Companies claim closure of UK Tier 1 Post Study Work visa will hurt business

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Business owners have criticized the UK government's decision to close the Tier 1 post-study work (PSW) visa saying that it makes it more difficult for companies to fill vacancies that require specialized skills.

The PSW visa route, which closed on 6 April 2012, allowed international students to work for up to two years in the UK after graduation. Now non-European Union graduates wishing to remain in the UK to work will need to obtain a work visa that is sponsored by the employer. This will probably mean a Tier 2 visa.

A survey conducted last year by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed that 24 percent of companies that were looking to hire international workers did so to expand their international business. But businesses are worried that the new restrictions will make it more difficult to expand internationally.

Andrew Methven, chief executive of Newland Public Relations, a London-based company that focuses on Chinese businesses, says securing work visas for Chinese graduates is becoming increasingly difficult.

"Sometimes it takes months to complete the admin work to sponsor one worker. We have to guarantee our input is worthwhile," he said, noting that other companies in the UK that work closely or trade with non-EU markets like China say they are having similar issues.

"We know from talking to SMEs that they find the process of applying (for work permits) lengthy, bureaucratic and costly and this places a burden on SMEs who may not have the resources to deal with visa issues that bigger organizations do," Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.

Although, not all comapnies believe that the closure of the Tier 1 PSW route is bad for business. Kevin Lin, managing director of KL Communications, an English-Chinese translation service provider, says that abolishing the PSW process was a good thing for his company.

"The PSW visa has been a disaster for us because many Chinese graduates use it to stay in the UK and provide low quality translation at cheap prices," Lin says. "When we take an employee onboard, we demonstrate our commitment by helping them to get the work permit. That makes them work harder."

Currently, international businesses with a UK presence can opt to bring in their existing employees on an intra-company transfer (ICT) visa. Although this isn't a likely immigration route for graduates. Immigration rules state that the ICT route can only be used to bring in staff members earning a base salary of £24,000 pounds or more, and only those earning more than 40,000 pounds can work in the UK for more than a year. As this is a far higher salary than the average UK graduate salary of £19,092 pounds, it is unlikely that many graduates will qualify for this visa route.

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