UK’s new visa offer to benefit thousands of Indian students
The Boris Johnson government 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 that led to a major drop of Indian students coming to the UK.
The announcement means that Indian and other international students who join a UK educational institution from the 2020-21 academic year and complete an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in any subject will be able to stay for two years and take up any job.
The visa route was scrapped by Theresa May when she was home secretary in April 2012 on the ground that it was too generous, along with other measures such as closing bogus colleges that were admitting international ‘students’.
Before its closure, Indian students with loans used the two-year period to find work and recover some of the expenses of studying in the UK. However, there were also claims that it was abused by Indian ‘students’ in the bogus colleges, which have since been closed.
Scrapping the visa led to the perception that the UK is less welcoming, prompting a fall of Indian students from the high of 39,090 in 2010-2011 to 16,550 in 2016-17. Latest figures show Indian students numbered 21,165 in the year ending March 2019.
The announcement takes account of the realities of Brexit, which includes the fact that EU citizens will not be able to freely take up jobs in the country after the UK leaves the EU (the current Brexit date is October 31).
The announcement was widely hailed by stakeholders, including universities, student organisations and the Foreign Affairs Committee of parliament that campaigned for the visa’s return, but were consistently rejected by May as the home secretary and Prime Minister.
Johnson announced the new visa route while launching a whole genome sequencing project, which he held up as an example of the UK’s pioneering research and international collaboration: “Breakthroughs of this kind wouldn’t be possible without being open to the brightest and the best from across the globe to study and work in the UK”.
“That’s why we’re unveiling a new route for international students to unlock their potential and start their careers in the UK”, he said.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, the umbrella body of all UK universities, said: “This is very positive news. Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26 billion in economic contributions, but for too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those 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, which will put us back where we belong as a first choice study destination. Not only will a wide range of employers now have access to talented graduates from around the world, these students hold lifelong links in the UK”.
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”.
Tom Birtwistle of British Council India welcomed the announcement: “The new graduate immigration route supports the ambitions of Indian students, who, as we know, consider post study work option as an important factor when making their choice of studying abroad”.
“UK university campuses and classrooms are enriched by the presence of Indian students; the new visa policy giving students the chance to develop their careers in an international marketplace helps reconfirm the UK’s position as a world leading destination for Indian students.”