Foreign students will be allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find a job, visa proposals from the Home Office have said.
Overseas students are, at the moment, only allowed to remain in the UK for four months after completing their studies under rules that were introduced in 2012 by Theresa May when she was the Home Secretary.
The new proposal, however, reverses May’s rules and states that from 2021, international students who enrol in undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD courses in the UK will be able to stay in the country for two years after they are done with their education.
Announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the new move is “aimed at boosting the appeal of Britain as a university destination for overseas students,” a report by The Telegraph said.
There are about 460,000 foreign university students in the UK, generating £20 billion ($about 25 billion) per year through education exports, which includes income from international students, English language training, among others, the report added.
Per the new proposals, there is no restriction on the kinds of jobs students would have to seek and no cap on numbers.
“If one needed evidence of a new approach to immigration within government, today’s announcement allowing all foreign students to stay for two years after graduation is just that,” BBC reports.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said the new proposal “would benefit the UK economy and reinstate the UK as a “first choice study destination”.
“For too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students,” he said.
“We strongly welcome this policy change, which will put us back where we belong as a first choice study destination,” he was quoted by The Telegraph.
However, Alp Mehmet, chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK, has warned that the move is an “unwise and retrograde step”.
The proposal, Mehmet believes, will “likely lead to foreign graduates staying on to stack shelves, as happened before”.
“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.”
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has, however, 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.”