How to Hire International Graduates in the UK

Do you want to hire amazing and highly skilled international graduates in the UK? Or do you want to learn what it takes to do so and how to recruit the best candidates from abroad? If yes, great.

It has been proven that international graduates have the drive and skills required to work in the UK. The recruitment process for these candidates can become complicated due to the steps you need to take to employ them. Our quick guide provides all the information you could need on how to hire international graduates and make it easier for you to find, attract and recruit them.

Many UK companies are facing a staffing crisis. One solution that has emerged in recent years is to hire international graduates. But how do you find them and hire them? Because even though they are called International Graduates, they are still individuals who would like to hear from you. This guide to hiring International Graduates will fill you in on all the details.

The UK is a global leader in the development and production of top-quality education. With over 160 universities, including some of the world's most prestigious and well known, it comes as no surprise that many companies look for undergraduate and postgraduate international students when looking to fill employment vacancies.

So you're looking to hire international graduates in the UK? This article is aimed it spoting UK's best talent. We'll show you how to hire an international graduate in the UK.

Hiring options under immigration law

The government has published updated guidance on options for employers seeking to employ international graduates. Here we consider the two most relevant options for employers interested in recent international graduates applying for work from the UK. This includes EU nationals, unless they have successfully applied for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, which will give them the right to work in the UK.

1. Hire without sponsoring for two or three years under the Graduate route

2. Hire longer-term on the Skilled Worker route

Salary offer for new entrants:

Graduates switching from the UK's Student or Graduate route to the UK's Skilled Worker route are new entrants. This applies to those who are under 26, or those who have had their permission to remain in the UK after graduating from a course, within two years of expiring, including those applying from overseas.

To ensure that you pay a fair rate of pay to your new employees, the salary you offer must be at least £20,480 per annum, must be at least £10.10 per hour and must also meet 70% of the “going rate” for the job. You can find details of the going rates for the job in The Immigration Rules Appendix Skilled Occupations.

Already have a licence:

Tier 2 (General) licences have been discontinued and replaced with new licences for Skilled Worker. The unrestricted Tier 2 (General) Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) allocations will automatically be replaced with new CoS allocations.

Don’t have a licence:

Employers wishing to employ non-UK nationals must now take out a licence, as EU citizens also now fall under the new points-based immigration system unless they have settled or pre-settled status.

• Apply online – read the government guidance here

• Fees are £536 for small or charitable sponsors and £1,476 for medium or large sponsors (one-off, not annual). When your licence is up for renewal, you will have to pay a fee, normally every four years.

• Government currently advises that most applications (8 out of 10) are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. If you pay £500 you could receive a decision within 10 working days.

Discrimination, permission to work and the Resident Labour Market Test

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against students based on their nationality: although the law requires employers to only hire individuals with a right to work in the UK, it is unlawful for them to refuse applications or not hire someone because of their citizenship. Some exemptions do apply (for example, roles related to national security), but in general, employers that reject people just because they need a visa could face legal action.

Many employers recruit graduates far in advance to factor in the timescales for applying for a licence, which usually take about 8 weeks. It can take longer if UK Visa and Immigration's (UKVI) review of your HR practices and understanding of sponsor obligations determines that its checks should be conducted. It is important to take advice and ensure you are able to pass UKVI's checks prior to submitting your application.

The Resident Labour Market Test, which required employers to show that there was no suitable European Economic Area (EEA) candidate who can take the proposed role, has been abolished for all types of Skilled Worker application. This applies whether the graduate is applying from inside the UK or outside of it. In addition, however, the UKVI caseworker must have no reason to believe that the job does not exist, is a sham, has been created mainly for the immigration application, or amounts to work for a third party who is not the sponsor.

Graduate route

The time period granted under the Graduate route starts from when an applicant’s Graduate route application is granted.

You can hire an international graduate to a permanent job (or a graduate scheme exceeding the Graduate route duration) under the Graduate route. You can put your employees on the Graduate route and hire them at any point during their stay under that route. They can switch to the Skilled Worker route once a job has been found that meets the necessary requirements.

The Graduate route is not extendable, so once an applicant's application expires, they will need to switch to the Skilled Worker route in order to stay in the UK.

When employees leave the Graduate route, they will continue to be known as new entrants. The remuneration for this staff member is likely to meet the discounted rate of 70% of the role’s SOC code, £10.10 per hour, or £20,480 whichever is higher.

Skilled Worker route

Up to three months before having completed their course, graduates may apply to work in the UK as Tier 2 new entrants if they have already been assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship. If you are sponsoring a PhD student before their result is out, the provider of the course must confirm that the student has completed at least 12 months of their course—and only then can you provide funding. If the degree hasn’t been completed, and the student isn’t applying as a new entrant, they can apply at any time.

A student sponsored to work under the Skilled Worker route, if within three months of completing a full-time course of study at degree level or above with a higher education provider that has a track record of compliance, is eligible to begin their job search.

Students sponsored under the Skilled Worker category may begin job searching three months after completing a full-time course of study at degree level or above with a higher education provider that has a track record of compliance.

Costs for hiring under the Skilled Worker route

See Fact check: Compare the routes table above.

Some employers will cover or contribute to the costs of their graduate candidates' education, but this is entirely your choice. These costs include:

  • a visa fee, which ranges from £464 to £1408 depending on whether the graduate is applying from within or outside UK, whether the job is in a shortage occupation, and if they are applying to be in the UK for up to or more than 3 years.

  • The Immigration Health Surcharge – usually £624 per year

  • A biometric information fee £19.20 and sometimes a visa application centre fee which can be in the region of £260

It's clear that hiring international graduates isn't something to be done on a whim. It takes some planning. But if you take the time to prepare beforehand and make sure to follow a structured process, it's possible to hire from overseas without too much trouble—and despite their different circumstances, international graduates can often provide just as much value.

International students are valuable assets, not just because of their skills and talent, but also for their ability to help drive cultural change. These candidates will likely have very different experiences from what they might be used to, and employers need to keep that in mind when hiring them. By developing and maintaining clear expectations on both sides, these candidates can be a great place to start diversifying a company's roster of employees.

We hope that this guide has shed a little light on how to hire international graduates in the UK.