Paving the way for international students to gain UK experience

There’s no denying that international students face enormous challenges in entering the UK graduate job market. A couple of months ago, I wrote how since the changes to the post study work rules in 2012, the number of international students who have been able to remain in the UK after their studies has declined.

It’s widely known that the Tier 2 work visa is extremely difficult to obtain, what with the relatively high salary criteria and the fact that an employer must have a licence to sponsor.

But there is an alternative which many students and businesses are not aware of. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange visa) is a brilliant option for students as it allows them to work in the UK for up to 2 years and then utilise the skills and experience in their home country, or potentially progress to a more permanent position in the UK.

So what is Tier 5 (TW GAE visa) about, who’s involved and what difference is it making?

The key is the involvement of a number of government approved schemes, and one inspiring professional and her company is an example of the work being done to help international students develop their UK experience, but also allows businesses to attract the best overseas talent.

Zenia Chopra heads up Access Tier 5, a government endorsed organisation powered by AIESEC (the global youth mobility organisation), to provide sponsorship for eligible individuals looking to enhance their professional and cultural experience in the UK.

I had the privilege of meeting Zenia last week, as she has been up and down the country talking to various universities about her organisation, and spoke to her about the work she does with Access Tier 5.

Zenia, as we know Tier 2 is very difficult for students to obtain, so how does Access Tier 5 help students to gain UK experience and what is the main difference between the two visas?

Access Tier 5 allows employers to offer placements to skilled non-EEA candidates without having to worry about sponsorship responsibilities. My employer, AIESEC UK Ltd. are an overarching body of the Tier 5 GAE Visa category and have an A rated sponsorship license from the UK Home Office which allows us to sponsor international students who wish to undertake work placements post their education. This in turn allows the individuals to seek employment freely with any employer irrespective of whether the employer has a Tier 2 license to sponsor or not.

The main differences between Tier 2 and Tier 5 GAE are:

  1. Tier 2 is used for permanent positions whereas Tier 5 GAE is used for temporary positions only.
  2. There is a minimum salary threshold of £20,800 for Tier 2 sponsorships; however NMW suffices under Tier 5 GAE.
  3. There is no upper limit applied to salaries offered to candidates under Tier 5 GAE unlike Tier 2.
  4. The candidate can undertake an internship or placement with any employer irrespective of whether they hold a sponsorship license or not as the overarching body would be the candidate’s sponsor, however, to be sponsored under Tier 2, the employer must hold a Tier 2 sponsorship license.

What motivated you to set up the company?

I came to the UK in Sep 2006 as an international student and have since been here under different visa categories. Being an immigrant myself, I have always felt very strongly about immigration, so, when the opportunity came through my current employer, AIESEC UK Ltd. to set up a Tier 5 GAE sponsorship scheme, I jumped at it and set up Access Tier 5 in July 2012. The biggest motivation for me to take up this opportunity was that I wanted to be able to help individuals like me who dream of coming to the UK to gain the ever so valuable UK work experience.

How many students have you been able to help?

Since inception of Access Tier 5 in 2012, we have sponsored over 500 students.

Can you tell us about the types of businesses and companies you work with?

We work with a multitude of clients ranging from Corporates to SME’s to Sole Traders. One of our recent accomplishments has been partnering up with Infinti & Red Bull Performance Engineering Academy to sponsor their candidates who have come to the UK to undertake a 12-month work placement with them.

How can students use an organisation like Access Tier 5 to their advantage when approaching companies and applying for jobs?

Students should direct their potential employers to our website so they can understand the process of sponsorship in detail. Also, we can represent the students to their potential employers, so if the students require us to speak on their behalf and liaise with their employer we are happy to do so. An important thing to bear in mind is that our services are absolutely free for the students, so whether it’s advice on sponsorship or questions regarding eligibility, we are here for the students to help them in any way possible.

What has been your greatest achievement with Access Tier 5?

Every day is an achievement for us at Access Tier 5 because every single day, we get to see a happy candidate whose Visa has been approved and dream fulfilled. The numerous emails/calls of gratitude I get from the students are one of the best and most satisfying things about my job. We are also very proud of the fact that we have a 99.99% success rate with Home Office, which means every single candidate barring 1 has been successful in getting his or her Visa.

 Finally, what tips and advice do you have for international students looking to work in the UK?

  • Start the placement hunt process at least 3 months before their Visa expires.
  • Get in touch with us as soon as they have a potential employer interested, so we can initiate the assessment process.
  • If students in UK want to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 5, they must find a role that is directly relevant to their last education in UK.
  • Don’t be shy in contacting us, we are here to help the students for FREE, so facebook us, tweet us, call us or email us!

(Information on this post is accurate at time of publishing, but please visit UK Visas and Immigration for updates and as always students should seek advice from authorised individuals and bodies).

Published by Monira Ahmed

Careers Professional & Blogger; passionate about International Careers, Diversity Matters and Mentoring.

8 thoughts on “Paving the way for international students to gain UK experience

    1. Thanks for commenting. Whilst I think it’s difficult to say how many more students will successfully go through this route, I do think it will continue to provide some hope for students of being able to work in UK post study. The key is for students to be proactive and find placements and employers who could become part of a GAE scheme.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As a past international student I cannot understand why they are being so hard. I was grateful for the year I got to work in the USA when I completed my study. I think they are being unreasonable and petty because International Students have to spend so much more to study in these universities


      2. Yes it’s a shame that it’s so hard for students to work here in the UK and let’s hope there are changes in future. We shall have to wait and see! Yes nice to meet you too and all the best with your blog!

        Liked by 1 person

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