News | Published September 11 2019

Home Office proposes new extended stay rules for student visas

The Home Office has proposed that international students will have the right to remain in the UK for two years after completing their degree in order to find work.

Existing legislation introduced when Theresa May was home secretary in 2012 meant that international students must leave four months after graduating, but this is now set to be overturned.

The move has come under fire from the Migration Watch campaign group, but prime minister Boris Johnson announced his wish to give international students the leeway to begin careers in the UK after completing degrees and “unlock their potential”.

The proposals come at the same time as a new £200 million genetics project being launched at the UK Biobank with the aim of developing new treatments for various diseases, which Johnson called the “world’s largest" research project of its kind.

Johnson also says that the UK must be "open to the brightest and best from across the globe to study and work” to make such endeavours possible.

Johnson said: “We’re unveiling a new route for international students to unlock their potential and start their careers in the UK.”

The new laws will apply to international students who begin courses at undergraduate level or above in the UK from next year onwards.

There are no restrictions on the sorts of jobs that affected students need to take up, nor a cap on numbers in the proposed legislation. 

An estimated 450,000 international students began courses in the UK in 2018.

Alp Mehmet, the chairman of Migration Watch UK, called the decision “unwise”, under the pretence that it would "likely lead to foreign graduates staying on to stack shelves”.

Mehmet said: "Our universities are attracting a record number of overseas students so there is no need to devalue a study visa by turning it into a backdoor route for working here".

However, much of the reaction to the news has been positive. 

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK praised the move, saying that it would bring economic benefit and put the UK back on the map as a "first choice study destination".

Jarvis said: "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."

Members of the cabinet have also rallied around the proposals, with chancellor Sajid Javid tweeting that it was “about time” the government reversed such a “silly policy”.

Jo Johnson, the former universities minister who was heavily involved in a cross-party campaign to reverse the law before resigning last week, tweeted that it was "success at last".

Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has said that the new proposals have been long in the making, with her party having historically pushed for graduates to have the right to remain in the UK after completing their courses.

Abbot said: "It enables them to contribute to our economy, our universities and to research, and helps us to attract the brightest and best from around the world. It is a great pity that ministers have previously supported measures that did the opposite."

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
September 11 2019

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