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Employing international students

Employing international students

Employing international students and graduates is much easier than you might think. We can help if you are looking to employ a talented international student for a short-term project, internship or longer graduate level vacancy.

The UK Government have announced a new Graduate Immigration Route visa launching in summer 2021 meaning that any employer can employ international students without the need to sponsor them for up to 3 years, making it even easier to employ the international talent. 

Our talented students and graduates can provide:

  • specific language skills
  • knowledge of overseas market(s)
  • beneficial networks
  • inter-cultural awareness 

Working after completion of programme for longer than 4 months – range of options including graduate level visas and Tier 2 sponsorship

There are a range of immigration schemes where UK employers can employ international students after they have completed their studies.

Graduate visa

The biggest change you will be pleased to hear about is the re-introduction of the post-study work visas now known as Graduate level visas. 

From 1 July 2021, international students who have successfully completed an undergraduate or master’s degree will be able to benefit from two years’ work experience in the UK upon graduation, through the new Graduate Route. Students who complete their PhD will be able to stay for three years. This means that students will not need to be sponsored by an employer if they have successfully applied for and obtained the graduate level visas. 

Tier 2 employment

This is the most common route for skilled employment and is primarily aimed at those who are applying in the UK to ‘switch’ from Tier 4 (General) to Tier 2 (General).

You will need to offer a minimum wage level of £20,800 for anyone are under the age of 26 or £30,000 for anyone aged 26 or over, but this can vary depending on the role.

The website provides a useful guidance for employers interested to sponsor students including the new entrant minimum rates. You can also browse through a list of over 30,000 employers who have successfully applied for the sponsorship certificate.

Tier 5 temporary worker

These schemes allow students to undertake specific types of work in the UK for a period of one or two years, depending on the scheme.

They must have a Tier 5 sponsor under the relevant scheme which must issue a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) to students before they can make immigration application.

Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme

This scheme is designed to give students who have almost finished their PhD or other doctorate qualification an additional 12 months of immigration permission in which to look for and start work in the UK.

Working during studies, vacation and for 4 months after completion of programme – no need to sponsor students Visa

The majority of international students who are in UK on a Tier 4 visa are automatically permitted to work part time during their studies. The amount of work will be limited up to a maximum of 20 hours per week while studying.

This will however change during vacation time when students can work full time.

  • The vacation period is usually from July until October for undergraduate students.
  • Taught postgraduate (Masters) students are required to study during this time and may only be able to work part time.
  • Postgraduate research students do not have term/vacation times as such, but they are allowed to work full time for 5 vacation weeks a year and once they have completed their studies.

Students are also allowed to work full time for up to 4 months after completion of their studies. For example when students complete their course in September, they may be able to stay in UK and work up until January.

Students can work in a range of roles with a few exceptions (entertainer, professional sports coach/person, doctor or dentist in training unless they are on a foundation programme and others).

It is always useful to ask the student, before offering them an employment contract, to bring their passport and Biometric Residence Permit to check what their work restrictions (if any) are.

Once again, the above examples will not require you to sponsor students’ Visa. 

More information and additional resources

Please contact the University of Leeds Employer Engagement Team if you are interested employing our international students or have any other questions.


Telephone: 0113 343 5290