International students are to be offered a two-year work visa after graduating from a British university, the government announced in September, overturning a key plank of Theresa May’s restrictive immigration policies.
Currently, graduates with bachelors or master’s degrees are allowed to look for work for only four months. From next year all international graduates could qualify for a two-year period to work in the UK, increasing their chances of finding long-term employment after studying.
The measure goes further than the Home Office’s latest immigration white paper, which proposed extending the four-month limit to six months and the limit for those with doctorates to a year.
It is a return to the policy that was scrapped by the coalition government in 2012. May as home secretary said the two-year post-study work visa was “too generous”.
That move was blamed for a drop in international student enrolments. Jo Johnson has campaigned for post-study visas to be extended, and in April he tabled an amendment to the immigration bill calling for two-year work visas.
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.
The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by Universities UK, which represents 130 institutions. 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.
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Elena Colquhoun, MSc, PGCE, ACIL,
Director Best Start Education, qualified teacher and examiner