Anas's Case Study: The International Student VISA Process

Anas is 6 weeks in to his first industrial employment following completing his PhD and he is enjoying it, working as a synthetic organic medicinal chemist at Concept Life Sciences (now Malvern Panalytical – a provider of integrated drug discovery, development, analytical testing and environmental consulting services).

Anas first completed an undergraduate degree in pharmacy at the University of Benghazi in Libya and then gained a scholarship to the University of Nottingham where he completed a Masters and a PhD. The rules changed in July this year and it means an international student can work for 3 years following a PhD, or 2 years following an undergraduate degree, without the need for employer sponsorship.

Talking to Anas about the visa process, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it sounds:

“I applied online. I didn’t have to post any documents or go in person anywhere but rather completed the application form and provided evidence of 2 documents electronically. One was an NHS medical record for self-paid treatment and the other was a letter of consent from my PhD sponsor.”

It took in total 2 days from submitting his application to receiving notification of acceptance.

Although the Graduate Visa process was quick and straightforward, gaining employment was a different story.

He went through the interview process with 5 different organisations before being successful with his current employer. Each time he got through to second interview or offer stage and then would be told either a) very little, or b) feedback around not being able to sponsor a visa or a perceived lack of fit into their existing culture. Either answer is frustrating to say the least but luckily Anas’s resilience and perseverance paid off.

The Home Office has a list of companies that can sponsor visas in the UK but if they are on the list, it does not automatically mean they will. One company he interviewed with said they would for permanent roles but not FTC positions. The process is further complicated by interviewing and being offered a position prior to receiving his PhD. You can only apply for a Graduate Visa once the University has emailed and notified the Home Office of graduation and eligibility to apply, which means completion of thesis, performing your viva, doing any corrections required from said viva and then getting assessor approval before final submission.

“If I could offer students one piece of advice it is to tell the companies that you apply to that international students can work for 2 or 3 years with this new Visa scheme without the need for company sponsorship.”

When Anas comes to the end of his 3 years he has the option of gaining a skilled worker visa with a certificate of sponsorship from his employer or he will have to look for a new employer willing to commit, that is also on the Home Office list.

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