Last week the UK government introduced the new UK two-year post-study work visa for foreign students graduating in the UK. In fact, the government is only reintroducing the post-study visa that existed until 2012, before the then-Home Secretary Theresa May, scrapped it, and introduced a four-month post-graduation visa.

The reintroduced visa for foreigners graduating in the UK that want to work there or search for work has been updated including safeguarding in order to ensure that “only genuine, credible students are eligible.”

Pre-2012 and After 2012 Post-Study Work Visa in UK

Currently, graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees are permitted to work in the UK for only four months upon their graduation. Once this period nears the end, they must leave the UK. If they meet the requirements, they can apply for a Tier 2 General Work Visa, as can every person that has graduated anywhere in the world.

The PSW Visa of this format was introduced by former British Primer Theresa May, who at the time in 2012 was UK’s Home Secretary.

At the time, May had said that the two-year post-study work visa was “too generous”, under a government that had as a target reducing the net migration to tens of thousands. Despite May never met this target, either as a Home Secretary or as a Prime Minister, the post-graduation visa remained valid for only four months up to now.

Why Is the Policy Changing Now?

After Boris Johnson became the successor of Theresa May, as both the Leader of the Conservative Party and more importantly UK’s Primer, he promised that the UK immigration rules would be reviewed in order to make sure the world’s brightest to settle in the UK. Among others, he announced the rules would change in order to encourage the world’s top scientists to move to the UK.

According to an announcement of the UK government on the new post-graduation employment visa for UK, the new visa will assist in “opening up opportunities for future breakthroughs in science, technology and research and other world-leading work that international talent brings to the UK.”

The UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel believes that the new Graduate Route demonstrates UK’s global outlook and ensures that the UK “continues to attract the best and brightest”.

The new Graduate Route will mean talented international students, whether in science and math or technology and engineering, can study in the UK and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers,” Secretary Patel asserts.

Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, the representative organization for 130 universities in the UK, has welcomed the move.

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, which will put us back where we belong as a first-choice study destination,” Jarvis said, adding that the route will enable talented graduates from around the world to hold lifelong links with the UK.

Who Will Be Eligible to Get a UK PSW Visa

The new ‘Graduate’ route will be open to all international students for application. However, to be eligible to get a UK post-work Study Visa the applicant must have:

  • Have started his/her first academic year in 2020/2021 the earliest.
  • Have a valid UK immigration status as a student at the time of application.
  • Have successfully completed a course of study in any subject at undergraduate level or above at an approved UK Higher Education Provider.

Moreover, as the UK intends to let only “the brightest and most talented” to stay, only those that have the highest grades will make it through.

Once a UK university graduate obtains a PSW visa, he/she will be able to work or look for work, in any career or position of their choice, for up to two years. Once the two year period is about to end, the visa holder will need to either apply for a Tier 2 General Work Visa for the UK, or leave the country.

Campaigns to Extend the Visa to All Internationals Students in UK

According to the new policy, the Graduate route will be available only for the intake of students for the 2020/2021 academic year. The decision has made unhappy many, including those who are already enrolled at the UK universities, and all those that since 2012 were permitted to remain only for four months.

Sanam Arora, founder and chairperson, National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK wrote a letter to Primer Boris Johnson, recommending that all those with valid leave to remain on the day of the announcement of the route, to be eligible for the PSW visa.

We strongly recommend that international students with valid Tier 2 student leave at the point of announcement of the scheme i.e. on 11 September 2019, and afterwards, be eligible for the Graduate visa. It seems unfair that current and incoming students would be unable to experience the world-class work experiences that the UK has to offer, even though they choose to come being no confirmed post-study work visa in place,” Arora wrote in the letter directed to PM Johnson.

International Students in the UK: Numbers and Facts

The United Kingdom remains the second most favorite country for international students after the United Kingdom. In the academic year 2017/18 alone, 458,520 foreign students were attending university in the UK, a number 3.6% higher than the previous year.

Data shows that most foreign students in UK are from China, India, US, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, together making 38% of the total international enrollment at UK universities.

At the same time, non-UK EU students share 30% of foreign students at UK universities; with 139,150 EU students enrolled at UK universities in year 2017/18.

While England remains a favorite for internationals students with 377,140 foreign students attending university in England as of 2017/18, 54,235 others were enrolled in Scotland in the same year, 21,350 in Wales and 5,765 in Northern Ireland.

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