In an international survey, 40% of students said that having the option to work after graduation was a factor when choosing where to study1. Post-study work visas let study abroad graduates work without restrictions, in almost any job role, for a few years before having to return home.
If you'd like to stay abroad after your studies, these English-speaking countries offer the best work visa schemes for international students based on length of stay.
Not only can you stay in New Zealand for a generous amount of time on most work visas, but you can also support visas for your partner and children. You can only get this visa once, unless you complete another higher qualification that takes at least 30 weeks to complete. Studying English at a language school is not considered an acceptable qualification for this visa.
Students who completed distance learning or off-campus qualifications by a provider in Auckland are entitled to the same post-study work visas given to on-campus students.
Length of stay: 1, 2 or 3 years, depending on qualifications, where you studied and if you're going for 'occupational registration', such as a teaching certificate
Acceptable qualifications: Level 4 or higher qualification from a New Zealand educational institute, with 4 being a certificate and 10 being a Doctoral degree
For more information, see the New Zealand immigration post-study work visa page.
Students who have graduated from a designated learning institution (DLI) can get a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) once. They must hold valid temporary status in Canada, or have left the country, and prove that they were full-time students during their academic sessions.
Among other eligibility requirements, students must also prove that they did not receive funding from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and that they completed more than 50% of their credits in-class.
Length of stay: Up to three years, with the length of the permit often coinciding with the length of the qualifying programme
Acceptable qualifications: Study programme from a DLI lasting 8 months to 3 years and leading to an approved qualification
For more information, see the Government of Canada's 'Work in Canada after you graduate' page.
In an effort to attract and retain students and workers as part of its skilled visa programme, Australia has extended its post-study work visas for Hong Kong passport holders to 5 years. You must be under 50 years of age, meet the English language requirements, and hold an eligible visa.
Like New Zealand, this visa allows your immediate family to join you in Australia. You must have adequate health insurance for the duration of your stay.
Length of stay: 5 years for Hong Kong passport holders; up to 18 months for the Graduate Work visa; and 2-4 years (depending on the qualification) the Post-Study Work visa
Acceptable qualifications: A degree, diploma or trade certification from a Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) course, completed over at least 92 weeks
For more information, see the Australian Government's Department of Home Affairs 'Post-Study Work stream' page.
In 2018, three-quarters of British people surveyed said they supported the Post-Study Work Visa for international graduates. Until recently, however, international students could only stay in the UK for 4 months after graduation. This was extended further in 2020 under the Post-Study Work (PSW) visa "graduate route". Dependents of PWS visa holders who get their visa from 2021 will also "have near full access to the UK labour market and can work at any skill level"2.
There are now calls for the government to extend the visa to 4 years with the launch of a new International Education Strategy3. This reform would ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for study abroad students.
Length of stay: Up to 2 years for graduates; from 2021, an extension to 3 years for PhD graduates; talk of extending this to 4 years
Acceptable qualifications: International students on a Student or Child Student visa, which replaced the Tier 4 (General) student visa in October 2020, who are enrolled in 2020 or after and graduate from a recognised higher-education provider
For more information, see the GOV.UK's visas and immigration page.
The US has long been a popular choice for international students. There are two types of Optional Practical Training (OPT): the Pre-Completion OPT, to be used while the student is still studying; and the Post-Completion OPT.
F-1 visa holders must be in the country and apply no later than 60 days before the completion of their studies. They must also find a job within 90 days.
Length of stay: 1 year after completion of your course or up to 6 months for M-1 vocational visa holders; up to 3 years for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates with a 24-month special extension following the first year
Acceptable qualifications: Students must have an F-1 visa to apply for OPT and be enrolled full time at an institution certified by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
For more information, see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 'Students and Exchange Visitors' page.
Before you apply for a post-study work visa, check that you meet the application requirements. Visa criteria varies by country and region and can change without notice. Government immigration websites will have the most up-to-date travel restrictions and visas information.
Our country checklists for Canada, Australia, the US and the UK can give you more information about how to prepare for your move.
There will be a million things to take into consideration, if you've decided to head home. Before you pack up your student life, check out our checklist to help you with this transition.
If you'll be working in your host country after graduation and already have an HSBC account at home, find out how to open an overseas account.
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1 2020 International Student Survey
2 UK: work rights for dependants of PSW postgrads
3 Universities open to the world: How to put the bounce back in Global Britain