UK post-study work visa
International students can once again apply for a two-year post-study work visa in the UK. Source: Shutterstock

International students are celebrating the good news recently announced by Boris Johnson’s government: two-year UK post-study work visas will be reintroduced in 2020.

The Department for Education said, “The new immigration route will 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 [student visa] leave at the point the route is introduced. This includes students who start courses in 2020-21 at undergraduate level or above.”

The work visa duration was reduced to four months during former UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s time as Home Secretary in 2012.

The previous policy for two-year work visas was scrapped after being deemed “too generous”, much to the dismay of international students.

The dismissal of the policy is said to be partly responsible for the drop in international student enrolments seen across the country in recent years.

But now, international students once more have the chance to bring their talents to the UK workforce for up to two years, meaning the nation is likely to attract more international students to its universities in the future.

According to The Guardian, “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 UK is a top study abroad destination and before 2012, studying in the country was largely seen as a pathway to employment and possibly migration for foreign students, particularly those from China and India.

But it became increasingly difficult for international students to find employment due to the short visa period they were granted post-2012.

As The Guardian reported, “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 came as a pleasant surprise, as an immigration white paper published in December 2018 hinted that the four-month UK post-study work visa would be extended to only six months, or 12 months for students with doctorate degrees.

Chief Executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, 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.

“The new policy will put the UK back where it belongs…a first-choice study destination. Not only will a wide range of employers now benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, these students hold lifelong links with the UK.”

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