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How to make the most of new post-study work policies in the West

As countries re-work their norms and extend post-study work visas to attract international students, a look at some dos and don’ts.
By Vanessa Viegas | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2020 06:34 PM IST

It used to be that getting a foot in the door of premier institute abroad was half the battle won for a successful career. You could either land a job in the host country or get back to India and find one. Over the years, this is slowly changing as graduates seek to either permanently settle in the host country or stay back for a couple of years, recover costs and gain international work experience.

In the last five years, countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand have re-worked and extended their post-study work visas to attract and retain international students. “When Theresa May abolished their post study work permit from two years after graduating, to just four months in 2012, the numbers of Indian students who were considering going to the UK dropped drastically,” says education consultant Karan Gupta.

A similar pattern could be observed in the US as well. After the Trump administration took over in 2017, number of students who apply to US universities dropped due to uncertainty around work permits after graduation.

In September last year, May’s successor Boris Johnson reversed the restrictive immigration policy. The new work permit will allow students who study any field at any degree level at accredited universities in the UK to work for 2 years after they complete their course. At present, international students pursuing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees only get the permission to stay and work for four months. “This has come as a response to boost education tourism in the post-BREXIT era,” says Tripti Singh, education guidance counsellor and head of post-graduate services at The Red Pen. While details around implementation of this new policy are not clear yet, enrolments from the 2020-21 academic year are expected to benefit.

Town and country

“All these countries have learnt over a period of time, that student’s who have studied under their education systems, are likely to be more ready for the culture,” says Rohit Sethi, director, ESS Global, a study abroad consultant. High revenues are generated from student tuition fees, there’s increased spending by them on multiple other expenses and value addition by an international talent for the employer corporations. “So they’re seen as a more productive immigrant than an offshore graduate.”

The Australian government on the other hand, is using their migration programme to back regional Australian cities and remove pressure from overburdened cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Since November, the new visa allows post-study work rights for international students up to 4 years in regional Australia – Adelaide, Perth and Gold Coast. The post-study work visa in these cities can extend by 2 to 4 years, depending on the qualification.

“Also, the graduates in Darwin city can stay for two more years and PhD graduates can stay up to six years,” says Sethi. “The same kind of incentive is given by the New Zealand government. If you work away from Auckland, you will get a year or couple of years more than a person in Auckland.”

“Around the end of 2017, Ireland further extended the 12-month stay to 24 months for masters and PHD students,” says Singh of Red Pen. Previously, for some employment sectors in Ireland, the short duration of work visas of international students’, deterred companies from hiring them. The new extension is welcomed as a way to fill the skills gap and to improve the employability of postgraduate students emerging from Irish higher education institutions.

International influence

In France, immigration rules state that a student must leave the country upon completing their studies. However, the student can apply for a residence permit if she or he has paid employment. “This is applicable for the bachelors, masters and post graduate research programmes and students have to apply for a work permit,” says Gupta.

But that changed for Indian students, in 2015 when French President Francois Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Narendra signed an agreement. Now, Indian post graduate students are allowed the benefit of a 2-year special residence permit in France and 250 French students are permitted yearly for a maximum stay of 2 years in India to join French companies operating here.

In the coming year, the Swedish government is proposing to extend the post-study work rights of graduates from Swedish universities. International graduates are currently given six months to find work. This might be extended to a 12 month period for work post-graduation. Matilda Ernkrans, the country’s minister for higher education and research, said in a statement, “The proposals are an important part of the work to improve Swedish companies’ access to talent. Research is international in its nature and rules are therefore intended to make it easier for researchers and students.”

But what happens if a student doesn’t secure a job within the stipulated time? “He or she can extend their student visa for some other course, however in this case they won’t be eligible for PGWP again,” says Sethi. “If nothing gets through, coming back to India is an option.”

Apply for jobs early, use your foreign-student status to your advantage – You may have language or enhanced numeracy skills that home students don’t have, check if your employer is registered to sponsor students, and always have a backup plan in your home country.

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