UK student union speaks out against student immigration reforms

The UK National Union of Students (NUS) have launched an online campaign on behalf of international students to protest against the UK government's immigration policies.

The initiative follows a report published in February that says the changes to UK visa policy deter foreign students from studying in the UK and have a detrimental effect on the country's international reputation.

As part of the UK Government's promise to reduce net migration from its current levels of 250,000 to the 'tens of thousands', Home Secretary Theresa May and Immigration Minister Damian Green have recently introduced several changes to UK immigration and visa policy.

These changes include the requirement that international students applying to study in the UK have to have adequate English skills before entering the country. Another major change is the closure of the Tier 1 Post-Study Work visa route on 6 April 2012. UK immigration will still offer visas through Tier 2 of the points-based system for graduates. In most cases only graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer under Tier 2 of the points-based system will be able to stay and work in the UK.

Additionally, a new Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route will be introduced, with up to 1,000 places for students working on world-class innovative ideas who want to stay and develop their ideas but do not meet the requirements of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route. However, it is unlikely many applicants will qualify for this visa route.

"Students want to take action locally," Daniel Stevens, a national executive council member for the NUS said. "One of the biggest problems in the UK is many student sabbatical officers do not know enough about the issue. We have been trying to persuade them to take up the cause but if they don't understand then they can't really help."

"We are taking action to control migration and restore public confidence which will not be achieved by simply changing the statistics," said a UK Home Office spokesperson. "Our reforms have re-focused the student visa system as a temporary route and one that is not open to abuse. Our aim is not to stop genuine students coming here to study — it is to ensure we are attracting the brightest and best."

According to the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, foreign students make the UK economy between £5.3bn and £8bn annually through tuition fees alone. This does not include benefits to the UK economy thanks to overseas student expenditure on accommodation, on food, or on tourism.

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