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Over a quarter of employers are not actually aware of the UK’s Graduate Route Visa allowing international students to work sponsor free for up to two years, according to a new policy note from the Higher Education Policy Institute.

HEPI surveyed 656 members of the Institute of Directors and found 27% of those asked were not familiar with the scheme set up in 2021. Just under half said that they were aware of its existence and haven’t utilised it, while only 3% had used it or were in the process of using it for the first time. “The widespread skills shortages across the public and private sectors will only be filled with the help of international students already in the UK,” stressed Nick Hillman, HEPI’s director.

The lack of knowledge regarding the Graduate Route visa was on top of a slightly contradictory response from those surveyed, that saw 20% having already sponsored a visa before or currently doing so – a more difficult process than the use of the Graduate Route. The Graduate Route is known to be unsponsored, with no commitment through paperwork for employers, and no commitment to pay towards the visa cost or immigration health surcharge.

It also said that most are working in professional or associate professional level jobs and earning between £20,000 and £30,000 a year – and therefore gaining a similar salary to many of those in entry level jobs from the UK.

However, if not enough people are taking up the initiative to hire people through the Graduate Route visa, it may not be sustainable This research highlights a lack of knowledge among many employers about the visa, and we would encourage government to work closely with business representative organisations to raise awareness about its benefits


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