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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

New UK visa to benefit thousands of Indian students, extend stay for 2 yrs

india Updated: Sep 12, 2019 00:04 IST

London/New Delhi The UK on Wednesday announced the return of the two-year post-study work visa that was popular with self-financing Indian students, reversing a 2012 decision which led to a sharp drop in Indian students coming to Britain.

Indian and other international students at approved UK educational institutes who complete an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in any subject in 2021 will be able to stay for two years and take up a job or look for work, with no restrictions on the type or level of employment.

Those who get jobs in the two-year period will be able to switch to skilled work, which is a route to settlement in the UK.

“This is great news for Indian students who are likely to benefit disproportionately from this,” Britain’s deputy high commissioner Jan Thompson said in New Delhi. She said there had been a 42% increase in visas issued to Indian students last year, while the overall number of student visas had doubled in the past three years.

The UK, Thompson said, hopes to attract 600,000 international students by 2030 and sees “India playing a strong part in that”. Britain is creating an immigration system that is open to the “best and brightest”, she said.

This visa route was scrapped by Theresa May when she was home secretary in April 2012 on the ground it was too generous, along with other measures such as closing bogus colleges.

Before its closure, Indian students with loans used the two-year period to find work and recover the expenses of studying in the UK. However, there were claims it was abused by Indians in bogus colleges that have since been closed.

Scrapping the visa led to a perception the UK was less welcoming, prompting a fall in Indian students from the high of 39,090 in 2010-2011 to 16,550 in 2016-17.

Tom Birtwistle, head of the British Council in north India, said the new visa had been welcomed by the UK’s higher education sector, which realised the benefits of having Indian students. It was hailed by student organisations and the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament that campaigned for the visa’s return. Thompson said changes to the Tier 2 skilled worker visa means there is no limit on PhD-level candidates and more of these visas are issued to India than the rest of the world combined.

The announcement takes account of the realities of Brexit, including EU citizens not being able to freely take up jobs in the UK after it leaves the EU.

Universities UK chief executive Alistair Jarvis said international students bring £26 billion in economic contributions but the lack of post-study work opportunities had put the UK at a competitive disadvantage.

Home secretary Priti Patel said: “The new graduate route will mean talented international students, whether in science and maths or technology and engineering, can study in the UK and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers.”

First Published: Sep 12, 2019 00:04 IST