Supporting our international staff community
A year on in the role, Sarah Hoey, International Staff Adviser, tells us about the service she has set up to provide prospective and current University of Edinburgh staff with immigration advice, as well as her hopes for the future.
A new role at the University
Having spent seven years as an immigration lawyer, Sarah had already heard about the International Student Advisory Service and the stellar work they were doing in the field of immigration and visa advice.
When the role of International Staff Adviser arose in 2017, she felt compelled to take it.
“Seeing the University take a stand and demonstrate how important international staff are to their organisation was inspiring – I knew I wanted to be involved and I was thrilled to be chosen for the role.”
The International Staff Adviser role was tasked with setting up a standalone service to provide confidential immigration advice to prospective and current University of Edinburgh staff. The service offers one to one appointments three times a week, as well as email advice, online resources, and workshops.
Some common reasons a prospective or existing staff member would contact the service for advice are:
- They are non-EEA, based outside of the UK, and have been offered a job at the University of Edinburgh
- Staff seeking to have their non-EEA family member join them, extend their visa or receive visa advice
- Existing staff who are seeking to extend their visa
- Checking visa applications
- Staff looking to switch to a different visa route or apply to remain in the UK permanently
- Visitors or staff looking to invite academics to visit the University of Edinburgh
The service also enables service users to look at the different options that may be available to them. Sarah firmly believes in taking a holistic approach and reviewing the entire visa situation of the individual to check that they are aware of the different options available to them.
Through the service and particularly through ongoing activities such as workshops, Sarah hopes that there can be a level of proactivity in providing information about changes to immigration rules, to aid in reassuring staff and ensure that anyone who needs to act upon changes can do so with all of the information they require available to them.
Staff don't have to navigate this themselves - there is a predefined process with help and reassurance every step of the way. Visas and immigration are such a necessary thing to understand for our international staff community and I hope that the introduction of this in-house support can help in showing how valued they are.
For staff, the service has already been a success – her appointments have received positive feedback, with one member of staff saying “I am delighted that the University is offering this service. I have already been able to better plan my next visa application as a result of this meeting.”
The anniversary of the service being set up will be in July 2018, and in less than a year, 200 face to face appointments have occurred.
It’s been really lovely to be there to make a difficult process somewhat easier for our international staff, and for people to have that reassurance going forward. It's been very positive to be able to emphasise to our international staff community that they are wanted and needed.
The positive feedback has spurred Sarah on to have a lot of ambition for what she can do to support international staff as well as international students making the transition into working in the UK.
I hope that the staff service will continue to provide ongoing support and assistance to international staff to help them navigate their way through the complex Immigration system, and as they do so, it will represent how much their contribution to the University and wider community is valued.
Advocacy and best practice
Through the service, Sarah also sees her role as that of an advocate for international staff and a champion of best practice. Going forward, Sarah hopes to work on impacting on policy, being able to represent the voices of university staff to external organisations.
As one of the few members of staff who meets with international staff from every part of the University and at every career stage, she also values her position as one that can provide feedback to areas such as HR to provide insight for the future.
The service welcomes feedback on what staff would like to see offered, especially in terms of workshop content. Find out more about the International Staff Advisor service and submit an enquiry by visiting the Immigration website: