10 tips for international students staying on in the UK after graduation

With a high quality of life, excellent career prospects and a diverse culture, it’s little wonder that many students from overseas choose to stay on in the UK after their university studies are over

Now that the UK government has announced that, from 2021, international students who enrol on undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD courses in the UK will be able to stay in the country for two years after they graduate, even more young people from around the world will have the opportunity to live and work here.

However, navigating the UK’s immigration policies and competitive graduate job market and settling into working life in the UK can be challenging adjustment for many graduates, even following three years of university in the country. To help out, we’ve put together ten practical tips that will hopefully help you settle into your post-graduation life in the UK in no time…

1. Take advantage of the resources for graduates at your UK university

Your graduation ceremony doesn’t have to be the end of your association with the UK university you studied at. Most universities offer postgraduate support and resources, so find out what these are and try to make the most out of them. For example, your university might offer resources and support to help former students find jobs or give them references. Whatever is on offer, try to find something that will work for you.

2. Apply for your visa promptly

Living and working in the UK requires a visa, and even if you’re entitled to one you still need to make sure that you receive it and have all the paperwork sorted out. There is plenty of information and advice available for graduates looking to switch within the UK from Tier 4 to a work visa from the Gov.uk website and from organisations such as UKCISA. If your work visa application is more complicated, you may consider enlisting the help of a firm of immigration solicitors such as Axiom Stone, who have the expertise and experience to support anyone living and working in the UK to get their visa quickly and efficiently.

3. Hone your English language skills

If English isn’t your first language, then you should try to hone your skills before you start applying for jobs in the UK, as most employers expect a certain standard of written and spoken English. Make the most of living in Britain and immerse yourself in the English language to improve your proficiency and boost your chances of landing the career you’ve dreamed of in the UK.

4. Network with your fellow graduates

As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know. When searching for a job and settling down to life in the UK, you should use the contacts and friends you made at university to help you. Some of them might have connections with businesses in the market you want to enter or be able to help you with accommodation or even introduce you to other people who can help with these concerns and others.

5. Get a short-term lease for flexibility

In the early stages of your post-graduation life in the UK, your situation may change and you could find yourself needing to move to a new city for work. When you move out of your student accommodation, it’s a good idea to find a new home with a flexible or short-term lease, so that if you do need to move you can do so quickly and without too much cost and hassle.

6. Try work experience to boost your employability

The graduate job market in the UK is highly competitive, so make yourself stand out by earning yourself some work experience. Be it an internship, unpaid work experience or a short-term placement, any practical experience you can demonstrate on your CV will be invaluable and show you’re a driven and dedicated candidate for the kind of role you’re looking for.

7. Make sure you match the criteria

During the process of applying for jobs, you need to make sure that you’re applying for roles you’re qualified to undertake. If you aim too high you will simply waste your time and that of the firms you apply to, so make sure that you read the job specification and are satisfied that you can carry out the role before you apply. This will help you to be efficient in your applications and find yourself the perfect role.

8. Inform service providers that you’ve graduated

After your graduation, you’ll no longer be entitled to student perks and discounts on services, so make sure you inform your bank, dentist, doctor and any other relevant service provider. This will ensure that you don’t receive any subsidies that you’re not entitled to and find out about any charges you need to pay. You will also need to inform them of details such as change of address and employment status, so you can do this at the same time.

9. Open a graduate bank account

With a valid UK visa, you’re entitled to open a bank account in the UK, so try to find one that is targeted specifically at graduates and offers you perks such as free insurance, an interest-free overdraft or reduced rates on currency exchanges.

If you already have a UK student bank account, this should automatically transfer to a graduate account once your course is over, but it may be worth shopping around to see what deals are available at other banks, as switching current accounts is a relatively simple process.

Once you have a graduate account set up, you’ll be be able to do everything you need to facilitate your new life in the UK, such as set up direct debits, transfer funds, make purchases and, most importantly, get paid!

10. Keep improving after graduation

Once you’ve graduated from university, you might think that you’re done with education for good. However, constant personal development is crucial for all aspects of your life, including your career and social life. As such, it’s important that you continue to adapt and develop as a person and a professional.

Take all of the opportunities that your graduate career offers you and try to enhance your skillset and understanding as much as possible. The UK is a great country for personal development, with many courses and resources on offer, so make the most of your time here by taking advantage of these and using them to enhance your career and general world view.

Settling into working life in a new country, even one you’ve lived in for several years during your studies, can be an intimidating task, but by being organised and following these tips you can quickly get yourself into the swing of life in the UK.

Imgae credit: Mirko Vitali/123RF.com

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