Graduate Fair June 10th & 11th June – How relevant is this fair for International students?

The Graduate Fair will take place on 10th & 11th June at The Armitage Centre in Fallowfield, Manchester. They are popular with international students who are looking for jobs in the UK after graduation and who have not yet secured a graduate scheme place, but how relevant are these fairs for international students?

With over 150 employers and recruiters over two days offering a variety of positions, there really is something for everyone. You will also have the opportunity to find out about postgraduate courses and further study options. The fair is a way to find out about graduate jobs and employers across Manchester and the UK. However, not all firms at the fair will be able or willing to hire international students for their positions. This blog pJL_picture_80ost explores some key messages, if you are heading to the fair and ways to prepare:

Who will be hiring international students?

It is difficult to predict which firms will be willing to sponsor international students for Tier 2 visas, but here are some insights which may help you to plan ahead.

1) Typically, only firms who are on the UK’s Sponsor Register are currently in a position to sponsor graduates for working visas. (There is an alternative for those not on the sponsor register Tier 5 read on to learn more about Tier 5.)

There is a list of the exhibitors here that are NOT on the Sponsor register. Firms not on the Sponsor Register

Firms can still 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 no incentive to do this. Some firms also have nationality requirements for their roles. However, if you have a strong CV and a professional approach, some firms may spot the opportunity, particularly IT or engineering firms or firms needing language skills.

What’s the alternative? Tier 5!

If the minimum salary is not high enough and you are a PhD then you can extend your visa alternatively you could look at a Tier 5 visa – which is a fixed term visa to enable you to gain work experience in the UK for up to 12 months. You will need to get the internship offer first, and also to pay a fee to the visa sponsor such as BUNAC, AIESEC, GTI & ISIS(Chinese students only), the employers or the University of Manchester do not sponsor Tier 5 visas. As there are no minimum salaries and it can be with any employer, there is more flexibility, but you do need to leave the UK after your experience so it is not really a way to move to Tier 2 sponsorship. Find out more about Tier 5 at:

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 employers looking to sponsor. The absolute minimum is £20,800 per year, but some career areas will have a higher minimum than this. You can find the list of minimum salaries under the Codes of Practice on the UK Visas website, and this UKCISA information is useful.

3) So if the firm is on the register and the salary is high enough, will that be okay?

Well, it could be, but it may not! Some recruiters are not familiar with the latest visa regulations for recent graduates so 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:JL_picture_70

– if you apply for Tier 2 sponsorship before your Tier 4 visa expires, then there is no longer a labour market test required (where the firm has to show that they could not find a UK / EEA worker for the role).

– if you are moving from a valid Tier 4 visa to a Tier 2 visa the sponsorship does not fall into the monthly quotas for the UK, so certificates are not restricted for Tier 2 visa sponsorship. Employers can ask for more.

You can stay up to date with the most up to date information through links on our website: and watch the UK Visa Master-class Webinar  (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?

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.

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 student 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 studentsJL_picture_128

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 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 UK Visas 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. There are so many different aspects to immigration (Ancestry/ EEA rights) that it can be useful to explore your own situation. In addition the International Career Consultant will be at the fair on both days with the Immigration expert for career related queries.

“My only tip for job hunting would be to make sure that you have a focused approach when you’re looking for a job rather than having a scattered CV approach. I would also recommend that you always keep your options open on location and countries you would like to work in and always have a backup plan if things don’t work out. Getting a job back home in your country can also be a good option for you and you should plan ahead for that just in case things don’t work out in the UK.

Omer Zakaria, Msc International Human Resource Management, 2012. Recruitment Consultant, Robert Walters Plc, Dubai.

Considering shorter term UK experiences or applying for graduate positions back in your home country 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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