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Intern in the UK with a Fragomen international internship

interstride logo by Interstride
April 19, 2023

This blog post was co-authored by Pina Mistry, Manager & Solicitor at Fragomen, and Naomi Goldshtein, Director & Solicitor at Fragomen

All jobs and internships in the UK require work authorization. It’s important not to work even as an intern without proper authorization. Fragomen can help you kick-start your career through the Fragomen International Internship Scheme.

This temporary immigration option is ideal for current and former international students in the US who did not win the H-1B lottery or secure other work authorization after graduation. With Fragomen’s International Internship Scheme, you can work in a paid or unpaid internship in the UK for up to one year. However, there are specific requirements for the program such as an age limit. Keep reading to see if you qualify.

What is the Fragomen’s international internship scheme in the UK?

Fragomen was founded in 1951 in the US but has since expanded to over 170 countries around the world. In the UK, Fragomen provides sponsorship using the Temporary Work Government Authorised Exchange (TW GAE) visa route. Through this program, the sponsor must have endorsement from a government agency in the UK to sponsor interns on behalf of qualifying employers. Fragomen is endorsed by the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.

Internships can be sponsored for up to 12 months, and the program is open to all nationalities. Fragomen is unique in that it’s the only UK law firm to hold a TW GAE Sponsor Licence. Since its inception in 2011, the Fragomen International Internship Scheme has sponsored over 5,000 interns and worked with over 300 participant employers.

How the internship scheme works

Fragomen does not hire interns directly. Instead, Fragomen acts as an overarching body to sponsor interns on behalf of UK employers. Fragomen also cannot find an internship for you. You must find it or be offered an internship by an employer. Furthermore, the UK employer cannot sponsor you directly for this program. You must go through Fragomen or another TW GAE sponsor.

Internships can be in various industries such as technology, education, media, etc. Internships can be paid or unpaid, if unpaid you must show Fragomen how you will support yourself during the internship. While this internship visa does not lead to permanent residence, if you have a subsequent job offer in the UK, you can apply for a work visa and if approved remain in the UK after your internship for additional years. You can also apply for different internships after your 12 months are over, but you must leave the UK before applying again.

The benefits of Fragomen’s international internship scheme

The International Internship Scheme gives UK companies opportunities to attract talent from around the world. It also has numerous advantages for the intern:

  • See what it’s like to live and work in the UK before committing to a job there
  • Boost resume, professional network, and life experiences
  • Partner and children can apply as dependents on the visa
  • No immigration skills fee and low Certification of Sponsorship fee (21 GBP)
  • Can switch to a Skilled Worker visa once in the UK if you want to stay and have a job offer

Criteria for the UK international internship scheme

There are three different components of this visa opportunity and each has specific criteria:

  • The Intern
  • The Employer
  • The Internship Role

The intern

To qualify for the UK International Internship Scheme, you must be under 35 years old or 40 years old if changing careers. You must have a bachelor’s degree or higher completed in the last 5 years or be currently enrolled/about to embark on a bachelor’s degree program or higher. You may also be required to submit a negative TB test depending on which country(s) you were residing in in the past six months. If you have been residing in the US for 6 months, no TB test is required.

To receive sponsorship from Fragomen, you must be able to speak conversational English. While there is no formal test, if required a Fragomen associate will call you on the phone for an informal chat to ensure you have conversational English skills.

The employer

The employer that is hiring the intern must have an office in the UK. They must also have a valid A-rating sponsor license or be in a position to apply for one. The internship they are offering should be genuine, and the employer should follow all UK laws and regulations regarding employment. Additionally, they will need to meet Fragomen’s compliance requirements which include completing weekly Compliance Reports.

Internship role

Not every internship will qualify for the UK’s International Internship Scheme. The intern’s role must have clearly defined learning goals to support the intern’s career development. The work skill level for the role must be equivalent to a US high school diploma. The internship role must be supernumerary, and the employer cannot make a profit from the intern’s work. The intern must be highly supervised while at work. It can be extended beyond the original duration as long as the total internship time does not exceed 12 months.

How to get started to work abroad in the UK

It can take as little as 2-4 weeks to complete the application process for the International Internship Scheme, but it’s always best to get started early as possible:

  • Step 1: Intern or employer contacts Fragomen.
  • Step 2: Fragomen reviews the information provided to see if it is an eligible case.
  • Step 3: Fragomen opens the case. Onboarding is required if the employer is a new client to Fragomen.
  • Step 4: Fragomen works with the intern and employer to prepare the application.
  • Step 5: Fragomen submits an application on your behalf. Processing time takes approximately 15 working days. Priority processing options may be available to expedite application processing times to 5-7 business days or 24 hours with additional government fees.
  • Step 6: Pay all required fees – the Certification of Sponsorship fee (21 GBP) and the Application fee (259 GBP). For internships over six months, there is an additional Immigration Health Surcharge of 624 GBP. These fees can also be paid by the employer.
  • Step 6: The visa will be issued to you, and you must send it to Fragomen for review to ensure the visa has been issued correctly.
  • Step 7: Fragomen will notify the employer that the visa was granted and the internship can begin.
  • Step 8: Employer provides a copy of the UK right-to-work check and complies with weekly compliance reports sent by Fragomen.

Fragomen can help you live and work in the UK

If you want to try to get an internship in the UK, the first step is to check the intern criteria to make sure you are eligible. The age, education, and language requirements do not have any exceptions. Then, you will need to secure an internship with a UK employer. Fragomen cannot help with this. We recommend looking at company websites for current internship programs or reaching out to your university career services office for referrals.

When you are ready, contact Fragomen at UKInternships@fragomen.com and include the employer’s name, employer’s contact information, internship start date, duration, and role. Please let them know if you don’t have all these details. Fragomen can help you prepare your visa application as well as advise and assist with other UK visa options. They will only submit an application that is watertight and has a high chance of successfully securing the visa. This will ensure a smooth process of preparing to work abroad in the UK.

The contents of this post are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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