Survey: 94% of international students unaware of UK post-study work visa extension

UK post-study work visa
Only 6 percent of prospective international students know that the UK post-study work visa is now valid for two years. Source: Pixabay

A new study shows that 94 percent of prospective international students are unaware that the UK post-study work visa has been extended from four months to two years.

QS published these findings in its latest 2020 International Student Survey. It reflects the opinions of 78,000 prospective higher education students from every country in the world, including at least 33,000 interested in studying in the UK.

Of the 94 percent, 48 percent believe the UK post-study work visa to be valid for up to four months, 25 percent think it’s five to twelve months, and 17 percent do not know at all.

UK post-study work visa

The UK must communicate the post-study work visa extension better to priority student markets, says QS. Source: Theo Rouby/AFP

“It is hugely important that overseas students feel both welcome and inspired to study here. The UK government’s decision last autumn to extend the post-study work visa for international students, from four months to two years, was a welcome first step,” said QS Chief Executive Nunzio Quacquarelli.

“However, our research shows that overall awareness of the visa extension among international students remains very low. To ensure that Britain remains a top destination for international students, the UK will need to communicate this more effectively with priority student markets moving forward,” he advised.

UK post-study work visa valid for two years

In 2019, the UK government brought back the two-year post-study work visa for international students.

Those with valid UK immigration status who completed an undergraduate-level course at any UK Higher Education Provider are entitled to this UK post-study work visa.

This allows international graduates to work or job hunt for up to two years after graduating. This UK post-study work visa is also known as the “Graduate route”.

According to the UK government, “After the two years, they will be able to switch onto the skilled work visa if they find a job which meets the skill requirement of the route.”

UK post-study work visa

London’s financial district Canary Wharf is seen as a man exercises in Greenwich Park in South London on March 23, 2020, as people come to terms with the governments request for social distancing as the Covid-19 pandemic grips the UK. Source: Ben Stansall/AFP

The 2020 International Student Survey report also found that 60 percent of international students would be more likely to consider studying in the UK if the UK post-study work visa was extended to three years instead of two.

Former Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Chris Skidmore recently told Times Higher Education that the pandemic calls for a reconsideration of this duration. In his words, “I’d argue for a four-year post-study work visa in some disciplines and even a route towards citizenship.”

The report also outlines the importance of international student contribution in view of two major events impacting the UK economy: COVID-19 and Brexit.

As of late March, COVID-19 has caused 58 percent of prospective students to change their UK study plans. This is a 31 percent rise from mid-February, when the figure stood at 27 percent.

It’s important to note that 52 percent of these were international students who are planning to defer their entry until 2021 if their plans to further studies cannot begin this year.

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