Labor Laws in the UK & EU: Things International Students Should Know

by Jaineel Aga

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Consulting Jobs In India.

Work Visas in the UK

The labor law situation in the UK and the EU isn’t much different from that in the U.S. They, too, have specific regulations for international students and international employees working within their countries.

This government website provides a fairly good overview of the applicable labor laws in the UK. They segment you into 5 different worker types based on your profile, education, skill level, and the job you are seeking. Browse through their website for more details about the UK work visa structure.

The EU’s Strict Work Permit Laws

The way the EU work authorization system works is interesting. If you want to work in Paris, Venice, Berlin, or any other EU city, you have to navigate the EU labor laws, which make it difficult for non-EU citizens to work there.

EU labor laws mandate that when a company publicizes a job application opportunity, the company must first look for candidates exclusively from the country where the company is located.

For example, if you saw a job posting for a position in Germany, a German citizen would have the first priority in applying for that job. If none of the German applicants made the cut, non-German EU applicants would have the next priority. Only after these 2 sets of applicants have had their chance to apply does the job application open for all other international applicants.

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Work Visas in the UK

The labor law situation in the UK and the EU isn’t much different from that in the U.S. They, too, have specific regulations for international students and international employees working within their countries.

This government website provides a fairly good overview of the applicable labor laws in the UK. They segment you into 5 different worker types based on your profile, education, skill level, and the job you are seeking. Browse through their website for more details about the UK work visa structure.

The EU’s Strict Work Permit Laws

The way the EU work authorization system works is interesting. If you want to work in Paris, Venice, Berlin, or any other EU city, you have to navigate the EU labor laws, which make it difficult for non-EU citizens to work there.

EU labor laws mandate that when a company publicizes a job application opportunity, the company must first look for candidates exclusively from the country where the company is located.

For example, if you saw a job posting for a position in Germany, a German citizen would have the first priority in applying for that job. If none of the German applicants made the cut, non-German EU applicants would have the next priority. Only after these 2 sets of applicants have had their chance to apply does the job application open for all other international applicants.

Through this policy, the EU officially aims to ensure that EU companies offer jobs first to people from the country, then to EU applicants in general, and last to other internationals.

For more details on EU labor laws, click here to view their website.

Comparing Job Search Difficulties

Because of EU labor policies, getting an entry-level job in the EU is quite difficult.

In terms of securing work authorization, the U.S. is probably the easiest country, followed by the UK, then followed by the EU.

Clearly, if the international student is from India, he or she does not need a special visa to work in cities like Mumbai or Delhi. One of the factors job seekers must always consider is how difficult getting a job would be in a specific country or region.

Some Personal Examples of Visa Problems

To illustrate the difficulties of job searches abroad, I’ll now share a couple of my own job search experiences.

When I was going through the recruiting process, I tried to get hired through my social networking profile. (This was back when sites like LinkedIn and Facebook were pretty new and people were starting to test out these sites as a job search tool.)

One company I applied to on the social networking site contacted me and said, “You have a great profile, and we certainly want to take your application to the next round. But before that,  we have to ask you one question. Are you eligible to work in the United States without need of any company sponsorship?”

I replied, “Unfortunately, I'm not. I’m an international student on F-1 status. I would need the company to sponsor my H-1B in order for me to be eligible to work there.

Within one day, I received their response: “We’re sorry. Since you need sponsorship, we can't take this interview any farther.”

During another part of my job search, I was in contact with a company in Washington. It was a consulting firm where I had the chance to network with one of the firm’s partners. They were impressed by their interactions with me and asked me to send my resume. I sent my resume and followed up a few weeks later.

They said, “Your resume is absolutely fine. However, the only problem we foresee is the fact that you do not currently have eligibility to work in the US without visa sponsorship, and that is an obstacle our HR and management people need to consider.”

My application process for that company ended there.

If you’re considering working for consulting firms abroad, keep in mind that you may encounter complications with work visas and other regulatory caps, which can often derail your job search entirely.

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