International Students Can Stay in UK After Graduation, Post-Study Work Visa Remains in Place

United Kingdom Europe Higher Education News International Studies by Erudera News May 24, 2024

people in London, the UK

International students in the United Kingdom will be allowed to stay, work, or look for jobs for at least two years after graduation, or three years for those on a PhD, following the government’s decision to retain the graduate route visa.

Plans to restrict or end the post-study work visa to reduce migration to the UK faced pressure from the cabinet members of the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Erudera.com reports.

In response to recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the government said it will keep the visa route “under review” while introducing new measures to tighten student visas.

MAC, the independent body that advises the government on migration issues, released the review of the UK’s graduate visa last week, advising the government not to withdraw the scheme as there is no evidence that it is being “abused.” MAC recommended keeping the graduate route visa in its current form.

“We have not found evidence of widespread abuse on the graduate route, where we define abuse as deliberate non-compliance with immigration rules, and we conclude that the route is not undermining the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system,” Brian Bell, Chair of Migration Advisory Committee wrote in a letter to the Home Secretary.

On Thursday, May 23, the Home Secretary and Education Secretary announced in a joint statement new measures to tackle student visa abuse. These changes aim to ensure the higher education sector is used for education only and not as a pathway to immigration.

According to the statement, new proposals include helping regulate the recruitment of international students by “cracking down on rogue recruitment agents” who push people to apply to UK universities by mandating the latter to “sign up to a stringent framework for agents.”

Additionally, higher education institutions that fail to meet stricter compliance standards for visa sponsor licenses could see their licenses canceled. Moreover, the government is set to introduce mandatory English tests for international students to attract only proficient English speakers to the country.

“It is right that we strike the balance between controlling immigration and making sure the UK remains the ‘go to’ place for students around the world, supporting our brilliant universities and enabling the best and brightest to study here,” Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, said.

These measures come after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed a 10 percent drop in net migration since 2022. According to the Home Office, ONS figures do not take into account the government’s changes, which are expected to reduce migration further. Since the changes started to be implemented, the number of visa applications dropped by 25 percent.

MAC pointed out universities would lose money generated from international students’ fees, which would lead to job losses and course closures. It said the post-study visa attracts international students to the UK, so it should remain in place.

The report said that over the past year, 114,000 graduate route visas were issued for international students and another 30,000 for their dependents.

At the beginning of this year, the UK government announced stricter rules for international students, banning the latter from bringing their family members to the country unless they are in postgraduate research courses and the ones with government-funded scholarships.

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