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UK launches visa scheme for 'elite' university graduates

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By Euronews
FILE  - UCLA graduates at Drake Stadium on the university campus, 10 June 2021
FILE - UCLA graduates at Drake Stadium on the university campus, 10 June 2021   -   Copyright  AP Photo

The UK government launched a new visa scheme on Monday aiming to attract what it calls "high potential individuals" to work in Britain. 

The programme is open to graduates from 50 elite universities, mostly in the US and Asia. Those with a bachelor's or master's degree are eligible for a two-year work visa, and PhD holders can apply for a three-year work visa. In both categories, though, there's no requirement to get a job before applying. 

“This new visa offer means that the UK can continue to attract the best and brightest from across the globe," said British Chancellor Rishi Sunak. “The route means that the UK will grow as a leading international hub for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship."

In Europe, the scheme is open to graduates from: 

  • The University of Munich, Germany 
  • The Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland  
  • ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • Université Paris Sciences & Lettres, France
  • The Karolinska Institute, Sweden

Eligible universities must be listed in the top 50 of at least two of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings or the Academic Ranking of World Universities (also known as the Shanghai Rankings).

Candidates can apply to the scheme up to five years after their graduation date. This means even if their university does not make an appearance on the latest UK government list of elite institutions, it might have been on the list in a previous year. 

What other requirements are needed to apply?

Graduates don't need to have a job offer when they apply for the new visa, but there are still some other criteria to meet. 

They'll have to pass a security and criminal background check; and speak, read, listen and write English to at least B1 intermediate level, which the British Council defines as having "the necessary fluency to communicate without effort with native speakers."

Graduates also have to pay £715 for the visa, plus an immigration health surcharge of up to £624 per year which allows successful applicants to use the British healthcare system. 

Dependants will be allowed to accompany the visa holder, and anyone applying must also have maintenance funds of at least £1270.