The British Government has announced that international students will henceforth be able to stay and work in the UK after graduating.
This is a huge boost to a policy that had previously restricted the period to four months.
There will be no cap on the number of students who can apply, as those with student visa will be able to apply to switch to a skilled worker visa if they find a job which meets the relevant criteria.
As reported by inews, the new policy ends one of ex-Prime Minister Theresa May’s most controversial immigration policies which critics argued would deter international students from applying to British institutions and would lead to the loss of bright students who could contribute to the UK after being educated there.
The Guardian UK added that, 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 measure goes further than the Home Office’s latest immigration white paper, which proposed extending the four-month limit to six months and the limit for those with doctorates to a year,” Guardian stated.
It is a return to the policy that was scrapped by the coalition government in 2012 when Theresa May, as then home secretary, said the two-year post-study work visa was “too generous.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new immigration route for international students was part of making Britain “open to the brightest and best from across the globe.”
It will also be seen as a move to show that Britain is still an outward facing nation as the government pushes ahead with its Brexit plans, the medium added.
Under the new plans, graduates will be able to stay and work – or look for work – for two years after completing their studies.
The new post-study work visa will come into effect for students starting courses at undergraduate level or above in 2020, and is open to graduates in any subject and for jobs in any sector.
The government said students will need to have successfully completed a degree from a trusted UK university or higher education provider with a track record of upholding immigration checks.
In a joint statement, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and the Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government intends to increase the number of international students coming to the UK by 30 per cent by 2030.
“International students are vital for our country and provide some of the most crucial skills we need across our workforce,” they said.
“They boost our economy and are a testament to our openness to talent.”
The announcement was welcomed by the higher education sector. Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, said: “Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26bn in economic contributions, but 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 added: “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 with a recent study showing 77 per cent of graduates want to retain business links with us and 88 per cent would return for tourism.”
The UK is currently second only to the US as a destination for international students, with nearly 460,000 students coming to study at British universities each year.
The new international student visa follows an announcement by Boris Johnson last month that “elite” researchers and scientists will be able to benefit from a fast-track and uncapped visa route.