UK Government backs UKIBC’s call for International Post-Study Visa Extension

By Kealan Finnegan

We are delighted that the UK government have today announced that they will re-instate the post-study work visa period for international students to two years.

This commitment rightly goes beyond six-month period recommendation made in the UK Immigration White Paper published in December 2018 following discussions with business, universities, and Parliamentarians from across the UK and India.

The UKIBC have consistently advocated for this extension through events and submissions to the UK Government. Indian businesses consistently highlight the need for improved access to working visas for Indian nationals – including students – as a key barrier to UK-India trade and investment, and we are pleased to have helped channel these points, most recently at an Immigration Roundtable connecting Indian businesses with Senior Home Office officials at JETCO in July.

This builds on evidence we submitted to the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students in 2018 advocating for today’s reform so as to support the broad UK-India relationship and help deliver the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

We were delighted that the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Global Britain Inquiry also took onboard our call for a two-year visa period, making this an explicit recommendation in their most recent report ‘Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India ties’, which recognises the challenge that the existing period posed to the FCO’s ‘Global Britain’ strategy.

Whilst in 2018, more than 750,000 Indian students studied abroad, the number choosing to study in the UK has declined since 2011 from around 39,000 to a low of 16,550 in 2016-17. Thankfully, in recent years there have been improvements, with around 20,000 studying in the UK in 2017-18.

The post-study work visa period had been directly linked by many to this decline, with Indian students frequently citing a ‘hostile environment’ and comparatively poorer opportunities to make a return on their investment as reasons not to study in the UK’s world-class higher education system.

Not only does this recent announcement improve the competitiveness of the UK’s education offer on the world-stage, but rightly encourages many of the best Indian graduates of UK universities to retain their talent within the UK.

This move also gives new graduates opportunity to gain work experience after their degree, improving soft-skills and addressing the challenges students face obtaining well-paid jobs straight out of university.

Importantly, the extension also sends a message that the UK is open to India’s immense talent.

Having more ambitious and talented international students attend UK universities enables us to forge greater, mutual higher education partnerships and business relations.

The UK-India relationship has become increasingly more important in recent years as the UK edges closer to exiting the EU. This means that UK must remain attractive to international talent to support the UK’s post-Brexit, global economy.

Indeed, this announcement is well timed given the proposed ‘New Education Policy’ published by the Government of India earlier this year. As outlined in our submission to the Government of India on this policy, this represents the largest shake up of the sector for a generation, inviting international collaboration and, in particular, the mutual recognition of degrees. This is a high priority for both UK and Indian institutions as it can stand in the way of the qualifications Indian students’ secure in the UK being recognised in India, and vice versa.

We therefore welcome the UK Government’s announcement today as a strong signal of its commitment to work with partners such as India ensuring that skills are the heart of developing trade, investment, and jobs in both countries.

UKIBC look forward to continued work with our members to promote this. For further information on our work in the Higher Education and Immigration sectors, please contact our UKIBC expert, Tara Panjwani, at tara.panjwani@ukibc.com


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