PhD students : DES or Graduate Route?

PhD students : DES or Graduate Route?

The Graduate Route is due to be launched on 1 July 2021. The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) visa will be discontinued once the Graduate Route visa has been launched. If you are due to finish your PhD at Queen Mary in the next few months, whether you will be eligible for the DES or the Graduate Route will depend on your Student immigration permission validity and the timings of your PhD.

  • For both routes, you can only apply from inside the UK, and you must have Student (including Tier 4) immigration permission at the time of application.
  • If your Student immigration permission will expire before 1 July 2021, you will not be able to apply for the Graduate Route visa, unless you are eligible to extend your Student permission because you require more time in the UK to complete your studies. It will be expensive to extend your Student permission and then switch to the Graduate Route, you will need to pay the visa application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge for both applications.
  • If your Student permission will expire before 1 July 2021, and you are not eligible to extend your Student permission, you can apply for the DES once you are within 60 days of your award date. You must apply for DES before you are awarded. You can check with the RDO your likely award date once you have received the examiners’ report following your viva.
  • If your Student permission will expire after 1 July 2021, you could be eligible for the Graduate Route. The date that Queen Mary considers that you have ‘successfully completed’ your course will be the date you are awarded. The Graduate Route process is different to the DES, because a Graduate Route application can only be made after you are awarded, whereas the DES application can only be made before you are awarded.

You will not be eligible for the Graduate Route if you have held permission under the Doctorate Extension Scheme.

Some students might have the option of applying for either the DES or the Graduate Route, if your Student visa expires after 1 July 2021, and you will be awarded soon after this (e.g. if you will be awarded on 31 July 2021 and your Student visa is valid beyond this date). The Doctorate Extension Scheme visa will be valid for 12 months. The Graduate Route visa will be valid for 3 years for those completing a PhD. So you will be granted a longer visa under the Graduate Route, however the Immigration Health Surcharge will be higher for the Graduate Route (expected to be £624 x 3) as opposed to the DES (usually £470), so if you think you will gain sponsorship under the Skilled Worker Route within a year, or you definitely do not want to stay in the UK longer than a year, and you are eligible for both categories, DES might be suitable for you. Please also note that new dependants can join you under the DES and your existing dependants can extend too, but the Graduate Route only allows existing dependants to apply.

Please note that the information in this blog post is based on the guidance and rules published so far by the UK government, and is correct at the time of writing, but is subject to change. Please check our web pages for the most up-to-date information about the options and requirements for working after your studies.