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Post-study visa options for international students

CSM students in collaboration with Department for Work and Pensions and UAL's Social Design Institute. Photo Alexandra Rodriguez Cifre
  • Written byMickey Lam
  • Published date 21 June 2022
CSM students in collaboration with Department for Work and Pensions and UAL's Social Design Institute. Photo Alexandra Rodriguez Cifre
CSM students in collaboration with Department for Work and Pensions and UAL's Social Design Institute. Photo Alexandra Rodriguez Cifre

For international students graduating from UK institutions, staying in the country to work after your studies can be challenging. However, gaining international work experience in the UK can also massively boost your career. It can open doors for further opportunities and networks, whether you decide to stay or ultimately return to your home country.

The information below is a summary of the UK Visas and Immigration webpages. It does not represent legal advice and we recommend you research your options before applying.

Start-up visa

If you want to launch you own UK-based business after you graduate, the government’s Start-up visa scheme is worth exploring. Graduate entrepreneurs with an innovative business idea assessed by an approved endorsing body such as UAL, can apply for a 2 year Start Up visa. Graduates can apply for an endorsement letter before their Student Route Tier 4 visa expires or from their home country.

In order to apply, you should be actively developing or have the necessary business skills with evidence of scalability and growth on the national job market with a financial plan. If you have already applied to other schemes such as Tier 1, or the International Graduates Scheme, it may not be possible to apply.

Skilled Worker visa

If you work in a field that the UK is looking to recruit for, you could apply for a Skilled Worker visa. Certain creative sector occupations listed on the shortage occupations list - such as architects, artists, web designers and performers - are eligible to be hired in a skilled job by an employer registered with the Home Office and with a Skilled Worker License.

Graduates can apply to be a skilled worker before their Tier 4 visa expires and can remain in the UK or return to their home country. The length of the visa can vary depending on the job, and your knowledge of the English language must be at a certain level.

Graduate visa

If you are here on a Tier 4 or Student Route visa, you can apply to stay in the UK and work once you graduate. Graduates  with undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD qualifications who were sponsored by a higher education provider in the UK can apply for a graduate route visa before their visa expires.

This will allow you to work at any level other than in restricted professions for at least 2 years and be self-employed once you obtain your visa. After which, another application can be made into other visa routes such as Skilled Worker or Start-Up.

Temporary Work Government Authorised Exchange

If you want to come to the UK for work experience or training, you can apply for a Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa. This can be applied for if you want to take up a volunteering, job-shadowing, internship, or approved work experience programme role, which will be sponsored by a licensed organisation running an approved exchange scheme. You can apply for 12 months initially, and study and additional work are allowed within the same sector and level as your work experience and be no more than 20 hours per week. Sponsors may have their own requirements and charge a separate fee.

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

Graduates from certain countries can apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme visa from outside of the UK which lasts 2 years. Countries include: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, San Marina, Hong Kong and South Korea under certain conditions.

Any work is allowed apart from being a doctor or dentist in training and professional sports. It is also possible to be self-employed with some restrictions and to enrol in study.

Further guidance and advice on visas

Unsure where to seek advice or need help with your visa status? You can email the Student Advice Service for more information.

You can also access tailored one-to-one careers support for up to 2 years after you graduate through UAL’s Careers and Employability team. Our online advisors will support you by discussing your career ideas and options and providing advice on applications and interviews. Email or book a one-to-one appointment to get started.

Want to find your first role after graduation? Start with UAL’s jobs board, Creative Opportunities and get your foot in the door today.