Thursday, June 20News For London

The post-graduate route visa to take off

The graduate visa route allowed students to look for job opportunities until 2 years after their graduation. Suella Braverman, UK Home Secretary plans to reduce the post-study visa.

As India and the United Kingdom continue to negotiate their free trade agreement (FTA), the UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has proposed the idea to cut the period of stay allowed for an overseas student under the post-study visa route. Braverman is planning to bring a change to the graduate visa route according to which overseas students will have to obtain a work visa after getting a skilled job and leave the country within 6 months.

Under the new Graduate Visa route students could stay in the UK and look for jobs and could even gain experience without having a specific job offer. The Department of Education is trying to block these changes as they think that it might reduce the value of the UK as a study destination.

There are a few that support Braverman’s plan and argue that the Graduate Visa route was being misused by students by taking admissions for short courses at “less respectable universities.” There are government sources that have mentioned that this system was used as a backdoor immigration route.

Department of Education mentioned that the two-year post-study offer in the UK was similar to most of the UK’s competitors. This development came up as India and UK completed the sixth round of negotiations under the Free Trade Agreement. British Trade Minister who is in charge of the negotiations cleared that the FTA would not include an increase in the free movement visa offers for Indians.

What is the Free Trade Agreement?

UK left the European Union (EU) in January 2020, after which it started negotiations with India for a new bilateral free trade agreement. This is to deepen the economic ties between the two countries and expand the trade of goods and services. There have been several rounds of negotiations between the two countries.

In 2021, it was announced that an agreement was made between both countries for an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP). This would be a preliminary step towards the FTA and included commencements like lowering trade barriers and increasing the market access for both UK and India.

The ETP is considered to be a significant milestone in the bilateral relationship between India and UK. Both countries are expected to continue negotiations towards building a more comprehensive agreement that includes broader issues like investment, intellectual property and services etc.

What is the graduate visa route?

The UK Graduate visa or Post study work visa is an immigration route that was introduced by the UK government in July 2021. International students who have completed a degree at a UK University can stay and work or look for jobs until two years after their graduation.

The Graduate Route Allows students to work at a skill level job in any sector, once granted. Students can also switch to a UK work visa once they have found a suitable job.

The economic impact of the change

Vice-chancellors worry that the new limits on overseas students, which are due to internal government disputes over immigration policy, could cost billions of pounds.

It is understood that the Departments of Education, the Treasury, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and International Trade are all opposed to the change.

As reported by The Guardian, Vivienne Stern, the chief executive of Universities UK group (UUK), has told vice-chancellors that the government was “revisiting ways to reduce net migration”, with the future of the graduate student work visa in the spotlight.

Any attempt to reduce the number of international students will harm universities and have a wider effect, according to Prof. Hugh Brady, president of Imperial College London.

“I hate to reduce the debate over international students to economics because they enrich our universities and cities in so many other ways. Having said that, in purely economic terms, cutting their numbers is nonsensical.

“A single cohort of international students is worth a net £25.9bn to the UK economy. The government’s own export strategy aims to increase that to £35bn by 2030. They fuel the economy, create jobs and support livelihoods,” Brady told the Guardian.

The International Monetary Fund’s prediction that the UK economy will likely contract in 2023 and continue to grow at the slowest rate among industrialised nations through 2024 will certainly increase the urgency of the economic impact.

The number of dependents, such as spouses and children, who may travel with overseas students may be restricted, and the option for students to transition from study to work visas upon finding employment may be eliminated.

What will happen if the graduate route visa is curbed?

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that Indians surpassed Chinese students as the largest cohort last year and that Indians dominated the new Graduate Visa route, introduced in July 2021, accounting for 41% of the visas awarded.

According to reports, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ordered the Home Office and the DfE to submit plans for lowering the number of international students coming to the UK. Braverman’s proposal is apparently one of many that were developed in response. According to statistics released last week, there are 680,000 foreign students studying in the UK. The 600,000-student target set forth in the government’s 2019 Higher Education Strategy was attained last year.

Another idea under consideration would apparently only permit foreign students enrolled in postgraduate research-based courses, such as a PhD, or postgraduate programmes lasting at least two years to bring dependant family members with them.

The UK Home Office refused to comment on the leak, but a government spokesperson said: “Our points-based system is designed to be flexible according to the UK’s needs, including attracting top-class talent from across the world to contribute to the UK’s excellent academic reputation and to help keep our universities competitive on the world stage.

“We keep all our immigration policies under constant review to ensure they best serve the country and reflect the public’s priorities.”