Helena Sheizon
Poli Che
Helena Sheizon

Post-Study Work Options for International Students in 2020

While the Immigration Rules are expected to change and offer more opportunities for post-study work, this year’s graduates have to navigate the few options available under the current immigration system.

I will go through them, one by one.

Sponsored employment or Tier 2 General

Key points to bear in mind:

  • Only highly skilled jobs can be sponsored under Tier 2 scheme. At present, the level of skills required for a sponsored job is NQF level 6. You can check what is classified as NQF level 6 in Appendix J of the Immigration Rules.
  • Only the employer can be the sponsor, there are no “external” certificates of sponsorship from third parties. If the employer does not have a sponsor licence, they can apply for one. The application process takes from 2 to 12 weeks.
  • If you have a right to work as a Tier 4 student, you may start working for the prospective sponsor on a temporary contract before they apply for the licence. You should not exceed the permitted hours in Tier 4 category. If you are working for the prospective sponsor as a student your job title does not have to be the same as the position sponsored as a Tier 2 job.
  • The salary of a sponsored employee has to be in line with the Home Office’s guidelines for the given occupation. If you are a recent graduate and applying before the expiry of your Tier 4 visa, you can be employed as a New Entrant. This means that for the first three years of employment, your salary may, although does not have to, be lower than that of an experienced worker.

Advantages of switching into Tier 2 from Tier 4 or apply from outside the UK?

  • The employer is exempt from paying the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC)
  • Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) is not required
  • You can be sponsored as a New Entrant with a lower salary threshold as compared to an experienced worker

Sole representative of an overseas business

If you have studied in the UK and return home with a British degree and possibly, work experience in the UK, chances are you may be employed by an overseas business and seconded to set up their registered subsidiary in the UK. In this case, you will consider applying for the sole representative visa.

As the representative of an overseas business, you will be entitled to bring over your family (partner and children). The visa will be initially granted for three years and then extended for a further two years. You can settle in the UK after five years in this immigration category.

Tier 5 – Temporary worker

Tier 5 Government Authority Exchange (GAE)

It is for temporary workers who seek work experience in the UK. Students can switch into this route on completion of studies or apply for entry clearance from abroad. Generally, this option is available for up to 12 months. There are some exceptions, such as for trainee solicitors, where the training contract is for up to 24 months.
Key points to remember:

  • If you are applying from within the UK, the internship has to be directly relevant to your most recent degree. If you are applying from outside the UK, this requirement does not apply.
  • The sponsor in the Government Authorised Exchange programme is one of the approved endorsing bodies. You can find the list of the endorsing bodies in Appendix N of the Immigration Rules.
  • Your prospective employer will have to register with the sponsoring organisation and apply for a certificate of sponsorship. They will need to prepare an internship plan showing the purpose of the internship, the benefits you expect to derive from it and the benefits for the prospective employer.
  • Although some internships can be unpaid, the more common scenario is that internship is classed as work and therefore has to be paid in accordance with UK labour laws, i.e. your pay should not be below the national minimum wage level.
  • You cannot switch from Tier 5 into Tier 2. However, use your time in the UK to look for potential sponsored work options. If you have an offer of employment, you can leave the country and return as a Tier 2 sponsored migrant.

Tier 5 Charity Worker

  • You will be doing unpaid voluntary fieldwork for up to 12 months.
  • The registered charity will be your sponsor. They have to have a Tier 5 sponsor licence
  • Your work contributes directly to the achievement or advancement of the sponsor’s charitable purpose in the UK.
  • You cannot switch into this category, but you can return to the UK with a Tier 5 temporary worker visa
  • You have to have sufficient funds to maintain yourself in the UK while doing this work

Setting up your own business

If you can demonstrate high entrepreneurial skills and have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea, you can apply for the start-up visa for up to two years. Your idea has to be assessed and supported by an approved endorsing body.

Global talent visa

This route is for leaders or potential leaders in the field of

  • Science
  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Humanities
  • Digital technology
  • Arts and culture (including film and television, fashion design and architecture)

You will need to be endorsed as such by one of the approved endorsing bodies:

  • The Royal Academy of Engineering, for engineering
  • The British Academy, for humanities
  • Tech Nation, for digital technology
  • Arts Council England, for arts and culture
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), for research applicants

If any of the above is of interest to you, please get in touch to see how we can help. We may be able to help you with finding employment or internship, depending on your area of interest and qualifications.


Post Author

Helena Sheizon

Helena Sheizon

Helena is the founder and managing director of Kadmos Consultants. She was called to the bar in 2005 and has been specialising in immigration since 2006. She is registered as Level 3 (OISC top level) immigration advisor with a licence for Judicial Review case management.

You can share your comment or question in the box below

Your email address will not be published but your comment will be visible to other users

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our mailing list and receive instant updates directly in your inbox!

We aim to answer all enquiries within three business hours

Subscribe to our mailing list and receive important information directly in your inbox!

Your message has been sent, thank you for getting in touch!

We aim to answer all enquiries within three business hours.