How to navigate the visa conversation – part one

Guest BloggerFinal Year, First Year, Graduates, International Students, Postgraduate, Second Year

Before the introduction of the Graduate Route visa, just 2-3% of all international students in the UK between 2017 and 2020 were sponsored on the Tier 2 visa (now the Skilled Worker visa). Since the Graduate Route visa, we know the below:

  • 60% were employed by nine months of graduation (Graduate or Skilled Worker visa)
  • 72% were in “graduate level” jobs
  • 58% said their expectations of the graduate route visa were met

Therefore, whilst applying for these roles you may be faced with the question ‘Do you have a right to work?’

You might find this question frustrating or you might be getting into an interview and going no further thinking that it is the visa that is the barrier. Let’s look at this problem from different perspectives.

How to make sure you are the best candidate for the role

Make good use of your time

  1. Set up a spreadsheet or a Word document to take notes and plan what companies you are going to apply for and when.
  2. Make sure you know when the deadline for that role is.
  3. Download and save any job descriptions and adverts to your laptop/phone for when you are invited for interview.
  4. Start with the large employers who sponsor – you can see the list of them here. These companies tend to have earlier deadlines for graduate schemes.
  5. Then start to look at small to medium-sized companies and entry level roles.

Quality over quantity

  1. In the UK you can apply for any roles – they do not have to be within your field of study. This is because we are more interested in the person, their skills and their experience.
  2. Making good quality applications means matching your skills, experience and knowledge to that specific role and company.
  3. Try to find something unique about why you are applying for that role, that industry and that employer. The more specific and the more that you can relate why you are applying to your own experience and/or values, the more impressed that employer will be.
  4. They don’t want to employ someone has done the job before; they want to employ someone who is going to add to the role therefore, you need to be able to express what your Unique Selling Point is.
  5. If you are unsure about how to format your CV and/or cover letters, take a look at our advice here.

Book an appointment for support

If you are struggling with applications and/or interviews, remember that you an book an appointment with a Careers Consultant on Aston Futures. You can also utilise this service for up to three years after you graduate too!

What is the employer thinking when you mention the word ‘visa’?

  • Time, cost and resource – Even though a company may have a licence to sponsor, this does not mean that they will sponsor the role that you have applied for. They also may have run out of visa recruitment budget for that year. For certain companies that do not have a licence to sponsor, it can cost them quite a bit.
    I would encourage you to have an idea of how much it will cost the employer to sponsor you so that you can use this after your interview. Here’s an indication of the costs. You can also look at this employers’ guide about recruiting international graduates.
  • Fines – Employers can be heavily fined if they do not comply with visa regulations and procedures. They may have heard from other companies or friends about this and therefore some employer can be a little worried about the word ‘visa’.
  • They only have you for two years – The Graduate Visa route is not the best option for some employers as they are worried that you may leave straight after that visa has ended.
  • Immigration laws and knowledge – the visa regulations are changing all the time, so employers might find it hard to keep up with what they can and cannot do. The Graduate Visa route is new and many employers, especially those on the interview panels, may not know what this means and the implications on them.

How can you counter argue this?

Think about what your USP (unique selling point) is:

  • International cultural and commercial awareness – If you are not sure what commercial awareness means, take a look at this article. Basically, it is your understanding of the economy and how that affects certain industries. As an international student, you can talk about this from the UK perspective but also from your home country and even other narratives that you have gained from peers from other countries.
  • Resilience – You have moved across the world, without your friends and family, to a country that always talks about the weather and might not speak your native language – amazing! How can you use this in the world of work?
  • Adaptability – You have had to adapt to a whole new culture. Learning how you have done this and showcasing your ability to do this to employers is very impressive. You can see more about how cultures differ here.
  • Communication skills – Many international students are not afraid of getting involved in discussions and speaking with new people. This is important in work as you need to be confident at getting to know your new colleagues and maybe even create relationships with external stakeholders. You can learn more here.

Knowing your USP and demonstrating it in applications/interviews will help your case because, if the employer really wants to employ you and they think that you are the most capable person to do that job, you may have a better chance of getting sponsored.

Keep an eye out for part two of this blog series, where we’ll cover your visa options, negotiation skills and more!

Written by Daniella Barnicle, Careers Consultant – International