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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.

How will Covid-19 affect my plans to work in the UK?

There is uncertainty about the extent of the impact of Covid-19 on the UK jobs market. We know there will be a significant impact on graduate recruitment, on the level of competition for jobs, and on the recruitment process itself. 

In response to this situation, you should try to be as well prepared as possible. Consider alternative options, such as looking for work in your home country (or another country) as well as in the UK. Research which job sectors are most likely to be recruiting and need your skills. Use the time you have now to develop your employability skills. 

See the section below: What can I do to give myself the best chance of success? for some practical suggestions.

Organisations have had to move their selection process online. Make sure you are prepared for this by using the resources and practice tools in our Apply for jobs pages. 

Most importantly, stay safe and look after your physical and mental health.

There is more information about the impact of Covid-19 and what you can do, on our FAQs page, which is updated regularly.

EU/EEA students

EU students in the UK before 23:00 on 31 Dec 2020 are advised to apply for one of the settled status routes. This will enable you to study or work in the UK without sponsorship after Brexit.

  • EU students who have been in the UK less than 5 years can apply to pre-settled status 
  • EU students who have been in the UK 5 years or more can apply to settled status
  • Anyone arriving after 23.00 on 31 December 2020 will need to comply with the new visa regulations.

If you are not sure whether or not you will want to work in the UK after graduation, it is still worth applying for pre-settled status - you will not be obliged to stay in the UK, but you will have that option.  There is no fee, and the process is straightforward, taking around 30 minutes.  The deadline to apply is 30 June 2021 but it is recommended to apply as soon as possible.

See also the University's EU advice for students.

What are my visa options after graduation?

There are several different visa options - find out which is best for you.  See the information below and view our visa information session (11 November) for some of the changes coming in 2021.

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 (undergraduates) or six months (taught Masters students). 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.

Remember that during this time the student employment restrictions for Tier 4/Student visa holders still apply to the type of work you can do. 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.

Tier 2 visa - graduate level job

This information applies until December 2020. After 1 December 2020 Tier 2 will be replaced by the new Skilled Worker route for all non-UK, non-Irish nationals.

The Tier 2 visa is intended to help the best international talent stay in the UK 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.
  • 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.

Tier 5 short-term visa

  • 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 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 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 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.

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

  • The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme offers you an additional 12 months after your have completed your PhD, see the Immigration Advice page for more information. This visa has fewer restrictions on the kind of work you can do. You need to apply after you've had your viva, and before you submit your final bound thesis.
  • This route will no longer apply from summer 2021 when the new Graduate Route visa is introduced; if you have completed a PhD you will be eligible for a three year Graduate Route visa.
  • 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.

Graduating summer 2021 or later

The UK government has said it will introduce a new Graduate Route visa from summer 2021. Details are still to be confirmed; full details will not be available until 2021. See GOV.UK and UKCISA for up to date information. The key points are:

  • You can 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)
  • You will need to apply for the Graduate Route visa, and pay a visa fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge
  • You can switch into skilled work (new points based visa from 2021) once you have found a suitable job. (We would expect a graduate scheme to offer a skilled worker visa under the new points based system, but details are still to be confirmed).
  • The Graduate Route will count towards settlement in the UK
  • This route will not apply to students graduating in 2020.

Other visa changes in 2021:

  • The Doctorate Extension Scheme will close when the Graduate Route comes into force; PhD graduates will be able to stay for three years on the new Graduate Route visa.
  • It is possible that postgraduate students will have four months, rather than six months, leave to remain at the end of their Student visa, as they will be able to use the Graduate Route. This could apply to postgraduate students starting courses in September 2020 (still to be confirmed).

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 going to need a Tier 2 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 (see Tier 2 section in Visa options) 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. 

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.

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 can only have work permission in place and apply for a work visa once you have a suitable job offer.  (See above for changes from 2021.)
  • 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.
  • If you are completing an online application form and are unable to proceed, contact the company for advice. 
  • The employer may not be a visa 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).
  • The information for employers in Recruiting International Graduates 2020 (PDF , 333kb) 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 Naric 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 is advertising some virtual (paid) internships for summer 2020
    • 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 - there are still opportunities to volunteer during the Covid-19 pandemic; see Do-it.org (there is a Do-it from home option), 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 and language skills 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 for first years and postgraduates, and the York Award, to help you understand yourself better, 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.
  • 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 2019 - switching from Tier 4 student visa to:

  • Tier 2 General: 7418
  • Start-up visa: 231
  • Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) 214

Under the proposed Graduate route (from summer 2021) it will be easier to stay and work in the UK for a maximum of two years following your degree, 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?

It can be challenging to find a graduate job with visa sponsorship in the UK 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