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 immediately after your degree, or whether you would like to find work in your home country. If you want to stay in the UK research your options carefully.

With your Tier 4 visa you should have an additional four month period * at the end of your course when you can work full-time without any further immigration permission.  * Or six months for taught postgraduates only studying from the 2018/19 academic year onwards

How do I find work short term on my Tier 4 visa immediately after my degree?

After you have completed your degree, you are likely to have four months left on your visa before it expires (undergraduates) or six months (taught Masters students). 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 - but bear in mind that the student employment restrictions for Tier 4 students still apply to the type of work you can do.

You could:

  • Look for part-time or short-term vacancies on Careers Gateway 
  • Use the information on our Work while you study page to help with your job search
  • Search Careers Gateway 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 an opportunities; be proactive - suggest a project you could do to help their business.

What are my visa options to stay in the UK to work?

Your main visa options to work in the UK after your Tier 4 visa are:

  • Tier 2 General: For those who want to start their professional graduate level career in the UK
  • Tier 5 Temporary Work (Government Authorised Exchange): A post study work experience visa, usually available for up to 12 months.
  • Start-up visa: for those who wish to set up a business in the UK
  • Doctorate Extension Scheme for PhD students: an extension for your Tier 4 visa for 12 months after your PhD to allow you extra time to look for, and start, a job. There is no 20 hour restriction on working hours with this visa.

See below for an introduction to each of these, and check the information on the Immigration Advice Service pages or UKCISA for more information.

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.

I want to know more about Tier 2

The Tier 2 visa is intended to help the best international talent stay in the UK long term to start their professional graduate level career.  You can find out more about this visa on the Immigration Advice Service pages and the UKCISA site.

Key points:

  • You need to find an employer who is a registered Tier 2 sponsor or is prepared to become one
  • You need to find a job that is paid at least £20,800 OR the New Entrant level on the Government SOC Codes - whichever of these figures is higher. In practice this means you will often need to look for jobs paying around £30,000.
  • You need to find a job that is at the correct skill level - for most areas of work, this is Level 6 on the Government SOC Codes
  • To remain employed on a Tier 2 visa, after the initial 3 years you would need to be earning the experienced worker rate listed in the SOC codes, often (but not always) in excess of £30,000 depending on the job sector.

Job search - use our resources for finding graduate jobs but then check if the employer is able to recruit you under Tier 2. If they're not already on the list of sponsors, might they be prepared to become a sponsor to recruit you - do you have specialist, in-demand skills that make this feasible? Using the SOC codes above - check if the job is at the right skill and salary level. If it's not it won't be possible to get sponsorship even if the employer is a Tier 2 sponsor.

I want to know more about Tier 5

  • The Tier 5 Temporary Worker (Government Authorised Exchange) visa enables new graduates to stay in the UK to do a paid internship related to their course of study.
  • Before your Tier 4 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 Tier 5 GAE 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 Tier 5 category which may be applicable depending on your own circumstances. You can read more about these on the UKCISA website and on the Immigration Advice Service page.

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. The application process is under review, but you can read more about this on our enterprise information for international students. There is more information on the GOV.UK website, and the UKCISA website.

I am a PhD student

  • You could consider the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme, see the Immigration Advice page for more information. This visa has fewer restrictions on the kind of work you can do.
  • Please see the information in the other sections on this page.  You may find further useful information in the jobs.ac.uk immigration toolkit for international PhD students.

Some job vacancies state that "successful candidates must have 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.

  • The employer may not be a Tier 2 sponsor, or the position they are advertising does not meet the criteria for sponsorship (eg the pay or skill level is too low). There may be nationality requirements for jobs in certain circumstances (eg national security).
  • Often employers use this type of wording because they do not understand that in most cases international students can only get a visa once they have a suitable job offer.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Please read Recruiting International Graduates 2018 (PDF , 179kb).‌ Although this is aimed at employers, it is a good way to help you understand how employers can recruit you after your studies and addresses some key issues.
  • You might also want to direct employers to information on the employer pages of our website which provides information on recruiting international students and graduates - particularly the information in the Resources section.

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 come and talk to us

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 any other purpose, many UK employers ask for a certain level of UCAS points as a way of handling high levels of 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 Naric website provides international grade comparisons (ask at Careers and Placements if you need to access this).

Some job applications ask if I have a work permit – how should I answer this question?

See the section above on "permission to work in the UK". There is no longer a “work permit” category in the immigration rules and it is not possible for you to have any work permission in place before being made an offer of a job - unless you have a Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme visa. 

You should not let this wording stop you from applying for a job, provided it meets the requirements for visa sponsorship under the visa category you are considering. 

Employers should not use this sort of wording to screen out candidates on the basis of nationality. In many cases it is likely to be a result of confusion about the immigration rules rather than a deliberate screening process (which could be unlawful).

If possible try to speak to the employer to clarify the position. If you are completing an online application form and are unable to proceed, contact the company for advice. 

Although targeted at employers, you may find Recruiting International Graduates 2018 (PDF , 179kb) contains helpful information. We also 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.

Staff in Careers and Placements 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 come and talk to us

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 2018 - switching from Tier 4 student visa to:

  • Tier 2 General: 6112
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur): 338  (This visa has now been replaced with the Start-up visa.)
  • Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) 172

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

  • Use the information in Get skills and experience to find ways to boost your development. UK employers are interested in your skills and experience as well as your academic qualifications.
  • Make sure you understand what UK employers are looking for - read job descriptions and company websites carefully to check you meet their requirements. Do not spend time making multiple applications for jobs where you do not meet the employer's requirements, or if you are not clear what they are looking for
  • Only apply to companies you really want to work for - not just because they are a visa sponsor - their recruitment process will test whether you are genuinely motivated to work for them
  • Look at TargetJobs guide to job hunting for international students
  • A high standard of English is essential when applying for jobs in the UK
  • Some employers who have a Tier 2 sponsor licence and who are prepared to sponsor international graduates set an earlier closing date for international applications - check these out
  • The Look for work section has useful information about the graduate job market in the UK and advice on how to make strong targeted applications
  • Once you have prepared a CV or application form using this information you can get it reviewed by booking an appointment with a member of the Careers and Placements team.

Know the immigration rules

Many employers do not understand the immigration rules - these change frequently and can be complicated. It's important that you understand as much as possible about how your intended immigration route works. The information on the UKCISA website Working in the UK after your Studies is up-to-date and easy to understand. If you are considering an internship on a Tier 5 visa, read our Tier 5 GAE visa information.

Our website has some useful information for employers; you may also want to refer them to Recruiting International Graduates 2018 (PDF , 179kb).

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?

It can be challenging to find a graduate job with visa sponsorship in the UK and you may find you need to consider 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.

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 Careers Gateway
  • Tel: +44 (0)1904 332685

Opening hours

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