International students

International students bring a wealth of experience to the University and can offer a valuable insight into global careers.

Working during your studies

Most international students are permitted to undertake some work in the UK whilst they are studying.

If you have a tier 4 visa you can usually work up to 20 hours a week.

It is your responsibility to check any restrictions on your student visa before undertaking any employment.

Please note, not all courses have defined term times or vacation periods. This is particularly the case with many postgraduate courses.

Useful resources

The following sources provide information on working in the UK as an international student:

The UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) website is the definitive source of information relating to student visas.

UKVIs Tier 4 policy guidance document provides information on working in the UK while on a student visa.

Working regulations

The UK has set national minimum wage rates.

If you work in the UK you will usually have to pay income tax and national insurance.

You will need to obtain a National Insurance number if you wish to work.

Part-time work opportunities

There are various part-time opportunities available on campus and in the local area. Please visit our Recruitment & Employment Service site for further information on what the service offers and how to register.

You can also find additional information on the Job Search section of our website.

Internships

The term ‘internships’ is not always used in UK and may be called other things by some employers.

Internship opportunities are generally aimed at second and third year students. Opportunities for first years and graduates do exist but these may not be as easy to find.

These are not usually simply ‘work experience’ – they are often structured formalised programmes which give you your own projects to work on.

Many employers use their internships to ‘fast-track’ promising students onto their graduate schemes. Consequently the application process is very competitive and follows the same process used for graduate schemes.

You should start looking for internships from around October onwards and apply in the autumn (in the first term) or spring (early in the second term).

In general, you should not consider an unpaid internship since the employer may be breaking the law if they do not pay the national minimum wage, however there are some exceptions to this such as charities.

Working in the UK after you graduate

Some students are interested in working in the UK for just one or two years before returning to their home country whereas others hope for a much longer career in the UK.

In both cases there are several things that you need to understand before you start to apply for jobs in the UK:

  • You need to gain a clear understanding of the guidelines related to different work and training schemes when looking at possible careers in the UK. 
  • You need knowledge of visa issues in order to make a realistic evaluation of whether an employer will be able to successfully apply for permission to work on your behalf; and also help you to explain the process to them if they haven't experienced it before.

Graduate Recruitment Deadlines

Employers typically set deadlines for applications, usually between October and January for jobs starting in the summer.

You will need to start applying in the beginning of your final year if you are an undergraduate, much earlier if you are on a Masters course.

Remember, even if there is a later closing date it is always worth applying as early as possible.

Some employers take applications all year round and may not have a deadline. However an early application is always advisable, deadlines can change.

Smaller or medium sized employers may not operate fixed recruitment cycles. They are more likely to recruit as and when vacancies arise.

Graduate Training Schemes

Graduate Schemes are entry-level positions for graduates.

These are permanent jobs that usually involve a period of training and can include working towards professional qualifications.

Companies may offer different training schemes for different kinds of jobs within the same company so it is important to consider which route you might apply for.

Most large companies will require you to apply in the autumn (Michaelmas) term between August and December, to begin work with the company when you graduate.

Some companies, especially in the areas of finance and banking, will advise you apply as soon as you can after August.

Graduate level roles

These are paid jobs suitable for someone who has undertaken a degree or postgraduate study. You are given any training or support that you need.

Most small to medium sized firms advertise graduate level roles throughout the year. Once you have received a job offer you can start work as soon as it is convenient to both you and the organisation.

You should begin searching for a graduate level role 6 months in advance of your student visa expiring. You will need to have your Certificate of Sponsorship from your future employer and use it to apply for and gain your new visa before your student visa expires.

It may be useful to help potential employers understand how to sponsor an international student; this guide for employers by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Service (AGCAS) would be useful for this purpose.

You could explain the process to a potential employer at the end of an interview to persuade the employer to consider recruiting you.

Useful resources

The following sources provide information related to working in the UK as a graduate:

UK Visas & Immigration provides general information on the many different work visas available in the UK.

Information regarding Tier 2 (general) visas and Tier 1 (exceptional talent) visas are likely to be most useful.

The Home Office has a register of companies who have sponsor licences to recruit migrant workers. This may help you to target employers who may be more likely to recruit international students.

Immigration Advice Service provides legal advice on immigration issues.

Career options with your degree

In the UK, the career that graduates enter is not necessarily in the same field as the subject they studied

Employers often consider applicants from a range of degree subjects; in these cases overall academic achievement and the possession of relevant skills and attributes will be important.

However for certain professions, such as engineering or medicine, employers will require a relevant degree.

Prospects is a good resource for researching ideas about what careers might match your subject.

Methods of Application and Selection

Companies vary in their methods of recruitment. Many (especially big companies) require an application form completed on-line, others (often smaller companies) may require you to submit a CV and covering letter.

The golden rule is to always follow instructions and consider what the employer wants.

Selection processes can start with the online application form then move on to a telephone interview and maybe then a face to face interview. Finally, in many cases, there will be an assessment centre which can include various exercises, both individual and group, and some form of psychometric testing.

Our Careers website offers advice and support on the whole application process including:

  • Applications
  • Interviews
  • Assessment centres

It is common for employers to conduct competency based interviews where you are asked to give examples of instances when you have used and developed certain competencies that will often be on their website or appear on the application form.

Examples of such competencies may include:

  • Career Motivation
  • Making an Impact
  • Business Focus
  • Drive & Resilience
  • Building Relationships / Teamwork
  • Problem Solving / Task Management

The Lancaster Award is an excellent way to become familiar with this concept.

Working outside the UK

The majority of international students return to their home country to start or continue their careers. Even if you are considering an ‘international career’ this is often the easiest way of getting started.

There are opportunities available specifically for international students returning to their home countries, for example:

IBM run an international student hiring programme aimed at international students wanting to return to their home countries for internship and graduate positions.

GSK offer graduate opportunities for students from a variety of countries.

GradLinkUK offers information on employment to international students studying in the UK who are seeking employment in their home countries. They provide links with employers in AfricaChinaIndia and Malaysia.

You may be concerned about leaving the UK without a job arranged and it could be some time before you find a suitable position. The length of time taken to find a job will depend on:

  • the type of job and salary you are looking for
  • your geographical flexibility
  • the competitiveness of the job market in your chosen field
  • the amount of relevant work experience you have
  • the level of employment skills you have to offer
  • the amount of time spent researching
  • the relevance and quality of the applications that you make
  • the standard of your interview skills and your performance in selection procedures
  • the determination you have to succeed

Launching a career at a distance can be challenging but early planning will give you a head start.

Our global careers page will be a useful resource for you to visit.

Keeping track of the employment market in your home country

Networking is one of the major tools to enable you to maintain up to date knowledge of your home labour market.

This involves making a list of all your friends, family, colleagues, fellow students, previous teachers and employers and letting them know you are looking for work. Often these contacts can give you valuable advice or help you secure that first job.

It is important to maintain your networks in your country when you are studying in the UK.

If they know what role you are looking for they can inform you of suitable opportunities when you return home for holidays, when you can attend recruitment fairs and arrange meetings with employers.

Talk to other students looking for work in the same country.

The International Students Societies are a good way of meeting other international students in an informal setting.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association may also be helpful.

Alumni from Lancaster University, or your former university if you are a postgraduate, are a really good way of learning about job prospects back home. You should make sure to join alumni associations and their social media sites such as The LinkedIn Lancaster Alumni Group.

Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn are also a good way to conduct professional online networking and find job opportunities. Joining groups in your career area of interest will enable you to find hiring companies and make contact with people in the industry you wish to enter