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Your guide to graduate visa sponsorship for international students

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Confused about the visa situation in the UK? We’re here to help illuminate the path to visa sponsorship in the UK so you can understand the options available to you whether you’re studying in the UK or looking to relocate.

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If you're an outstanding candidate with a developed skill set you still have a good chance of securing a role with a firm. At many firms, sponsorship for visas is allocated on a case-by-case basis, with the bigger companies more likely to be able to sponsor.

Read on to find out what you need to know about the process and some top tips for international students to get ahead.

Rundown of UK visas

When making big decisions about your life and career, i.e where to work, it’s important you have all the information so you can make sure your choice is the right one for you. While there are many visa options in the UK all with their own requirements, application processes and policies (check out all the UK’s visas here), we’ve narrowed down the visa types which are most likely relevant to you:

Student visa

Student visas (or Tier 4 visas) are specifically designed for anyone born outside of the UK completing a course in the UK. It gives you the right to study in the UK, typically an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. 

To be eligible for the student visa, your course must be run by an organisation licensed to sponsor student visas (you can find the list of eligible organisations, but the organisation you’ve applied to will most likely let you know if they’re eligible). You need to have enough money to support yourself during your studies and be able to speak, read and write in English. You can find out how you can prove your English ability

A student visa often comes with some restrictions on the hours you can work while you study, so make sure you know the limitations before applying for any jobs.

Learn more about student visas and apply here.

Graduate visa

Once you've completed a course in the UK with a student (Tier 4) visa, you can apply for a graduate visa. This visa allows you to stay in the UK and work for 2 years (3 years if you studied a PhD). You do not need a job offer in order to get a graduate visa. The work you can do while on a graduate visa is not very restricted, although here are some things you can and can’t do with this visa:

What you can do on a graduate visa:

  • Be self-employed
  • Do voluntary work
  • Work in most jobs

Learn more about graduate visas and apply here.

Indefinite leave

This gives you the permanent right to remain in the UK, known as indefinite leave or permanent settlement. To be eligible, you must have lived and worked in the UK for at least 5 years. There are also salary and job requirements which depend on your individual circumstances, so be sure to check the government website to understand your situation and eligibility.

Learn more about indefinite leave and apply here.

Discussing your visa requirements with an employer

As a student or graduate, navigating visa sponsorship can be challenging and knowing how to speak to an employer or a potential employer about your requirements is important. Here are a few tips on how you can discuss your visa situation with an employer:

  1. Be open. If you need a visa to work in the UK, the employer needs to know that. Let your employer know your requirements early in the application process so there is no disappointment later on.
  2. Be informed. Since visas have changed in recent years in the UK, employers may not be up to date with the intricacies. You should understand the visa you already have or the visa you need from an employer so you can explain the situation in case of any confusion.
  3. Be positive. Show the employer why hiring you, regardless of visa status, is the best decision they could make!
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Tips on securing visa sponsorship

When looking for visa sponsorship, it’s important to remember that the employers you’re applying to may have a significant number of applications for every role. This is why you have to demonstrate you’re the best candidate for the position. Here are 4 tips for securing visa sponsorship: 

  1. Check if the employer sponsors visas. Some employers are not eligible to offer sponsorship. Typically, you can find this on their website, but it can be difficult to find. Otherwise, an employer may state you need the ‘right to work in the UK’ before applying to their roles. To give yourself the best experience of applying to jobs, make sure your applications are only going to employers who can offer sponsorship if you need it.
  2. Make your application stand out. While some employers are more than happy to sponsor visas, it can be an additional challenge in the job search. This means you need to make your application stand out amongst others. Complete our Application Processes course to help make your application stand out!
  3. Apply to bigger employers. It's more likely that bigger organisations will have the budget to sponsor visas than smaller organisations and will be more open to looking into your individual case. Whilst some smaller organisations will do this too, the bigger ones are often a better bet.
  4. Know your stuff. Some organisations pay for your visa then you repay the cost through your wage. Check what the organisation's policy is and the commitments you're signing up to before agreeing to work for them. Make sure you’re on top of it so there are no surprises around the corner! 
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Correct information as of December 2023. Although we update our information as frequently as possible, advice on visas is subject to change. Please always check the UK Government website for the most up-to-date information on visas.