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The Challenges of International Students Finding Jobs in the UK

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Foreign students with a Master’s degree who want to land a job in the United Kingdom nowadays are having difficulty finding the right employer to sponsor their work visa. Due to the changes in UK’s immigration laws, obtaining a permit to stay and work in Britain is now a more challenging process.


Before the UK government decided to abolish the Tier 1 post-study work visa in April 2013, graduates from non-European Economic Area (like China) who have studied in Britain used to have the convenience of further staying in the country and seeking work for two years after finishing their studies. Now, these graduates face a more formidable task.


International students who have graduated from business school in the UK can only apply for a Tier 5 temporary worker visa or a Tier 2 visa, with the exception of entrepreneurs who can apply for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa which permits them a one-year limit to work in the UK, with an option to extend their stay.


However, the current issue is that they are required to have a firm job offer from a UKBA-licensed sponsor employer in order to obtain a Tier 2 visa. In 2014, there were only around 27,000 companies based in the UK which are licensed to provide these Tier 2 visas, as per data gathered from the UK government official website. On the other hand, Tier 5 visas are not permanent, and it is required that you leave the UK altogether and apply from outside the country. Most of these visas are limited to one year.


It is therefore imperative that you start researching for job options early, and have complete understanding of the varying immigration options before you start looking for work.


Tier 2 visa is a general visa and requires a job offer from a Tier 2 sponsor licensed employer. To support your application, the employer will issue a Confirmation of Sponsorship.  The job applied should be an NQF Level 6+ graduate level job. It is also required that the job must be advertised and there are no workers who are UK residents fit for the position (this is referred to as the Resident Labour Market Test). 


One exemption to this requirement are students with Tier 4 visas who have recently graduated or have completed over one year of a PhD course.  Typically, one who has a Tier 4 student visa can switch to a Tier 2 visa in the UK.  However, there is a capped number of applicants who are applying abroad for these visas each year in this category.


A Tier 2 intra-company transfer visa is granted to workers who are based outside the UK and are working for a multi-national company. These visas usually last between 6 months to 9 years and enables such employees to work, gain skills or train other employees in the company’s UK branch.


A Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visa is provided to applicants in order to either gain work experience, conduct research work, or do training for a span of 12 or 24 months. This is usually given to applicants who are applying for internship in a company. However, the employer is not allowed to offer the visa holder any employment after the internship. It is a specific condition that the visa holder must leave the UK once the visa period expires.


Since the employer is not the immigration sponsor, the employer is therefore required to register with a government authorised scheme which provides the sponsorship certificate to support the applicant’s visa application.


Another Tier 5 visa is the Youth Mobility Scheme which is a two-year working visa given to applicants from ages 18-30 who are from the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Monaco, Canada, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. This visa also applies to British overseas citizens or nationals.


One of the top foreign student destinations in the world is the United Kingdom and it is also considered as an international business hub with a diversified and rich employment market. The Chinese make up a bigger portion of the 420,000 foreign students who study in Britain every year. Chinese Jobs UK ( is a specialist careers website created specifically for Chinese students at UK universities. Its aim is to help the Chinese studying in Britain gain access to the competitive Chinese job market and also seeks to compensate the challenges for Chinese job seekers in the UK following the post-study work visa abolition.




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