UK Visa Requirements: What College Students Need To Know

There’s no rest for England’s international graduates. While most graduates struggle to find employment after college, the challenge carries even more weight for those who aren’t UK natives. Graduates hoping to stay must find a job in four months. If they don’t qualify for the Tier 2 visa by the deadline, they’re forced to leave the country. Some graduates find ways to get ahead of the competition, but many incoming freshmen are avoiding the UK visa requirement by going elsewhere for their education.

Visa Applications and Your Job Search

Finding any job can be a difficult task on its own, but visa requirements add another filter to your search. The job has to be skilled and listed as an official licensed sponsor. So if you manage to find a great job in your field but it’s not on the list, you’re out of luck. Even worse, there’s a minimum salary of £20,800 (which at the time of this writing equals $27,438 USD). Meeting this requirement is particularly tricky for graduating students, who often struggle to find an entry-level job that pays the amount they need. Another restriction requires visa-holders to have at least £945 (about $1,246) tucked away in their savings account if their sponsor isn’t fully approved.

How do graduates cope with these restrictions? Many start looking for employers who will sponsor them way before their graduation date. Most universities have a career service center that can help with resumes and job applications. Do your visa homework and research all the details, while considering other options like the temporary-worker Tier 5 visa. Network on campus and off whenever possible, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get your dream job right away. Expect to find something that will get you closer to your dreams even if it doesn’t check off all the boxes.

UK visa requirements
St. John’s College (Cambridge, U.K.)

Despite all your best efforts, you still might have to leave when the four months are up. Make a plan in case you do need to go. Moving back home might lead to unexpected opportunities, especially if you use job search websites for international students like GradLink UK.

Consider Other Countries

If you’re not set on the UK, research other countries with excellent schools for your field of study. Even though international students make up 18% of higher education enrollees (as of 2015), the number has been on a steady decline. Four months is a drastic change from the previous two years allowed prior to 2012. While the UK is still a great option for students going straight home after graduation, those hoping to settle down in another country may end up crossing it off their lists.