Hiring an international
graduate: 3 benefits
for employers

As the UK economy begins to recover from the pandemic, much has been reported in the media around labour shortages in key sectors such as transport and logistics, hospitality and construction.

A ‘Brexit exodus’ of European citizens leaving the UK has been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. Now that free movement from the EU has ended, many of the European citizens who returned to their home country during the pandemic will now need to apply for a visa if they wish to come back to the UK to work. As a result, many of the roles in key sectors that would typically be filled by European nationals are now facing a shortage of workers.

One possible solution for employers looking to fill roles within their business is the Graduate visa route. The UK’s immigration system now offers international graduates the opportunity to remain in the UK and find work rather than returning to their home country after finishing university. As well as providing greater flexibility for international students, the Graduate route also presents a number of key benefits for employers.

With the class of 2021 now beginning to search for jobs, how can hiring an international graduate present business benefits for your organisation?

What is the Graduate route?

The Graduate visa is a post-study immigration route which allows international students to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, for up to three years after completing their studies.

The route forms part of the UK’s post-Brexit points-based immigration system, and has been introduced to help make the UK a more attractive study destination for international students. The government anticipates that the scheme will allow the UK to retain the ‘brightest and best’ talent to continue contributing to the UK economy by entering the workforce once they have graduated.

Under the scheme, undergraduates and master’s degree students will be granted two years’ leave, whilst PhD students will be allowed to stay for three years.

Benefits for employers

From an employer’s perspective, there are three clear benefits to hiring an international graduate who has secured permission to stay in the UK on a Graduate visa.

  • No sponsorship requirement – A major perk for employers is that you can hire a worker on a Graduate visa without the need to sponsor them. If your business does not hold a sponsor licence or if you are keen to avoid the administrative burden and costs associated with sponsoring an overseas worker, the Graduate route can offer a more straightforward alternative to the Skilled Worker route. As the route is unsponsored, this means graduates can be hired for temporary work or fixed term contracts during their two or three year period of leave. Graduates may prefer this flexibility, and employers do not have the long term commitment of sponsoring the worker for three or five years as would be the case under the Skilled Worker route.
  • No minimum skill or salary level – Unlike the Skilled Worker route, there are no minimum skill or salary thresholds applied to the Graduate route. This means employers can recruit graduates into entry level or lower skilled roles without the need to pay them the general salary threshold of £25,600 which exists under the Skilled Worker route.
  • Ability to switch in-country – Adding to the flexibility of the route, Graduate visa holders are also permitted to switch to another visa category, such as the Skilled Worker route, without needing to leave the UK. This means that employers can continue to employ the worker once their Graduate visa has expired. However, your organisation must hold a sponsor licence and the role must meet the skill and salary thresholds of the Skilled Worker route.

Business benefits of hiring international graduates

So why should employers consider hiring an international graduate as opposed to a domestic worker or graduate?

Recruiting international talent can help your business develop a richer workplace culture for all employees, as well as presenting a positive reputation for your organisation. Research shows that businesses with a diverse workforce benefit from increased profits, greater innovation and creativity, and enhanced brand appeal.

Key benefits include:

  • International graduates can often speak more than one language, and can use their home country knowledge to help your organisation grow and conduct global business.
  • Building a multicultural workforce can help your business develop a more positive workplace culture due to the blending of ideas and perspectives from different cultures and backgrounds, which in turn can lead to better employee morale.
  • International graduates can help fill skills gaps in areas where there may be a shortage of home-grown talent, such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Becoming a licenced sponsor

If you wish to continue employing a graduate beyond the expiry date on their Graduate visa, or if you think your organisation will want to hire other skilled workers from overseas, your business will need to apply for a sponsor licence.

Unlike the Skilled Worker route, the Graduate route does not lead to settlement in the UK. For this reason, if the employee wishes to stay in the UK long-term, their preference may be for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route.

Becoming a licensed sponsor will not only prepare you to hire talent from anywhere in the world, it could also make your organisation a more attractive prospect for international graduates and highly skilled workers from overseas.

Support with hiring international workers

If your business is looking to hire international workers and you need immigration advice, Smith Stone Walters would be delighted to help.

We can offer up to date advice and practical support in all areas of immigration law, from applying for a sponsor licence to securing visa approval for your international hires. To find out how we can support your business, please contact us today.

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