This post was written by an external contributor. Fumiko Saito has recently secured a Tier 2 Visa, so we asked her to reveal her best advice for those looking to follow the same path…
Studying in a different country is an invaluable experience but it brings some challenges home students don’t have to consider. Students from non-EEA countries must have a Tier 4 visa to study, and another visa if they want to work after they graduate. Although getting one can be challenging, it is not impossible and hopefully, my experience will help shed some light on the process.
What is a Tier 2 Visa?
A Tier 2 Visa is the right to work in the UK for skilled jobs and it’s the most common visa for students to switch to after graduation. You need to be sponsored by a company in a similar way to universities sponsoring for Tier 4 visas. Without any right to work or remain, a student holding a Tier 4 visa must leave the country when it expires. (At the time of writing, only non-EEA students require a visa, however, this may change depending on the final outcomes of Brexit.)
How to get a Tier 2 Visa?
Be offered a job with a company that has a sponsoring license. Seems easy enough right? Well, it’s actually harder than it seems. Not only do you need a job, but you need to find a job that fulfils the minimum criteria and a business who is willing to sponsor you for a visa. It sounds scary but with considerable planning and organisation, you CAN obtain that right to work!
You need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer, a minimum salary of £20,800 (or industry equivalent) and NQF skill level of 6 or higher. You need to show evidence of having £945 in a bank for 90 days (ending no more than 31 days before your application), although your employer may be able to cover the maintenance. Finally, a UK degree will satisfy the English language requirements.
It’s advantageous to switch from a Tier 4 to a Tier 2 visa because certain requirements such as a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) are omitted from the criteria. The above requirements are the main things needed to successfully apply for a Tier 2 visa.
Just because a company has a sponsor license does NOT mean they will sponsor for Tier 2 visas for graduates. I found out the hard way when I spent days on a job application, which was rejected immediately. This company sponsored visas but not for graduate roles. I realised my options were limited in contrast to my friends with full right to work. I had to find roles that were applicable to my skills AND accepted international candidates.
There’s no denying my path to a graduate job was rugged, coupled with moments of inadequacy and self-doubt. However, I was determined and worked incredibly hard, which eventually led to two job offers.
Preparation is Key
I applied to over 40 roles and viewed over 100 potential employers. I created a spreadsheet (I recommend Google Sheets) that monitored all the companies I was interested in and if they accept international students. This ensured I focused on applicable roles and didn’t forget which companies I already researched. Also, graduate schemes have strict deadlines so this allowed me to monitor and meet deadlines as I only had one shot to do it.
Be Irresistible to Employers
One big piece of advice I have for international students is to be as appealing to employers as possible! Have a side-hustle, volunteer, take on a committee role in a society, enter competitions/hackathons – these are fantastic ways of improving your CV.
Get Relevant Experience
Scoring an internship or placement (Debut can help you with this!) is a huge advantage. Not only will you have relevant work experience on your CV, but the company may offer you a permanent job after your studies, completely avoiding application stress.
Never Say Never
Getting a Tier 2 Visa is not impossible. If you’re struggling with any stage of the application process, get in touch with the careers team at your university for help. If you need moral support, there are forums online where international students share their experiences and advice with each other. Also, don’t limit your job hunt on big companies – small businesses may be in a position to sponsor you. Just send them an email to clarify before you apply.
Final Points to Mention
Take careful consideration before accepting a job offer. When you have a Tier 2 visa, you cannot change employers unless you apply for a new Tier 2 visa. If you have a job lined up, avoid making holiday plans to ensure you have enough time to apply for the visa. Finally, the Tier 2 visa is not the only visa to remain in the UK. There are other visas such as Tier 5 that allows you to work in the UK for up to 24 months.