Graduate Immigration Issues: Can you hear a clock ticking?

Up until 2012 non-European graduates of United Kingdom Universities could apply for a Tier 1 Post Study Work (PSW) visa. This allowed graduates to take up employment in the United Kingdom for up to two years, without requiring the sponsorship of an employer registered with the Home office, and was meant to facilitate the opportunity for them to move onto a different type of visa within that period.

The PSW visa category was closed on 6 April 2012, and it is not possible to extend the period beyond the maximum two years. As a result, all existing PSW visas should expire at some point during 2014.

The implications of this are that:

  1. Resident graduates still on a PSW who wish to remain in the United Kingdom will in all likelihood need to “switch” to another form of visa, if they are able to do so, or be required to leave the jurisdiction.
  2. The Home Office’s procedure for such “switching” can be complex and take a significant amount of time to conclude. Therefore any such steps should be ascertained now and progressed accordingly, if not already in hand.

2. Employers who still employ non-European graduates on PSW visas will need to check the date when these will expire. If the employer is intending to continue to employ the individual then it should ensure that an alternative visa has been or will be secured in order to allow it to do so lawfully. This would usually be a Tier 2 General visa which requires employer sponsorship.

Employers should also remember that there is a strict statutory duty to check an employee’s right to work, and that the penalty for illegally employing a non-European national is presently £10,000 per employee, and this is set to rise to £20,000 in April 2104.

This is a significant issue for both employers and resident graduates, together with any dependents who are permitted residence under the same visa.

If you would like to know more about this issue, please contact John Dorney, Director, Employment team.

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

John Dorney


I am a Director in the employment team with a broad range of employment expertise.