Current understanding of international academic mobility tends to view migrant academics as career-oriented actors who can follow opportunities across borders with relative ease. This paper offers a more nuanced reading of international mobility in academia by analysing how the professional context influences migrant academics’ decisions to come to and remain in the United Kingdom (UK). Drawing on data from 62 semi-structured interviews with foreign-born academics employed in the UK, the paper argues that the availability of (relatively) good-quality employment shapes international academic mobility more than country preferences. However, academics may become ‘stuck’ in the country of residence even when employment conditions deteriorate, not only because they are gradually tracked into country’s higher education system and culture but also because they lose the credentials, work experience and networks that may be needed to make another international move. This paper therefore shows that ‘stickiness’ in international mobility involves not only being ‘locked into’ a country but also being ‘locked out’ of another, and in so doing contributes to knowledge about the ways in which migrant academics become stuck whilst working abroad.