Webinar – Demystifying the new Graduate Immigration Route for UK Employers

By Kealan Finnegan and Tara Panjwani

On 10 August, the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) hosted a webinar, ‘Demystifying the New Graduate Immigration Route (GIR) for UK Employers.’

UKIBC Associate Directors Tushar Chaudhary and Tara Panjwani chaired the session led by Harry Booty, International Communications Lead at UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI); Catriona McCarthy, BUILA Vice Chair and Director for Global Engagement at Ulster University; and Sharad Pandey, Head HR at State Bank of India, UK Ltd.

Harry Booty explained the GIR in depth including the visa and application process, the benefits, and eligibility conditions. Throughout his presentation, he emphasised the various advantages of the new GIR and the ways in which it aims to create more opportunities — both for graduates to find employment, as well as for employers to hire those graduates.

It was encouraging to hear that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of student visa applications in the UK from Indian nationals has continued to increase – with a year-on-year 13% rise in student visas issued and more than 56,000 student applications granted in the year ending March 2021.

Both Harry and Catriona pointed out that there is a steadily growing pool of highly skilled talent coming into the UK which will be very beneficial for UK employers who continue to face skills gap challenges. Not only are these graduates highly skilled and qualified in business and STEM subjects, but they also bring diversity, innovation, and creativity to the workplace.

Catriona mentioned a study conducted by the CBI which states that firms who have higher levels of cultural and ethnic diversity have been found to have a 36% greater chance of achieving profitability than their competitors.

The new GIR also presents several benefits to employers – making it far easier for employers to hire international graduates in a flexible and simple manner:

  • Job applicants do not need to have a minimum skill level
  • There is no salary threshold
  • Most importantly, job applicants do not need to be sponsored by the employer

International graduates can instead apply for this unsponsored route themselves. Employers, therefore, have no fee to pay giving them: greater flexibility with project tenure, more time to evaluate their new hire before committing long term, and makes it more accessible for smaller employers as well as those from the creative, heritage, and non-profit sectors.

To simplify matters even further, attendees were informed that UKVI are working towards making the GIR a fully digital route whereby applicants can submit their biometrics via an app (a much quicker and easier solution) – although the option to go to a visa application centre does still exist.

Catriona followed by examining the GIR largely from a university perspective. She discussed why the route is so important, reiterating the positive impact of this rich talent pool and the cultural and economic value that international students bring to universities, businesses, and the wider economy. Notably, many of these students joined from some of the UK’s most important trading partners such as China, India, and the USA to name a few.

Catriona also drew attention to the incredible support that universities have been providing to their international students and stressed the significance of making the new graduate immigration route a success. She highlighted it is crucial for employers to work more closely with universities to make the most of the excellent opportunities presented by the new GIR.

The UKIBC also feels strongly about the need for universities and employers to collaborate closely to achieve sustainable, win-win outcomes over the long term.

Sharad addressed the employer’s perspective with respect to the GIR and touched upon how industry is reacting to this news. He mentioned that many companies are currently building their understanding of the new rules and gradually getting to grips with how they will amend and adapt their hiring processes to take advantage of this policy change.

He praised the government’s considerations around what can be done to support international students to ensure they view the UK not only as a destination in which to study, but also settle.

Sharad added that it is equally the responsibility of the student, the university, and the employer to ensure that international students get job offers in the UK, and therefore contribute to the success of the GIR and the economy as a whole.

Many thanks to our fantastic speakers for providing their time and resources for this webinar. If you were unable to join our session on the day, or would like to go through the webcast again, we invite you to watch the webinar below for the discussion in full.

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