The UK has always been a popular choice for international students – the quality of education, the holistic university experience and the stunning campuses hold a lot of charm. And that’s not just based on my opinion; the 2020/21 statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that there are 605,130 international students currently pursuing their degrees in the UK – a 9% increase on the year before.
However, after the completion of their degree, many international students are left jobless due to visa requirements, despite their hard work and talent. As an international graduate myself, I can say we bring a lot to the table and now the UK government has stepped in to make this process as easy as possible for would-be employers of international students.
Despite the benefits, many employers do not take a chance on international graduates. There can be many reasons for that: lack of information, risk-averseness or maybe they’ve just never considered it.
So, why should companies look to tap into this international talent pool? Jake Third, Hallam’s MD, explained: “Hiring international candidates has allowed Hallam to benefit from fresh perspectives on client work, processes and company culture. Working with people from diverse backgrounds has positively impacted our work culture by making it more inclusive.”
On the 17th May 2022, our Operations Director, Jon Martin, and I, headed to the House of Lords to present our views at an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting for International Students.
At the APPG, I spoke about the many struggles I and many other international students have faced in gaining employment, despite the introduction of the graduate visa. I spoke in an attempt to bridge the gap in knowledge and information available, that often leaves international students to fend for themselves and convince employers that they are an active part of the workforce.
However, there are a few options available that the UK government has introduced to make it viable for both employers and international students to find work without legal barriers or without too much hassle.
The two main graduate visa routes (they’re easier than you think)
There are two main ways to hire an international student: the Sponsorship Visa or the Graduate Route Visa.
As outlined by the UK government, employers need a sponsor licence to hire anyone from outside the UK. The cost of this licence differs based on company size, but it usually costs less than the average office party. I joined Hallam as an intern and, during that internship, it became obvious that the company and I were a good match. Hallam sponsored my visa, which cost around £750.
But what about the admin and the hassle? Our Operations Director, Jon Martin, said: “We found the documentation online to support the process confusing and more geared for charities and PLCs rather than SME. However, a quick phone call through to the support team answered all our questions and helped us realise that the process really wasn’t that difficult. It took a little bit of admin and 4 weeks of waiting. Hallam is now in a position where we have a licence and could apply for a visa for a potential employee quickly and easily.”
However, if it feels like the risk or the cost of hiring an international graduate is not suited to your company, there is another route. Introduced by the UK government in 2021, the Graduate Route Visa gives international students a right to work in the UK for two years. This route bears absolutely no cost to employers who can hire international graduates the same way as local candidates. This route is an excellent opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ and gives both employers and employees the time to see if they’re a match.
Despite the introduction of the Graduate Visa, the response from UK employers has been somewhat deflating. The visa has not been fully recognised by many employers and international graduates have found themselves struggling to find jobs despite having a valid right to work, bearing the brunt of the information gap in the market.
As an international graduate myself, this cause is very close to my heart. Having grown up in a different context, we sit out of the mould and offer a fresh perspective on company processes. We also make the workplace more inclusive, educating and involving colleagues in our cultural festivities. Our unique worldviews add value in more ways than one.
While the popularity of the Graduate Route Visa is yet to pick up, I am hopeful that employers will start to see the value added by international graduates. And so, I’ll leave the final word to Jake, with his parting advice: “Get yourself a Simran – you won’t regret it!”