Update: Employer Outlook Towards the Graduate Route (GIR)
Official Updates, News
July 05, 2021
Starting July 2021, the Graduate Route applications will open to International Students in the UK. Under the route, international students currently on a Student Visa (previously called Tier 4 visa) will be able to stay in the UK for 2 (or 3, for PhD graduates) years, without needing a Skilled Worker Visa Sponsorship to be able to work during this period.
The question on everyone’s mind is this: How are employers responding to the introduction of the Graduate Route? Have the opportunities for international students truly increased?
We will try and answer this today.
The Graduate Route gives international students the time to plan, prepare, and apply without being forced to make hasty/last-minute decisions or applications. Having said that, at the expiry of the two years of the Graduate Route, eventually, international graduates will be back to finding sponsorship to be able to stay & work in the UK.
The final goal, therefore, is still the Skilled Worker Visa
So, even if you work in a job without needing any sponsorship for the 2 years under the post-study Graduate Visa, you will still need a Skilled Worker Visa-enabled job to continue being able to work in the UK.
This could mean either
a) convincing your current employer to apply for sponsorship so that you can keep working for them. This also means that you’ve to first prove yourself as a valuable asset for the entire organisation,
b) Prioritise applying to jobs that sponsor a Skilled Worker Visa, irrespective of how many other opportunities are available to you. This could mean working for a year on a contract with an organisation that might not normally sponsor a visa for you and then spending the rest of the time on your Graduate Visa to find a Skilled Worker Visa opportunity.
Currently, in your job hunt, you’re likely to come across the following scenarios with potential employers.
Case 1: Employers refusing to entertain candidates requiring sponsorship
Certain companies are very clear in their job posting, mentioning explicitly that they require someone with the eligibility to live and work permanently in the UK. Some companies are also mentioning clearly that students with “visas obtained on their own” or “post-study visas” are not applicable for their programmes.
Some others mention this slightly ambiguously, “You will need to have the right to live and work full-time in the UK indefinitely without sponsorship from the company.” Applicants need to look out for these phrases.
Case 2: Employers considering it on a case-by-case basis
Some other employers are keeping their doors open, but don’t guarantee a sponsorship immediately. One such employer answered on their website, “As with all applicants, international students will be assessed on merit, although clearly eligibility to work in the UK will need to be considered in the later stages of the selection process. The firm does not have a blanket policy of refusing applications from those requiring work permits and has a Skilled Worker sponsorship license, for a very limited number of candidates.”
As for the Graduate Route, the employer mentions, “From Summer 2021, Tier 4 visas can also be extended on the Graduate Route, allowing further 2-years to live and work in the UK after graduation. This is an extremely complex area and you are encouraged to seek further information about work permits and your entitlement to undertake a placement scheme from your University Careers Service and the UK Visas and Immigration website.”
Case 3: Employers whose graduate schemes aren’t being covered under the Graduate Route period
Graduate Schemes last anywhere between 12 to 36 months. This means that the Graduate Route period of 2 years may not be sufficient to cover you for the entire period of the scheme, thereby making you ineligible to apply for schemes without Skilled Worker Visa sponsorship.
A tech company shared that although their graduate programme was 2 years, it also involved additional 14-16 weeks of the training period, once again making international graduates unable to apply because the total duration of the programme would go beyond the 2 years under the Graduate Route.
For a lot of such employers, the willingness to hire graduates hasn’t changed under the provisions of the Graduate Route either. These employers are mindful that even though this route provides them with the ability to hire graduates, without the need for sponsorship or associated reporting responsibilities, at the end of an individual's graduate visa they will be required to apply for another visa if they wish to remain in the UK. Therefore while graduate visas do not require sponsorship, they may lead to companies having to sponsor individuals in order to retain them.
Case 4: Employers hiring on contractual positions
In many cases, employers hiring on contract for a year or so are open to hiring international graduates. This is a fairly win-win situation for both the candidate as well as the employer to be able to gain global work experience and take on global talent respectively.
The Graduate Route is especially a blessing for graduates wishing to work in industries that normally don’t have sponsorships for fresh graduates, at all. Creative Industries often operate on short-term contracts or small commissions, and for graduates interested in working in such industries, the Graduate Route provides the optimum time for gaining work experience, networking, and building a portfolio — all of which are incredibly important parts of a career as a creative.
The bottom line is this: if you wish to stay and work in the UK on a long-term basis, your job search should still be directed towards Skilled Worker visa-enabled opportunities. But the two years under the Graduate Route can be a huge bonus in easing your job hunt.
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