International students and graduates come from a variety of countries, but mainly China, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. They have come to the UK to study, but many want to remain here to work after finishing their studies.

In terms of quality, as with any group of graduates there can be a wide variation in terms of skills and overall employability. But there are some very strong ones.

There is caution from a lot of SMEs about employing them. Many are worried that they may not be here for the long-term; and there can also be concern about the process to make the visa permanent.

This additional complication makes it difficult for international graduates to be competitive for many graduate jobs; especially in areas where there is a lot of interest, for example marketing.

Many international graduates will have experience from their own country, before they came to the UK to study. This can make them a particularly good (and often overlooked) option; especially in areas where candidates are in short-supply. For example, some IT or engineering roles.

International graduates can (at their own expense) get a 2 years post-study visa allowing them to work in the UK with no issues. The two years starts from when they get the visa, so many will wait until they have a job offer before applying. From then, it can vary in how long it takes to be authorised, as some times are busier than others. I have seen it take 3 weeks or so.

It may seem like a risk offering a job before they get the visa, but in my experience most are keen to work, so will be eager to get the visa and get started.

You would check the visa as part of your onboarding process before they start.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE 2 YEARS ARE UP?

Firstly, I should say that I’m not an expert in this area, as this will be 2 years after I placed the graduate,  so I have no involvement with it. You may need to look into it further yourself. But I have done some research, and spoken with employers who reached this stage.

When the two years are up, you would need to help them get a new visa to stay in the UK. There are several types of visa, but the skilled worker visa may usually be most relevant. More information here

You would need to be a Home Office approved employer, and it’s a relatively straightforward process to get to this stage. More information here

When applying for the visa, there are some criteria to fulfil. The job needs to be on a list of ‘eligible occupations (there are loads, but you may need to pick the closest one).

And salary needs to be a certain amount; there are some variations but usually at least £26,200 per year. I would hope that any graduate would be on at least that after 2 years. However, as of December 2023 there are plans to increase this to £38,700 which will rule out many.

Some employers I work with have taken on an international graduate and reached the 2 years stage; their feedback was that they were surprised how straightforward it was to get a new visa. And the graduates are still with them and doing well.

If you are looking to take on more than 1 there may be a difficulty. One employer told me that when they got their licence they were limited to one person; I’m not sure how common this is.

So, to summarise- 2 years guaranteed work, then a good chance of taking them on afterwards.

(Please note that this process takes place 2 years down the line, long after my involvement with placing the graduate, and it’s not something I would be involved with. The above information is from my research, and from speaking with people, but  I’m not an expert in this stage and I would recommend doing your own research or taking advice before committing to anything.)