International students who want to stay on in the UK after completing their Master's degree have to be aware of visa controls and what that means for them. Non-EU students must find a job within four months of the last date of their course, and cannot stay on longer. Ideally, you should find employment before your student visa expires- or you will get very stressed as the deadline of your possible deportation looms ahead!
Most commonly, you will need to apply for a Tier 5 Visa or a Tier 2 Visa. The Tier 5 Visa is meant for those who have obtained short-term employment that allows them to come to the UK for a short time for work experience or to do training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme. A licensed sponsor has to offer you such employment, and typically you will be paid at least the National Minimum wage. You should have a certificate of sponsorship in hand, along with details of how much you will be paid. With a Tier 5 visa, you are allowed to stay in the UK for up to 12 or 24 months (depending on what you are applying for) or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days-whichever is shorter.
A Tier 2 visa is for those who have been offered a skilled job in the UK, and you can stay in the country for a maximum of 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month-whichever is shorter. In certain circumstances, you can undertake a second job as well. You can also apply to extend your stay for up to another 5 years, but remember that your total stay should not be more than 6 years in all.
Job hunting is never easy in the best of times. With a four month time limit, finding a job in today's trying economic circumstances can be a harrowing experience. Here's what you should do to make your experience easier:
Apply early on in your final year. Most companies have a long selection process, and it will be easier to get started early. Usually courses end in September, so you should begin your job search by May.
Before you apply, make sure your prospective employer is registered to sponsor students. If he is not on the Home Office list of registered UK employer sponsors, you will be wasting your time as he cannot sponsor you.
Be prepared to get rejected. This happens to everyone, and the perfect job may be right around the corner. Do not feel defeated if one employer rejects you. There are students who apply to 40 companies before they get one call back, and that can potentially turn into a solid job offer!
Use your connections. Visit international-student career fairs, and meet the companies that matter. Introduce yourself and meet more people. Use your college alumni centre to contact past students who are now working in the UK, and see if you can get an opening through them.
Have a backup plan! In the worst case scenario, if you are unable to get placed within 4 months, you should have a backup option in your home country. Explore all openings; sometimes any job is better than no job at all.
Volunteer and get work experience even while you study. This can count a whole lot toward making your resume look good to prospective employers, and can give you an edge over the competition.
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