Sanwar Ali comment:
The Government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson has turned out to be more liberal on UK visa policy, at least in some ways. The previous Tier 1 Post Study work visa category, which is similar to the new UK post study work visa scheme, was abolished in April 2012. Tier 4 visa students should be able to qualify under the new scheme from some time next year.
Currently there is a very limited post-study work visa scheme for Tier 4 students that allows students to work for six months. Those who wish to stay longer need to come under the Tier 2 visa and Tier 2 Sponsor Licence scheme. There is actually already a concession that makes this easier for Tier 4 students. Employers do not need to advertise the vacancy and complete the Resident Labour Market Test to employ a student on a Tier 2 visa, and can pay a lower minimum salary under the New Entrant salary rate whatever the age of the student.
There will apparently be a new UK post-study work visa for Tier 4 visa international students graduating from British universities will be available for two years from 2020, the government has announced. The decision dismantles the immigration legacy of former UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Under current UK immigration rules, international students graduating from UK universities with a bachelor’s or Master’s degree, can only remain in the country for four months to look for work.
Extending the validity of the post-study work visa will give international graduates a greater chance of securing long-term employment once they have completed their studies.
UK immigration white paper
The announcement has come as a surprise, considering that a UK immigration white paper compiled by the government and published in December 2018, indicated that the current four-month visa validity period would only be extended to six months, while the duration for those with doctorates would be increased to 12 months.
Under the coalition government, when former Prime Minister Theresa May was Home Secretary, the Tier 1 post-study work visa was scrapped with May describing the visa as ‘too generous’.
The decision to scrap the Tier 1 post-study work visa was slammed and blamed for a slump in international student enrolment numbers at UK universities.
Jo Johnson, older brother of current UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, resigned as universities minister last week. He had lobbied for the validity period of post-study UK work visas to be extended.
In April 2019, he proposed that the Immigration Bill be amended to incorporate two-year work visas.
No cap on post-study work visas
Under the new terms of the visa, there would be no cap on the number granted and international graduates can apply for jobs irrespective of their skills or the subject they studied.
The government hopes that by reinstating the two-year validity period of the post-study work visa, it will help UK organisations to recruit top talent in areas such as maths, engineering and technology.
Education minister, Gavin Williamson, said: “The important contribution international students make to our country and universities is both cultural and economic. Their presence benefits Britain, which is why we’ve increased the period of time these students can remain in the UK after their studies.”
“Our universities thrive on being open global institutions. Introducing the graduate route ensures our prestigious higher education sector will continue to attract the best talent from around the world to global Britain,” Williamson added.
UK Post-Study work visa announcement welcomed
The government’s announcement was enthusiastically welcomed by Universities UK, which represents 130 institutions, with members expecting a decline in enrolment numbers from EU students when Brexit eventually happens.
Chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said: “The previous visa regime put the UK at a ‘competitive disadvantage’ in recruiting international students. The introduction of a two-year post-study work visa is something Universities UK has long campaigned for and we strongly welcome this policy change.”
“The new policy will put the UK back where it belongs… a first-choice study destination. Not only will a wide range of employers now benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, these students hold lifelong links with the UK,” Jarvis added.
International Tier 4 visa student numbers
Not including EU students, UK universities educated approximately 460,000 international students in 2018. The government is aiming to grow this number to 600,000 within the next 10 years.
The UK’s shadow home secretary, Dianne Abbott, said the government’s announcement highlights the ‘foolishness’ of its minimum £30,000 salary threshold required for the Tier 2 work visa.
Abbott said: “Many of the graduates doing fantastic medical and other research earn less than that. Government policy will prevent us from attracting them to live and work here.”
A statement from the Department for Education (DfE) said: “The new immigration route will be available to international students who have successfully completed a course in any subject at undergraduate level or higher at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance, and have a Tier 4 visa at the point the route is introduced, in 2020.”
“The route will allow students to look for work at any level, and allow them to later apply for longer-term work visas. Those on the route will be able to switch on to the Tier 2 skilled work visa route if they find a job which meets the skill requirement of the route,” the DfE statement added.
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