In December, the U.K. government agreed that graduate visas will be reviewed as part of several recent steps to limit net migration, all confirmed by Home Secretary James Cleverly. He stated that reviewing this visa was “to prevent abuse and protect the integrity and quality of higher education in the United Kingdom.”
The government had previously declared that international master’s students would not be permitted to bring dependents into the nation; this would take effect for courses beginning in January 2024. Additionally, an increase in the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge was also announced in September 2023, along with a hike in the price of student visas.
The difficulties that overseas students already experience while studying in the U.K. and their concerns about their futures are further increased by all of these regulations.
What To Expect As Graduate Visas Will Be Reviewed
For overseas students, what is the significance of the graduate route visa?
In July 2021, Boris Johnson reinstated the graduate visa program, which had been eliminated by former Home Secretary Theresa May almost ten years earlier. International students who have completed their studies at a U.K. institution can work after that, thanks to the graduate route visa.
Undergraduate and postgraduate students can work for two years under the program, while Ph.D. students can work for three years. Because the government has allowed a certain number of people for sponsorship, they can now work without needing a business or group to sponsor their visas.
However, they will be able to switch as soon as they find a sponsor who fits. This visa allows dependents, as long as they enter the country as students and request to stay after that, allowing mature and older students—particularly those enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs—to continue their education without returning home to support their families.
Many overseas students will only study or work in the U.K. if graduate visas are extended, and they will search for other alternatives. Companies would need help locating new talent internationally, and many colleges that depended on them would struggle to survive.
After finishing their education, international students typically decide to work in the U.K. since there are more job prospects there, particularly after Brexit. Because they could not obtain relevant work experience in the future, regardless of whether they choose to settle down in the U.K. permanently or eventually return to their home countries, the decision to review graduate visas would negatively impact their career plans and aspirations.
With today’s international students, the U.K. is where it is today. These students are the immigrants of the future.
Likewise, the world-class education the nation’s institutions offer is the primary reason they decided to come and study here in the first place. Classrooms would miss out on gifted pupils, a range of perspectives, and cross-cultural interaction without international students.
For example, according to a 2018 Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report, over 750,000 students, primarily in higher education, travel to the U.K. each year to pursue their studies. Since then, there has been a significant increase in the number of student visas granted; in 2019, 404,400 visas were awarded overall; by 2022, that figure had increased to 623,700. This demonstrates how much foreigners appreciate and gain from the employment and educational possibilities offered in the U.K.