Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) is a 12-month visa available to some PhD students at the end of their studies.

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You can only apply for a DES visa inside the UK. If you are accepted onto the scheme you will need to apply to extend your student visa.

The Doctorate Extension Scheme will soon be phased out with the introduction of the Graduate Immigration Route. The new visa route is to be introduced in the summer of 2021 and will be available for a duration of 3 years. Once introduced the DES visa route will be closed.


You must:

  • Be a PHD student (PhD students who have been awarded their qualifications, or students studying for an MPhil are not eligible for this scheme)
  • Have a valid student visa at the time of your DES visa application
  • Not have handed in your bound thesis
  • Have held £2530 in cash funds for a full 28 days before you can apply. You need to demonstrate you meet this requirement using one of the acceptable student visa financial documents
  • Present a timeline explaining what you plan to do if you are granted a DES visa. This timeline should explain what work you will be carrying out, and we usually expect the work to be related to your academic discipline
  • Sign the scheme’s terms and conditions. They will be provided to you shortly before any visa application is submitted

Timing is very important with this scheme, so we have produced a DES student Process map to help you plan your application.


Your application for the Doctorate Extensions Scheme is the same as a student application.

You will need to request a new Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) statement around 6 weeks before your viva date.

Once you have attended your viva, and been notified that you have completed work to the standard of a UK PhD, you must make your application for DES within 60 days or less, depending on when your student visa expires.

Each student’s DES process is slightly different, but below is a suggested timeline for you to follow. If you have any questions about applying for a DES visa, we recommend that you make an appointment to talk to us.

Step 1 - You are given an expected viva date

If this date is less than 3 months before your current student visa expires, then contact us to discuss your situation.

If this date is 3 months or more after your current student visa expires, you will need to extend your current student visa, so request a CAS using our online form.

Step 2  - Start to prepare your finances

So that you are ready to make a student visa application if you are eligible for DES.

Step 3 - You attend your viva

Step 4 - The outcome of your viva

You pass with no corrections, and you are asked to hand in your bound thesis as soon as possible. If your student visa is valid for at least a further 1 month, you could be eligible for DES.

You are asked to complete minor corrections within 3 months. If your student visa is valid for at least 4 months, then you might still be eligible for DES. Contact us to discuss your situation.

You are asked to complete major corrections within 18 months. If this applies to you then contact us, because you might need to make another student visa application rather than a DES application.

Step 5 - We review your CAS request form

We confirm that you are eligible to make a DES application.

Step 6 - We request financial documents

We request the financial documents you intend to use to make your visa application.

If your financial documents meet the visa requirements, you will be booked in with us to make your student DES application as soon as possible, and before handing in your bound thesis (providing your student visa is still valid).

Step 7 - Your visa application is submitted

Within 2-3 weeks you receive a letter inviting you to enrol your biometric information (we will explain what you need to do when you collect your letter from us).

Step 8 - Decision on your DES application

Within 6-8 weeks of submitting your visa application, we receive a decision on your DES application.

If your visa is granted, you will have an additional 12 months on your student visa, during which time you can work full (or part) time.

Working under the Doctorate Extension Scheme

There are fewer restrictions on the DES visa compared to the standard student visa.

You can

  • Be self-employed
  • Fill a permanent position
  • Work as a professional entertainer
  • Work as many hours as you wish

You cannot

  • Work as a Doctor or Dentist in training
  • Work as a professional sportsperson or coach