Indian students, who can now stay in the UK for up to two years to look for a job without any specific job offer, may not be able to do so if British Home Secretary Suella Braverman has her way.
The new Graduate Visa route allows foreign graduates, including Indians, the chance to stay on to job hunt and gain work experience for up to two years without needing a job offer. According to a report by The Times on Wednesday (January 25), Braverman plans to cut the period of stay to six months.
From 2 years to 6 months
According to The Times, the Indian-origin home secretary has drawn up a plan to “reform” the Graduate Visa route, requiring students to obtain a work visa by getting a skilled job or leave the UK after six months. The newspaper refers to leaked advice to say that the UK Department for Education (DfE) is attempting to block the changes, as it fears these would harm the UK’s attractiveness to international students.
A government source, who backs Braverman’s plan, said the Graduate Visa was being increasingly used by students on short courses at “less respectable universities.”
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“It’s being used as a backdoor immigration route,” the newspaper quoted the source as saying.
The DfE, however, argues that the two-year Graduate Visa, often referred to as the UK’s post-study offer, was aligned with most of Britain’s main competitors, with only the US offering a one-year visa.
Indians largest group of foreign students last year
According to latest statistics by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Indians overtook Chinese as the largest cohort of foreign students last year. The new Graduate Visa route, introduced in July 2021, was dominated by Indians accounting for 41 per cent of the visas granted.
Braverman’s proposal is reportedly among several drawn up after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asked the Home Office and the DfE to submit proposals for reducing the number of foreign students coming to the UK. Figures published last week showed there were 680,000 foreign students in the UK. The government’s 2019 Higher Education Strategy included a target of 600,000 students by 2030, which was met last year itself.
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Another proposal being considered would reportedly allow foreign students to bring dependent family members with them only if they were on postgraduate research-based courses such as a PhD, or postgraduate courses that were at least two years long.
The UK Home Office refused to comment on the leak, but a government spokesperson said: “Our points-based system is designed to be flexible according to the UK’s needs, including attracting top-class talent from across the world to contribute to the UK’s excellent academic reputation and to help keep our universities competitive on the world stage.
We keep all our immigration policies under constant review to ensure they best serve the country and reflect the public’s priorities.”
(With inputs from agencies)