(Many) Employer Issues with International Students

international students

In theory, there shouldn’t be any.

Australia sees significant numbers of international students head to our shores for many obvious benefits: a great culture, an opportunity to learn from leading academics, something different from what they might be able to experience in their own countries etc. Those who have ever lived, worked, or studied overseas will know that moving to a new country is a very brave step.

Seeking employment in Australia for international students is something we would expect. They’re eager to support themselves whilst they study, and equally once they graduate many of them are eager to work full time here. Additionally, there’s zero cost for employers in engaging the services of this student or graduate cohort (obviously, so long as the individual has the appropriate visa).

So, where does it all go wrong?

  • Many employers are biased towards domestic students because they are more familiar with this student type and have a perception that they obtain higher quality students in only looking locally and/or that engaging with international students/graduates is just ‘too difficult’.
  • Many employers don’t realise that a visa such as the Subclass 485 allows graduates to work unrestricted in the country for 2-4 years.
  • Many employers don’t bother considering the benefits of a global and culturally diverse workforce, including international graduates.
  • Many employers wrongly assume that the individual will just run back to their own country.
  • Many employers have a tickbox in their application process which rules international students/graduates out after honestly ticking this box.
  • Many employers shut down an interview the moment they know a student or graduate doesn’t have full PR or citizenship.

So, why should employers engage international students?

Sourced directly from the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) Guide to Employers per here:



There is no reason to employ international students when there are so many local students who need jobs. Allowing international students to apply for internships and graduate programs significantly increases the talent pool ensuring employers can select the very best students and graduates.
If I employ an international student, they’ll just want to go back home after a year or so. Many international students wish to stay in Australia after graduation and, if offered a long-term opportunity, they are very likely to accept and show commitment to their employers.
International students can’t speak English. To obtain a student visa to study in Australia, most international students must demonstrate their English language proficiency through a standardised test such as IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic, Cambridge English: Advanced CAE.

The stipulated minimum score depends on level of study and nationality. International and domestic applicants (whose first language is not English) must meet English language proficiency requirements for entry into academic programs at all universities and VET providers. Most universities, however, require a higher score to meet their academic entry criteria and offer additional English support. Therefore, this means that students will minimally have ‘an operational command of the language, generally handle complex language well, and understand detailed reasoning.’

I don’t think an international student would ‘fit in’ at my workplace – I don’t have any other non-Australian staff. There are multiple benefits associated with a culturally diverse workforce. Having a staff member who brings different skills, attitudes and ideas can increase the level of innovation in the workplace. Furthermore, exposing current staff to different cultures and ways of working is essential in today’s globalised labour market.
International students can’t work in Australia. Many students and graduates are permitted to work in Australia. Different international students have different working rights, which you can check using the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) website.


So, where to from here?

  • I’d love to see all employers who have engaged an international student or graduate in Australia. If you’re one of them, please let us know.
  • I’d love for many employers to read the IEAA Guide to Employers.
  • I’d love to hear more on this conversation from all stakeholders. For example, it’s wonderful to see academics such as Professor Nancy Arthur and Dr Thanh Phammonashedu (e.g., working paper here) specifically investigating these issues.

Additional links:

ABC – International Students Say Career Opportunities in Australia Do Not Match Their Qualifications

Study International – Australian Employers Unwilling to Hire International Grads Full-time

Study International – To Get Jobs in Australia, International Grads Need to Intern, Re-skill: Report

Total Assignment Help – International Students Are Not Getting Jobs In Australia: A Hoax Or A Reality

Yocket – Getting a job in Australia as an International Student

Article assistance:
With sincere thank you to both Ezinne Queen Joshua and Senior Lecturer Raymond Trau for their guidance and feedback on this vast topic, which we know we have grossly simplified but are eager to continue discussing over time.

Paul Somers
Paul holds an Executive MBA from IE Brown, and has led the MQBS Postgraduate Careers Service’s innovative, entrepreneurial and engaged team since 2020. He has worked at several leading global organisations - both public and private value oriented - domestically and internationally.