How to stay in the UK as an international student after graduation

Studying in the UK is a great chance to experience a different culture from your own, so much so that you might not want to leave when you graduate from your university course – so what if there was a way to stay in the UK after graduation even though you are no longer studying?

Well there are options, including going on to study another course, often at a higher level than the one you have just graduated from.

If you want to do this, you must apply for a new visa before your current one runs out, and you must be sponsored by a suitable higher education institution, independent school or similar organisation.

But what if you want to use your university graduate degree to find a well paid job in the UK workforce? You will no longer be an international student – instead you will be an international worker, or an immigrant worker if you hope to stay in the UK indefinitely, but the good news is that your degree can actually help you to get the right kind of visa for this.

Tier 2 visas

As an international student, if you came from outside the EU EEA, you were probably on a Tier 4 visa – you might still have some time left on that at the end of your studies, as there is typically a period of about four months between the end of your course and the last date on which you are allowed to still be in the UK.

To go into work, the most common type of visa you will need is Tier 2 – unless you plan to start a company of your own, which is covered by the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa.

However, there are some rules about who can and cannot get a Tier 2 visa, and these can restrict which jobs you can go for.

The most significant for many people is the minimum salary of £20,800 you must earn in order to qualify. This is quite high for many general graduate jobs, although if you studied in a highly skilled discipline or one where there is a significant shortage of available labour in the UK, it’s not impossible for this to be an offered salary.

You might want to consider getting help from a specialist recruitment agency for international students staying in the UK after graduation, as they will be able to make sure you are only offered placements that meet this minimum threshold.

Language and job exemptions

Graduating from a UK university is good news for some of the other Tier 2 visa requirements, as it can actually give you exemption from some of the normal restrictions.

For example, if you have a degree from a UK university, this will normally be considered enough to prove that you have good English language skills – so you won’t need to do an independent test to qualify for the visa based on your language proficiency.

As a recent graduate who studied in the UK, you are also generally able to pursue any chosen career path you want – whereas for people coming into the UK for the first time on a Tier 2 visa, this might be limited solely to the jobs that are considered ‘required’ by the UK government Home Office.

So although people often say it is hard to stay and work in the UK after graduating as an international student, there are several ways in which it is very much easier for you than it would be if you studied elsewhere and then wanted to move to the UK for work.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs

The other option is to apply for a visa as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, and this is suitable if you have a business idea you really think could work, and that your university, college or training provider is prepared to endorse too.

It’s actually open to graduates from other countries too, but the qualification must be recognised within the UK – and you do not need to have graduated recently.

If you studied in the UK and that same university is willing to endorse your business idea though, it’s slightly easier, as you will not need to separately prove that you hold an appropriate qualification in order to be eligible for a Tier 1 visa.

You might also be interested to know that if your course has ended and you are still in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, just submitting an application for a Tier 1 visa removes the restrictions on how much work you can do – you can work a part-time job for as many hours as you wish, or start building your own business as self-employed too.