Indian students in UK brace for impact as Home Secretary proposes shortening post-study stay

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has proposed reforming the Graduate Visa route and requiring students to either obtain a work visa by getting a skilled job or leave the UK after six months
Pic: EdexLive
Pic: EdexLive

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman and the country's education department are reportedly at odds over plans to reduce the length of time allowed for foreign students under a post-study visa program, according to a UK media report on January 25.

According to a report in The Times, British Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is of Indian origin, plans to "reform" the Graduate Visa route, which currently allows foreign graduates including Indians to stay in the UK for up to two years to job hunt and gain work experience without the requirement of a specific job offer.

The proposed changes would require students to either obtain a work visa by getting a skilled job or leave the UK after six months. The UK Department for Education is said to be opposing the changes as they fear it would negatively impact the UK's attractiveness to international students.

A government source who backs Braverman's plan said the Graduate Visa was being increasingly used by students on short courses at "less respectable universities".

"It's being used as a backdoor immigration route," the newspaper quoted the source as saying.

The DfE, however, argues that the two-year Graduate Visa often referred to as the UK's post-study offer, was aligned with most of Britain's main competitors, with only the US offering a one-year visa.

According to the latest statistics by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Indians overtook the Chinese as the largest cohort of foreign students last year and the new Graduate Visa route, introduced in July 2021, was dominated by Indians — accounting for 41 per cent of the visas granted.

The PTI report states, Braverman's proposal is reportedly among several drawn up after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asked the Home Office and the DfE to submit proposals for reducing the number of foreign students coming to the UK.

Figures published last week showed there were 680,000 foreign students in the UK.

The government's 2019 Higher Education Strategy included a target of 600,000 students by 2030, which was met last year itself.

Another proposal being considered would reportedly allow foreign students to bring dependent family members with them only if they were on postgraduate research-based courses such as a PhD, or postgraduate courses that were at least two years' long.

The UK Home Office refused to comment on the leak, but a government spokesperson said: "Our points-based system is designed to be flexible according to the UK's needs, including attracting top-class talent from across the world to contribute to the UK's excellent academic reputation and to help keep our universities competitive on the world stage.

“We keep all our immigration policies under constant review to ensure they best serve the country and reflect the public's priorities.”

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