International students: A brief guide to working in the UK post-graduation
The UK's labour market is changing, and there may be more opportunities for non-EU international students to work in the country post-graduation. Source: AFP/Ben Stansall

Last December, the UK announced that it will soon allow international students to stay up to one year after their study visa expires to find work in the UK. It’s part of a government initiative to increase recruitment by more than 30 percent and boost the sector’s income to £35 billion per year.

For those thinking of studying in the UK, here are five important details you should be aware of:

1. Duration

Currently, all graduates get to stay for up to four months post-graduation, while PhD candidates can apply for an additional year.

The change will extend this. Undergraduate and Master’s students from an institution with
degree awarding powers will be able to stay for six months post-graduation, while doctoral candidates will be able to stay up to one year, according to the Department of Education.

2. When to switch

In most cases, international students on the Tier 4 student visa will be looking to switch to a highly-skilled Tier 2 work visa. To be eligible for this, you must show that you are currently, or have been, sponsored by a Tier 4 sponsor and have a confirmed offer of employment from a UK employer who holds a Tier 2 sponsor license, as well as a number of other requirements.

The change will now allow you to apply for this switch “up to three months before the end of [your] course in the UK, and from outside of the UK for two years after…graduation.”

3. Working between the end of studies and end of Tier 4 student visa leave

Your student work conditions allow full-time work once your course has ended. This is confirmed in the Home Office’s publication, An employer’s guide to right to work checks. However, this is subject to several rules, which are normally printed on your visa sticker or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)

Timing matters. Early completion can affect the end date of your course and the expiry date of your immigration permission. For example, if you have 60 days leave when your early completion is reported by your Tier 4 sponsor, the Home Office will contact you to let you know that your immigration permission will be cut short. You will thus have a new end date to your Tier 4 visa, plus the additional period you were originally granted. You can work between the new end date of your course and the new expiry date of your immigration permission.

If you’ve applied to stay under a work route, you’ll be able to work full-time until your work application is decided. For more details, visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs page.

4. Salary thresholds

The UK government intends to continue with its lower salary threshold for fresh graduates. The absolute minimum salary rate for new entrants under the Tier 2 (General) route is £20,800 annually. All other roles must pay at least £30,000 per annum.

5. Medium-level skill jobs to be open to non-EU citizens

Examples of jobs with intermediate skills include Managers and directors in storage and warehousing. Source: AFP/Chris J Ratcliffe

Currently, non-EU citizens with medium-level skills – qualifications include A-Levels, advanced apprenticeships, higher education diplomas, foundation degrees and higher national diplomas – cannot qualify for the highly-skilled Tier 2 route which is essentially limited to graduate-level jobs. Only EU citizens could access these jobs.

Once Free Movement ends, the UK has said it will change the skilled workers route to include workers with these intermediate skills – from A-levels and above –  while maintaining the minimum salary threshold of £30,000. This means, in future, non-EU workers will also be able to access these jobs if employers require them.

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