Post-study work visas and the best countries to work in after studying

One of the appeals of studying abroad is the opportunity to experience a new work culture via post-study work visas. According to the 2019 International Student Survey report from QS, when choosing a country to study in, 35% of respondents want to be able to get a work visa after graduation. In some circumstances, like in case of Canada, the right post-study work visa can be the first step towards becoming a permanent resident of the country that hosted you during your education.

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.

Post-study work visas and the best countries to work in after studying


The recently relaxed regulations have made Canada probably the best country in the world to work abroad after graduation. The Government of Canada announced last month that studies completed outside Canada until December 31, 2021 will count towards a future Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). For PRODIREKT students who have already begun their (online) studies outside of Canada, or those about to start, this new and extended measure reassures that their PGWP will not be in jeopardy due to complications caused by the pandemic.

These relaxed regulations may encourage international students to choose a Canadian university over a US or UK institution, both of which are fierce competitors in the higher education space but suffer from strict post-study work visa regulations.

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.

After they graduate, international students have six months to apply for the permit and they can apply from either within Canada or from their home country.

Length of stay: Up to three years, with the length of the permit often coinciding with the length of the qualifying program

Acceptable qualifications: Study program 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

New Zealand

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


In an effort to attract and retain students and workers as part of its skilled visa program, 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

United Kingdom

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. Good news for international students studying in the UK! The UK government reinstated the popular post-study work (PSW) visa in autumn 2020 (read more about this here). This will allow students to remain in the country for up to two years after graduation.

The new Graduate route will be launched on July 1, 2021 and will allow those who have completed a degree at a UK Higher Education provider with a track record of compliance to stay in the UK for two years (three years for PhD graduates) and work at any skill level, and to switch into work routes if they find a suitable job.

There are now calls for the government to extend the visa to 4 years with the launch of a new International Education Strategy. 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 Tier 4 visa who are enrolled in 2020 or after and graduate from a recognized higher-education provider

For more information, see the GOV.UK’s visas and immigration page

United States

International students in the US with an F-1 visa may apply for the Optional Practical Training (OPT). The OPT is a student visa extension which allows eligible international graduates to work in the US for up to one year after completing their studies. STEM graduates get an additional two years.

This temporary pass allows international graduates to remain in the US, apply for jobs and find a company to sponsor their employment visa.

It’s worth noting that on June 22, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending temporary visas for foreign workers until the end of 2020, but the OPT program will remain in place.

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; 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) and Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)

For more information, see the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ‘Students and Exchange Visitors’ page 

Of course, figuring out the rules and restrictions of your host country isn’t always easy. If you have questions about Post-Study Work Visa, please contact us to book a free consultation with our advisers.

We also recommend to check here regularly about any special promotions the PRODIREKT Group has for students coming from the emerging markets.

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