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G‌raduate jobs in the UK (international students)

International students smiling in the sunshine on the left with an image of a magnifying glass on the right.

Make time before you graduate to think about whether you want to look for a graduate job in the UK, or whether you would like to find work in your home country. If you want to stay in the UK research your options carefully, and make use of our support and resources on our website to help you with all stages of the recruitment process.

What are my visa options after graduation?

There are several different visas - find out which is best for you.  See the information below for a brief outline of your visa options.

Before my Student visa expires

After you have completed your degree, you are likely to have four months left on your visa before it expires. You can use this time to work and to look for a longer term job.

You could:

  • Look for part-time or short-term vacancies on Handshake 
  • Use the information on our Work while you study page to help with your job search
  • Search Handshake for vacancies which match your language or skills. Identify relevant companies and contact them speculatively, for example to do market research, marketing, social media, web design, translation
  • Get in touch with employers or organisations you've had contact with during your time at York to see if they have any opportunities; be proactive - suggest a project you could do to help their business.

Make sure you let prospective employers know you don't need a new visa to work during this time. You can include this information on your application/cover letter. Remember that during this time the student employment restrictions for Student visa holders still apply to the type of work you can do. 

Graduate visa

The Graduate visa gives you the opportunity to stay and work in the UK without requiring sponsorship from an employer. This may offer you more flexibility, especially if you are looking for work in a sector unlikely to be offering Skilled Worker Visa sponsorship (eg the heritage sector, charity sector).

Graduate Visa key points:

  • If you have successfully completed your course, you can apply to stay in the UK to work, or look for work, at any skill level for a maximum of two years (undergraduate or Masters degree) or three years (PhD). The University of York's Visa Compliance Team will contact you to let you know when you can apply for your Graduate visa.
  • You apply for the visa yourself; it does not require employer sponsorship
  • In normal circumstances, a course of 12 months or less must be studied in the UK in its entirety; for a longer course, the final 12 months must be in the UK (but see Covid concessions below).
  • If you are currently distance learning outside of the UK because of the pandemic, you will need to return to (or come to) the UK before you can apply for a Graduate route visa. Deadlines vary depending on the length of your course, and whether you have spent any of the course in the UK. See the UKCISA website for the rules for Study in the UK including Covid concessions. If you have questions about your Student visa, please contact our Immigration Advice Service.
  • You will need to apply for the Graduate visa, and pay the visa fee of £700. You will have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 for each year of the visa. You will need your most recent CAS number in order to apply. 
  • You can switch into Skilled Work (new points based visa from 2021) once you have found a suitable job. (Graduate schemes and graduate level jobs may offer a Skilled Worker Visa or may prefer to employ you with your Graduate route visa; you will need to discuss this with the employer).
  • The Graduate Route does not count towards settlement in the UK after 5 years, but you will be able to switch to a Skilled Worker Visa, or other work-based route, if you find a suitable job. (However it will count towards the 10 year route to settlement.)
  • There is no extension to the Graduate visa, and once you have had this visa, you cannot apply for it again in the future (for example if you do a further course of study in the UK).
  • Note that the Graduate visa may not meet eligibility requirements for all employers (this is particularly true for some training programmes in the public sector). Make sure you check eligibility requirements when applying for a job.
  • If your studies have been sponsored by a government or scholarship agency you will need to get their written approval to apply for a Graduate visa; please consult the Immigration Advice Service for advice on this.

See GOV.UK and UKCISA for up to date information on the Graduate Route visa. For information on the Skilled Worker Visa see the next section below.

Skilled worker visa - graduate level job

The new Skilled Worker visa route opened on 1 December 2020 for all non-UK, non-Irish nationals. (The Tier 2 visa is no longer available for new applications.) The Skilled Worker visa is a points-based visa, sponsored by an employer, and is appropriate for many graduate level jobs and graduate schemes. 

Key points:

  • Employer must be a registered sponsor or prepared to become one
  • The job must be on the list of eligible occupations
  • You will need to be paid a minimum salary - how much depends on the job, with an absolute minimum of £20,480 for a new entrant. Going rates for eligible occupation codes (GOV.UK)
  • If you are switching in the UK from a Student visa, or are aged under 26, you will be considered a "new entrant"; you can also apply from your home country and be considered a "new entrant" if you apply within two years of your Student Visa or Graduate Visa expiry date.
  • You can be sponsored for a job you were previously doing under the Graduate route, if the job meets the Skilled Worker criteria.
  • After 5 years on a Skilled Worker visa you will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
  • If your studies have been sponsored by a government or scholarship agency you will need to get their written approval to apply for a Skilled worker visa; please consult the Immigration Advice Service for advice on this.

Note that not all companies listed on the register of sponsors are recruiting international students to graduate roles - they may have registered in order to sponsor more experienced staff, or their recruitment needs may have changed. You may find that employers are not yet familiar with the details of the new visa routes. The GOV.UK and UKCISA websites are reliable sources of information.

Some companies include eligibility and visa information on their website; they may be able to sponsor visas for some of their graduate schemes but not all. See PwC's page for international candidates as an example of this kind of information.

Find out more:

These pages will be updated as new information becomes available.

Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange visa (T5)

  • The Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange visa (T5) enables new graduates to stay in the UK to do a paid internship related to their course of study.
  • Before your Student visa expires you will have to find a suitable job, with a suitable employer, then find an overarching sponsor who will issue you a Certificate of Sponsorship which will allow you to make your visa application.
  • Read our information about the Temporary Worker GAE (T5) visa‌ as a starting point to help you understand what this visa is, and how it works.
  • There are other versions of visa in the T5 category which may be applicable depending on your own circumstances; you may need to apply from your home country. You can read more about these on the UKCISA website and on the Immigration Advice Service page (to be updated when new information becomes available).

Can I start up my own business in the UK? / Start-up visa

  • In April 2019, the UK government introduced the Start-up visa. The University of York will endorse recent graduates (within two years) from the University of York, who meet the criteria set out in the government's guidance. Read more about this on our enterprise information for international students. There is more information on GOV.UK and the UKCISA website.

After my PhD

  • PhD graduates get three years' permission under the Graduate route to stay in the UK to work or look for work. For more details see the section above on the Graduate visa.
  • You may find further useful information in the immigration toolkit for international PhD students.

Finding and applying for jobs

What do I need to know about applying for graduate jobs in the UK?

Looking for jobs

When do I start?

  • You should find out about recruitment deadlines for the kind of job you are interested in.  Our graduate jobs page explains the difference between graduate schemes (structured graduate training programmes with larger organisations) and direct entry graduate jobs (later in the year, variable deadlines). See also the TARGETJobs Guide to job hunting for international students.
  • Start early if you are hoping to get a place on a graduate scheme. Some big companies close their applications in mid-November for the following year. If you are a Masters student, this means you need to start thinking about your next steps straight away!
  • Starting early will mean you'll have time to learn from your experiences of applications, assessment centres and feedback from interviews, and if you are not successful initially you will be able to learn and practise for next time.

Where do I look?

  • Some graduate employers advertise on Handshake. Others rely on their own websites and other jobs boards. See the  page and job hunting toolkit for more.
  • Careers events and fairs are a good way to meet employers and learn more about their company culture and what they are looking for in their recruits.
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) recruit a large number of graduates each year and can be a good option for international students. Find out more on our blog.
  • For more specific vacancy sites see individual job sector pages and the Science careers page.

What do I need to find out?

  • Research industry news to try and understand where companies are more likely to recruit international students.  Keep up with current affairs and Labour market information (LMI) affecting that industry. The government's Shortage occupation list can give you an indication of jobs where you are more likely to be successful.
  • Research the companies you are interested in - their website is the best place to start and will give you a lot of information about the company and issues affecting them. Be prepared to spend a lot of time researching the companies that interest you the most.
  • Use LinkedIn, alumni networks and York profiles and mentors to find previous international students who have found jobs in the UK; see where they are working and consider contacting them for advice.
  • Make sure you understand the timescales for applications, and the terminology used in job ads. The Job hunting toolkit will help you with this.
  • If you are looking for a job which will sponsor a Skilled Worker visa, check whether the employer you are interested in is able to sponsor you.  (Use Ctrl F to find an employer on the register of sponsors.) If they're not already on this list, might they be prepared to become a sponsor to recruit you - do you have specialist, in-demand skills that make this feasible? Note that not all companies listed on the register of sponsors are currently recruiting international students to graduate roles.
  • Using the SOC codes check if the job is at the right skill and salary level. If it's not, it won't be possible to get sponsorship. 

Getting a National Insurance number

  • At the start of your job hunting, make an application for a National Insurance Number which your employer will expect you to have in place either when you start work or shortly afterwards, see your rights at work for instructions on how to do this.
  • Your NI number is a unique personal reference number for your tax/employment affairs - everyone working in the UK needs to have one, issued free of charge.
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic there are delays in issuing National Insurance Numbers; you should be able to start work while you are waiting for your NI number. 

Work permit / permission to work questions in applications

Some job vacancies state that I must have a work permit or permission to work in the UK – can I still apply?

This type of wording can be quite off-putting and confusing. You should check with the employer exactly what they mean.

  • Often employers use this type of wording because they do not understand that you cannot change your visa status from a student visa until after successful completion of your course; you need a job offer and employer sponsorship to apply for a Skilled Worker visa; you can apply for a Graduate Route visa without employer sponsorship. See above sections for more information.
  • Employers may also use this wording to try to protect themselves against recruiting someone who does not have the correct permission to work in the UK. Some jobs have nationality requirements (eg national security).
  • This type of wording should not be used by employers to stop international students from applying for positions for which they meet the specified job criteria.
  • If you are completing an online application form and are unable to proceed, contact the company for advice. 
  • The information for employers in Recruiting International Graduates 2021 (PDF , 312kb) can be useful to help you understand some key issues.
  • We provide information for employers on our website on Recruiting international talent. You can provide this link to employers to help them understand the rules too.

Careers and Placements staff are not immigration advisers and are not permitted to give individual immigration advice, but we might be able to answer your initial queries about this issue. If you have any questions please talk to us

UCAS points questions in applications

Employers want me to include how many UCAS points I have on my application – what are they and what should I do?

  • UCAS points are awarded to some post-16 UK qualifications, which are used for entry to UK Higher Education. Universities can require a specified number of UCAS points for a place on a course.
  • Although UCAS does not endorse their use for job applications, many UK employers ask for a specified number of UCAS points as a way of filtering graduate job applications. This is more likely for graduate schemes than direct entry jobs.
  • If you are unable to complete an online application when it asks for UCAS points the best thing to do is contact the company's graduate recruitment team and ask for their advice. 
  • You may be able to provide an estimate of how your qualifications relate to UCAS points (but check with the company first that they are happy for you to do this). You could check how many UCAS points were required for entry onto your course and add wording like: "The entry requirement for my course of study is (X) UCAS points suggesting my qualifications from (home country) are equivalent".
  • If it is possible in the notes part of the application, list your qualifications as obtained with the percentage mark achieved. Add comments to indicate level of qualification, for example "equivalent to UK A level Grade A" or "equivalent to UK honours degree". The UK ENIC website provides international grade comparisons (ask at Careers and Placements if you need to access this).

What can I do to give myself the best chance of success?

There are things you can do now before you start applying for jobs

What can I do to give myself the best chance of success?

Skills and experience

UK employers are interested in your skills and experience as well as your academic qualifications. You have already taken the big step of coming to another country to study, so make the most of your time here, step out of your comfort zone and get involved in activities and experiences that will help you develop your skills further. 

  • Work experience at home or in the UK is very valuable. You could consider part-time work, a summer internship, or possibly a placement year (check your visa situation with the Immigration Advice Service if you would like to switch into a placement year programme).
  • Virtual/online work experience
    • the Student Internship Bureau advertises some virtual (paid) internships
    • Forage offers virtual work experience programmes (unpaid) in a range of areas, including law, accounting, finance, tech consulting, marketing and engineering. Programmes consist of resources and tasks designed to simulate real-world experience, and help you build your commercial awareness; they are free to use, and are designed and endorsed by leading companies.  
  • Get involved in sports and university societies, or activities in your college, and look at our volunteering pages to find a project that interests you. All of these will help you get to know people and experience a different culture, and will give you lots of opportunities to speak English.
  • Online volunteering - for example, United Nations UNV programme of online volunteering, Zooniverse online volunteering tasks contributing to research across a range of subject disciplines.  
  • A high standard of English is essential if you want to get a job in the UK. The British Council has some online courses to help:
  • At this time when students are not meeting on campus, try to join online groups and activities with UK students so you can continue developing your transcultural communication skills and global outlook.
  • The Writing centre at the University of York offers workshops and support for academic English to succeed in your studies 
  • Find an online course to help you develop your employability skills, for example with Google Digital GarageFutureLearn (free short online courses on a range of topics delivered by universities around the world, including the University of York) or the Open University
  • Make the most of all the University of York has to offer you, including the York Strengths Programme, and the York Award, to help you understand yourself better, identify your personal strengths, reflect on your experiences, and stand out in future job applications.

Strong applications

  • Make sure you understand what UK employers are looking for - keep up with business news, read job descriptions and company websites carefully to check your meet their requirements. Do not waste time on lots of applications where you are not clear that the job is suitable for you; instead spend your time on a few good quality, targeted applications.
  • Use the time you have now to research and plan for your career, using the University of York careers website, Prospects and TARGETJobs. If you’d like to talk to a careers consultant about your questions or plans, book an appointment.
  • Make a LinkedIn profile, and start building your network; read Prospects guide to social media and job hunting
  • Tell the employer about your international experience in a relevant way; you could mention cross-cultural communication, flexibility in adapting to a different culture, confidence to work in global business, knowledge and understanding of your home culture - and don't forget your language skills.
  • Apply only to companies you really want to work for - not just because they are a visa sponsor. The recruitment process will test whether you are genuinely motivated to work for them.
  • Understand how the application process works, the timescales and different stages in recruitment.
  • Use our resources to make sure you have an up-to-date, clear CV that will get attention. Make sure your CV is right for the UK job market Preparing a CV for the UK job market (PDF , 171kb)
  • Practise, practise, practise. We have resources to help you with online tests - practise these in advance to give yourself the best chance. Look especially at verbal reasoning tests to practise your comprehension and extend your vocabulary. The Maths Skills Centre also offers support with numeracy for employability.
  • Use our online practice interview resource too, and practise listening to interview questions and giving your answers in a set period of time. No login needed, just register for each practice interview with your University email address.

How realistic is it for me to try to stay in the UK?

Some of this is down to you as an individual - do you have valuable skills, experience and knowledge that make you competitive in the job market? However, realistically only a small number of graduates are able to switch into a work visa after their studies.

Here are the number of visas issued in 2020 - switching from Tier 4 student visa to:

  • Tier 2 General: 6379 plus 11 into Skilled Worker
  • Start-up visa: 422
  • Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) 152
  • Global Talent 108

Under the new Graduate route (from summer 2021) you will be able to stay and work in the UK for a maximum of two years following your degree, without needing employer sponsorship, see Visa options above.

See the section above on what you can do to give yourself the best chance of success.

I have more questions - what should I do now?

Check out all the information provided by Immigration Advice Service, UKCISA, and UK Visas and Immigration.

You can also talk to us in Careers and Placements. We cannot give you specific individual immigration advice, but we may be able to answer your initial questions, provide general information and signpost you to sources of help.

If you need specialist immigration advice you can contact a solicitor through the Immigration Law Practitioners Association.

What if I can't find a job in the UK?

The Graduate route visa introduced in 2021 should make it easier to stay and work in the UK when you have finished your degree. However, it may be challenging to find a longer term graduate job with Skilled worker visa sponsorship and you may find you need to consider working in another country or returning home to look for work. Start exploring the possibilities as early as you can, research the job market and plan to make the best use of your UK experience.  See the section on Working in your home country for more help, as well as our page on international work and GoinGlobal.

Who to contact

Careers and Placements

  • Harewood Way, University of York, York, YO10 5DD
  • Students and York graduates can contact us or book an appointment via Handshake
  • Tel: +44 (0)1904 332685

Opening hours

  • Term time: Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm
  • Vacation opening times vary - please check the opening times page