

Blog for members
24 November 2021
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Hiring under the Graduate route visa vs Skilled Worker

Many UK employers would like to recruit international students given the vast range of skills and experience they can bring to the business. Unfortunately, all too often excessive visa fees are cited as a reason for not doing so.

Whilst the Skilled Worker route is notoriously expensive, the Graduate Route visa, which opened this year, presents a far more cost-effective option.

Graduate route visa costs

The Home Office fee for to apply for a Graduate visa is £700.

Applicants from these EEA+ countries receive an automatic £55 reduction: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey.

Applicants must also pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (‘IHS’). This is £1,248 for a two-year Graduate visa and £1,872 for those who qualify for the three-year Graduate visa.

Employers do not incur any visa fees.

Comparison with Skilled Worker

For the Skilled Worker route, employers need to have a sponsor licence which costs £536 or £1,476 depending on the size of the business, further information about which can be found here.

Once the licence is granted, a Certificate of Sponsorship costing £199 needs to be assigned. This enables the applicant to apply for a Skilled Worker visa.

The cost depends on a number of factors. The standard visa fee ranges from £610 - £1,408. The fee for a graduate applying for a two-year visa from inside the UK for a non-shortage occupation role would be £704. Again, the reduction applies for applicants from eligible EEA+ countries listed above.

Then there’s the IHS which is £624 per year, so a graduate applying for a two-year visa would pay £1,248.

Unless the employer will ‘certify maintenance’, applicants also need to have at least £1,270 in their bank account available for at least 28 days to show they can support themselves in the UK. This isn’t needed for the Graduate visa. 

Employers must meet the minimum salary requirement in relation to those they sponsor.

Some good news is that there is no Immigration Skilled Surcharge payable if the applicant is switching into Skilled Worker from Tier 4/Student route.

Other considerations

Unlike Skilled Worker, the Graduate route does not lead to settlement in the UK so isn’t a long-term option.

But it does allow international students to secure jobs without the need for employers to sponsor them initially and demonstrate their value to the business. Most employers would not then want to lose a trusted employee so should be more willing to explore sponsorship.     

I would advise international students to learn about the different options so they can present the facts to potential employers at interview.

About Nichola Carter

Nichola Carter is partner and head of immigration at Carter Thomas Solicitors, a firm she co-founded in 2013. She has been practising immigration law for over two decades and is a regular speaker at UKCISA’s annual conference and other events. Named as a leading immigration law firm in Chambers & Partners, The Legal 500 and Who’s Who Legal, the top-ranked team at Carter Thomas Solicitors advises businesses, education providers, charities and individuals on all aspects of UK immigration law.