The British Home Office announced Wednesday that the duration of work visas availed by graduating international students would be increased to two years. Foreign students, such as those from India, would now have up to two years after graduating from UK universities to stay in that country to look for work, and would also be able to actually work there during this period.
The move is a return to what Britain’s policy used to be before 2012, and has been welcomed by UK universities as well as by potential students.
The new rules
In 2012, then Home Secretary Theresa May had introduced a highly restrictive visa regime, known in the UK as the “hostile environment” policy. Under that policy, May had reduced the duration for students to seek work in the UK from two years to four months.
The government of Boris Johnson, who has succeeded May as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has decided to re-implement the pre-2012 regime. The rules are slated to be applied starting with the 2020-21 intake batch of UK universities.
The policy would apply to international students completing a course in any subject at the undergraduate level or higher, while having a valid Tier 4 visa when the rules kick in next year, The Guardian reported. Once the new policy is put into force, students managing to find employment in the two years could be able to shift to the skilled worker visa after the period gets over.
The proposed rules also do not place any restriction on the type of jobs that students could look for. There is also no cap on the number of students who could avail the work visa. The proposed rules, however, would include new safeguards which the pre-2012 policy did not contain.
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Indian students in the UK
In the 2017-2018 academic year, around 22,000 Indian students came to the United Kingdom. This was a marked improvement over previous years, when the numbers of incoming students showed a decline following the 2012 policy. The last ten years have seen around half of all Indian students select from among the ‘STEM’ subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) for their university education.
After the announcement of the move, the UK Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom remarked, “More than half of students are going into STEM subjects, something that the UK really needs going forward.” She described the decision as a “win for international students as well as the UK’s economy”.