International Students Job Search FAQ

Written by Noeleen Jones, International Careers Consultant

I was asked recently by a colleague to have a look at the Job Search FAQ I produced a couple of years ago and to update this.  I have read through and updated the frequently asked questions that all careers advisers/consultants who work with international students get. Here are my answers to these questions.


  1. How easy is it to get a job in the UK? 

Getting a job is competitive in the UK at internship and graduate level in particular for international students. However if you start you job search early enough and expand your experience it is possible.  If you are looking to stay in the UK after graduation then you need to understand your visa options and how they affect you. The more you understand about your visa options the more empowered you are when being questioned by potential employers especially those interested in hiring you but with little knowledge of the visa process. You can find out everything you need to know regarding visas and working in the UK after study by going to the Careers Service website at:

UKCISA–Advice/Working/Working-after-studies  is a great site for specifically for international students and explains the various visa rules clearly.

In addition the UK Government website has more information

The students that succeed in getting jobs in the UK work just as hard on their job search strategy as they do their degree and learn to balance their priorities.

Successful students do the following:

  • Start their job search early – Undergraduates when they arrive in year 1 and postgraduates as soon as they arrive in September.
  • Attend employer events, networking sessions, skills sessions and open evenings on campus and in the employer offices
  • Engage with employers at events and on campus, ask questions about the recruitment process, what they are looking for in candidates and ask for business cards,
  • Get additional experience through internships, part-time work, volunteering and insight weeks
  • Join relevant industry clubs such as the marketing club, business club, engineering club
  • Attend fairs and prepare for the fairs through researching the employers attending
  • Engage with their careers service to ensure their CV and applications demonstrate their skills and experience effectively
  • Attend careers events on campus such as CV sessions, skills workshops and psychometric test sessions
  • Attend alumni events on campus including “Meet the Professionals” series
  • Research thoroughly their sector and the companies they want to work with and ensure they are on the sponsor register
  • Reach out to alumni working in those organisations of interest online and at events
  1. How likely is it that I will get sponsored?

It depends on your job hunting strategy? The earlier you start your job search the better your chances are at getting a job offer and being sponsored. Be informed about your visa options and engage with your careers service for advice and guidance.

With regards to engaging with employers don’t start with the question “do you sponsor visas?” as this question is usually received negatively and employers get the impression you are just looking for a visa.  Your approach to employers is important as first impressions count. Research the company beforehand and have some good questions ready for example: about their recruitment processes, what they are looking for and if there is something they are working on how you as a graduate can get involved. It is more likely that you would get sponsored by a large multinational than by a small to medium sized company but there are many different firms who sponsor. For the latest list of Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors see here: Register of Licensed Sponsors 

  1. At what stage do I tell companies that I need to be sponsored for a visa?

This will depend on you and how risk averse you are. It also depends on what information you have researched on the company. If a company is not on the sponsor register then they are unlikely to sponsor you but it is not impossible as many small to medium companies have become sponsors based on excellent candidates. If a company is on the sponsor register they are more likely but not guaranteed to sponsor international student. Some organisations are only on the sponsor register to hire experienced professionals but you won’t know this until you apply. If an organisation asks on you are “eligible to work in the UK “or “if you have the right to work in the UK” the answer is No. The company needs this information if they are to sponsor you, but of course some companies use this as a rejection tool. Some companies are put off by becoming sponsors as they feel it will be too much work this is where your knowledge of the visa system can work in your favour. A conversation and a referral to an immigration lawyer can put them at ease.

Most students will be upfront on their application and cover letter. If the company asks your eligibility you must be truthful. Other students will go through the process of recruitment and take the risk at the end when the question is asked at interview or offer stage. Both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages.

To see an example of a cover letter that includes discussing your visa requirements see our Starting points guide area and look for Covering Letter Guide.

  1. Who sponsors international students?

To see who sponsors refer to the sponsor register. This is continually updated and has over 29,750 employers listed. It is a PDF so can be navigated holding down the “ctrl” button and “F” key together to give you a search bar at the top right of the document. To see the latest document follow the link Register of Licensed Sponsors 

  1. Which career sector is more likely to sponsor me?


I have put together a list of some of the sectors I believe are happy to sponsor international student applicants for graduate roles. This is provided in good faith, but do check with the organisations themselves to confirm their position and ensure they are on the Sponsor Register.

  • Banks/Finance
  • Consulting
  • IT
  • Engineering/Manufacturing
  • Scientific
  1. Can I get some UK experience and then go home?

All work experience is important to employers and if your intention is to go home but get a little experience first then Tier 5 could be a valid option for you.  Tier 5 visas are available through particular agencies who act as the visa sponsors so that your employer does not have to sponsor your visa or be on the sponsor register which gives you far more options in terms of potential employers.

Tier 5 Temporary Worker (Government Authorised Exchange) is intended to give university students the chance to gain work experience related to their course before they return home. You can find more details on the UKCISA website and the university careers webpages

Each agency has different criteria for sponsoring under Tier 5 so read their conditions thoroughly before applying but most follow these rules:

  • The role must not be for longer than 12 months (BUNAC this is 6 months)
  • The work must be related to the graduate’s course of study
  • The role must be supernumerary (outside regular staffing requirements)
  • The internship must be paid at least National Minimum Wage and be in line with all applicable employment legislation
  • The work must be at a skill level of NVQ Level 3 or above

When your tier 5 is up you must leave the country and apply for a new visa from outside the UK, so this is only for graduates looking for a short period of work in the UK. Remember you must consult with an immigration lawyer when applying for a visa the Right to Appeal no longer exists so you only get one chance to get your application right!

  1. Where can I find Tier 5 schemes and sponsors?

There are over 70 schemes under Tier 5 Temporary Worker. Tier 5 sponsors are listed alongside Tier 2 sponsors in the Sponsor Register or you can find a list of all the current Tier 5 schemes and sponsors on the UK Visa and Immigration website.

  1. Can I work during the summer?

Gaining work experience whilst you study through a part-time job, vacation placement, volunteering or internship will help you develop skills to add to your CV. UK and international employers value the range of transferable skills and commercial awareness which you can gain through work experience in addition to academic qualifications.

If you are an undergraduate student the Summer Vacation is part of your vacation period and under your Tier 4 visa you can work full time. You can also work full time during Christmas and Easter.

If you are a Postgraduate student the Summer Vacation is considered your term time and therefore you can’t work full time. You can however still volunteer and work part-time for up to 20 hours per week during this period. Your vacation time for full time work only includes Christmas and Easter vacation periods.

  1. Can I get part-time work in the UK which is related to my future career?


Part-time work can include work experience, volunteering and a part-time job. Employers are increasingly looking for students who have diversified their CV’s. They aren’t interested in hiring students who devoted all their time to study even though your final degree result is important. They want you to develop soft skills such as leadership, team work, communication, interpersonal skills and many more which can be done in the workplace.

Your work experience can be in your field of interest but you have to be diligent to find this and ensure there are opportunities in this field where you are studying as commuting long distances for a part-time job may affect your studies. All work experience is held in high regard by employers regardless of industry or location.

It is down to you to communicate effectively to employers what it is you want them to know about you. If you are applying for a job don’t list what you did during your part-time job in a hotel as a list of tasks be more creative and think of this as an opportunity to market your skills effectively to employers through quantifiable key achievements. Employers do not want to see a list of tasks on your CV for example “answered email, answered phone, cash handling” as these tell an employer nothing about your abilities or skills, but if you stated “worked as part of a diverse team of 15 people across 2 departments” then an employer would gain a greater insight into your abilities.

  1. What should I do if I am coming to the end of my degree/masters and I haven’t found a job?

If you are coming to the end of your programme then you must consider your options including that of going home to start your career. If an international career is important to you then it is not essential that this happen at the start of your career. Consider looking at international organisations in your home country and starting your career there. Working in a company for at least 2 years, gaining experience, building a professional reputation, a strong professional network and skillset can put you in a strong position to move internally with the company to an international office. Having the time to develop professionally and to develop your skills and language can help broaden your career prospects and improve your career opportunities.

It is a smart move to have a Plan B. C. D……. and so on as it is a very competitive market out there. In addition considering other locations for your career after university can broaden your career prospects. Consider your languages and what countries you can work in as a result, as their visa requirements may be different to the UK. Do not rely on the UK graduate market for your first job after your degree you must have additional options in order to give yourself a good chance of getting a job. If you are struggling to find a job speak to your careers service as they may be able to offer help and insight into your job search.

  1. Can I work for myself?

Under a Tier 4 student visa you are not permitted to work for yourself or freelance. This is where a company may state they are hiring your services and instead of a salary or pay you invoice/bill them for your time. Freelancing could lead to the cancellation of your Tier 4 student visa.

If you have a very good business idea or aspire to work for yourself after graduation you could consider a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa. You can find information about this visa on the University website

In addition there is the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and again information on this can be found on the careers service website

Good luck!

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