UK Returns 2-Year-Work Visa For International Students - Boris Johnsonexit Delivery
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson/ AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the return of a two-year post-study work visa for international students.

Concise News understands that currently, most international students reading bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the UK can stay and work for only four months.

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But according to BBC News this morning, the new immigration route announced that graduates in any subject will once again be able to stay in the UK for two years to find work after they graduate.

The move reverses a decision made in 2012 by the home secretary Theresa May, who abolished the two-year post-study work visa that had made Britain an attractive place for international students, saying it was ‘too generous’. That led to a sharp drop in students going to Britain.

The new immigration route will be available to international students who have successfully completed a course in any subject at the undergraduate level or higher level at a Higher Education Provider which has a proven track record in upholding immigration checks and other rules on studying in the UK.

Also, students will need to have Tier 4 leave at the point the route is introduced. This includes students who start courses in 2020/21 at the undergraduate level or above.

The new route enables eligible students to work or look for work, at any skill level, for two years after they graduate before needing to convert to another visa or having to leave the country.

According to the Prime Minister, this change would see students “unlock their potential” and begin careers in the UK.

Under the new policy, the visas would have no cap on numbers and would allow graduates to apply for jobs regardless of their skills or the subject they studied. The government said part of the aim was to recruit talented graduates in disciplines such as maths, engineering, and technology.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “The important contribution international students make to our country and universities is both cultural and economic. Their presence benefits Britain, which is why we’ve increased the period of time these students can remain in the UK after their studies.

“Our universities thrive on being open global institutions. Introducing the graduate route ensures our prestigious higher education sector will continue to attract the best talent from around the world to global Britain.”

The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by Universities UK, which represents 130 institutions. Its members are braced for falling numbers of students from the EU in the event of Brexit.

Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, said the previous visa regime put the UK at a “competitive disadvantage” in recruiting international 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,” Jarvis said. “Not only will a wide range of employers now benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, but these students also hold lifelong links with the UK,” Jarvis said.

Last year UK universities educated around 460,000 international students, not including those from within the EU. The government aims to grow the number to 600,000 over the next 10 years.

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, said the move highlighted the “foolishness” of the government’s £30,000 salary minimum for existing work visas. She said: “Many of the graduates doing fantastic medical and other research earn less than that. Government policy will prevent us from attracting them to live and work here.”

The Department for Education (DfE) said the new immigration route would be available to international students “who have successfully completed a course in any subject at undergraduate level or higher at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance, and have tier 4 [visa] at the point the route is introduced,” starting from next year.

The DfE said the route would allow students to look for work at any level, and allow them to later apply for longer-term work visas. “Those on the route will be able to switch on to the skilled work route if they find a job which meets the skill requirement of the route,” the DfE said.