The Graduate Fair in June – Are there opportunities for international students?

The Graduate Fairs will be taking place on 12th & 13th June at The Armitage Centre in Fallowfield, Manchester. They are a popular event for international students to attend each year, but what are the chances of finding a job offer there?

With over 70 organisations attending on each of the two days the fair is an attractive location to find out about graduate jobs across Manchester and the UK. There are also some international organisations attending such as Decathlon China – which is great for Chinese students and Mandarin speakers on the Thursday 13th. However, not all firms at the fair will be able to hire international students for their positions. This blog post explores how to manage your visit, if you are heading to the fair and prepare effectively:

Who will be hiring international students?

It is difficult to predict which firms will be sponsoring international students specifically, but there are a few guidelines which may help you to manage your fair experience.gradfair

1) Typically, only firms who are on the UK’s Sponsor Register are  currently in a position to sponsor graduates. Firms can apply to join the register, and some firms did attempt this last year, following the fair, but it can take time and money to do this. For many firms, that do not struggle to fill vacancies, there is not the incentive to do this. However, if you have a strong CV and a professional approach, some firms may spot the opportunity.

2) For those firms who are on the Register, and can sponsor, the next consideration is the salary for the position. There are minimum salaries in place for different career areas for employers looking to sponsor. The absolute minimum is £20,300 per year, but different career areas will have a higher minimum than this. You can find the list of minimum salaries under the Codes of Practice on the Border Agency website, but this UKCISA listing give you a quick idea too.

3) So if the firm is on the register and the salary is high enough, will that be okay? The good news is that it could be! The bad news, though, is that it may not be. Some recruiters are not up to speed with the latest visa regulations for recent graduates and may not be aware of some recent changes. It can be helpful if you follow the latest legislation yourself as you may find it appropriate to help a recruiter with the latest regulations. For example, some changes that recruiters may not be aware of are that:

– if you apply for Tier 2 sponsorship before your Tier 4 visa expires, then there is no longer a labour market test required.

– sponsoring a recent graduate who is moving from a valid Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 visa means that these posts do not fall into the monthly quotas for the UK, so certificates are not restricted for Tier 2 visa sponsorship.

You can track the latest changes and the most up to date information through links on the following website:    (Don’t rely on us, we are not immigration experts in Careers, just trying to help you find your way through the regulations!)

What about the other firms?

As mentioned above, firms not on the sponsor register may still be an option for you, but it will come down to whether they are impressed with you as an individual, rather than their policy on hiring international graduates.  Many firms at the fair are smaller organisations, who may not have a history of hiring international talent. If you show a real interest in their firm, what they do, demonstrate your own passion for the role and ensure you come across well – who knows. If your first question is “do you hire international students?” , “how much do you pay?” or you find yourself shouting “but you have to hire me, just get on the Sponsor Register!” … probably not!  Professionalism is crucial – it’s the one quality they can definitely observe when at the fair.

If the minimum salary is not high enough… there is not much they can do. There may be opportunities to do something short term whilst your Tier 4 visa is still valid, if you are looking to get some expeirence in the UK. Perhaps think about the unique skills that you could offer that organisation (language skills/expertise) and communicate that.

How do I prepare effectively?

There are some useful documents/sites that you should read in advance of the fair. The most essential is the Exhibitors Day 1  and Exhibitors Day 2 links for each of the days of the fair. This will tell you about each of the organisations attending and their vacancies with a link to their website. This can be an excellent way to ensure that you come across informed and motivated by specific companies.

One complaint that I have heard many times from exhibitors at fairs is that students do not have an idea of their own career strengths and motivations. If you hear yourself saying “I am a finance students at MBS, what have you got for me? or “I am studying business information systems,  what do you think I could do?”… then you may as well spend your time having a cup of tea at the kiosk. Employers want to hear something more akin to:  “I am a finance student at the Business School and I am keen to explore opportunities in xxxxxx, I was really interested to read about your xxxx programme on your website, could you please tell me a little more about it?”…

Tips on the day for international students

We have also put together a handy summary sheet for international students who are attending the fair. It provides a summary of firms who are not on the Sponsor Register (they will be less likely to be able to sponsor visas) and also a summary of key visa legislation and sources of information.  If you are not up to date on regulations, this will help you.  The attached sheet was produced in good faith, but please check out firms on the Border Agency website yourself, or ask the firms directly to ensure you have the most up to date information.  

Getting help

On the day there is an immigration solicitor available at the fair to offer free one to one short sessions, on the first floor. There are so many different aspects to immigration (Ancestry/ EEA rights) that it can be useful to explore your own situation. The International Advice Team in the Student Service Centre may also be a source of help.

There is no doubt that for some career areas, where firms are typically not on the register, or do not pay minimum salaries, and if you have very little experience on your CV, then it can be disappointing. TIer 2 sponsorship may provide many options. Considering shorter term UK experiences or applying for graduate positions at home alongside trying the UK graduate schemes is encouraged to provide a back up plan. Our pages on International job hunting, international visas and our country pages are all useful sources on the Careers Service website.  Our international networks can also provide you a way to connect back into international job markets or explore new ones. Find them at:

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