In an exciting reversal of Theresa May’s immigration policy, the UK government announced plans to offer extended post-study work visas. For international students at UK universities, this means that they can now remain in-country for two years after graduation before they have to worry about applying for their Skilled Work visa. During May’s tenure, the time overseas students could remain in-country for work had shrunk to as little as four months.
The reversal is a victory seven years in the making, and widely supported. According to a recent YouGov snap poll of 2,000 British adults:
- 46 percent say they are in favor of the change
- 26 percent are opposed
- and 28 percent are neutral
The strongest support being found among Labour and Lib Dem voters with Conservative supports evenly split 37 percent for and 35 percent against.
Now, Britain can more effectively compete against other countries, such as Canada, when it comes to attracting top talent. And the 180,000 international graduates from British universities will have a hugely positive impact on the UK economy. Studies show that international students deliver as much as £26 billion in economic contributions.
The move is particularly important for South Asia students who were most impacted by May’s stringent immigration policy. Starting in 2010-11, when May began implementing her shortened post-study work visas, there were more than 50,000 Indian international students in the UK. Seven years later, there were just 22,000 students from India.
Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International (UUKi), told The PIE News, “This will put the UK back where we ought to be—a first-choice destination for international students. We lost ground in the last few years, particularly in South Asia.”
As for when the extended work visas will be available, the plan is to introduce the change next year for tier 4 general student visas. This will give UK universities time to up their marketing campaigns for the coming school year.
However, not everyone is happy with this plan. Current students feel they shouldn’t have to lose out on the changes. As Matt Mottaghian, an international student earning his masters at the University of Lancaster, told The Guardian, “I truly believe that fairness tells us that such law should apply to all current students too, which will then make them a huge success for the British economy.”