With just two weeks left to take part in the Student Immigration System public consultation, which will help shape the future of international student visa rules in the UK, higher education providers are lobbying the government to drop plans to end the popular Tier 1 post study work visa.
The coalition government wants to ‘reduce annual net migration to the UK to sustainable levels, in the tens of thousands a year’, and that it ‘expects the student route to make its contribution towards reducing net migration’.
As part of this process a public consultation has been launched which sets out ‘government proposals for achieving this aim’. You are invited to participate in the debate and add your views.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) said:
‘The purpose of the consultation is to seek your views on how the new system for international students should operate in future. These changes seek to ensure that our high-quality institutions remain able to attract genuine students from overseas, while bearing down on abuse.’
Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa to end
Higher education providers and universities have so far been happy to support government clampdowns on student visas as they were aimed at private colleges and lower level students.
But plans to abolish the Tier 1 post study work visa, which will directly hit universities and providers of degree level studies, are causing alarm bells to ring in chancellors offices all over the UK.
At present graduates and degree level and above are allowed to remain in the UK for up to two years on a Tier 1 post study work visa (PSW) in order to look for work with a view to switching into a Tier 2 working visa category.
Tier 1 was the flagship category of the five tier points based system set up by the previous Labour government. The idea behind Tier 1 was to attract the ‘brightest and best’, as well as making the UK an attractive place to come and study.
The new coalition government, which came to power last year, wants to prevent students from automatically staying on at the end of their studies.
The consultation document states:
‘The student route is a temporary migration route, with students expected to leave on completion of their studies. We are concerned that the Post Study Work route confuses this concept. This route enables international graduate students to move from study to work in the UK.
‘All students who have studied in the UK and have been awarded a UK recognised bachelor’s or postgraduate degree, a UK Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Professional Graduate Diploma of Education (PGDE) or a Higher National Diploma from a Scottish institution, are eligible for this route. This then allows the former student to stay in the UK for up to two years to look for skilled work, and then to switch into one of the main work routes (Tier 1 or Tier 2) as soon as they are able to do so. In 2009, over 38,000 Tier 1 Post Study Work applications were granted, along with almost 8,000 of their dependants.
‘Tier 1 Post Study Work is not the only way in which a graduate can stay on and work in the UK; international graduates who wish to enter the UK labour market are able to do so by being sponsored as a Tier 2 migrant. Their student visa is valid for four months after completion of their studies if the course was longer than 12 months in duration, enabling them to secure sponsorship from a UK employer. We have recently facilitated this process by allowing employers to not carry out the Tier 2 Resident Labour Market test in respect of foreign graduates recruited in the UK through the milkround. This will continue.’
‘We therefore propose to close the Tier 1 Post Study Work route. We also invite views on any necessary transitional arrangements.’
Overseas students are worth an estimated £40 billion to the UK economy, an industry second only to the financial sector in terms of ‘export’ earnings. We are not the only player in the market, with Australia, NZ, Canada, as well as emerging markets providing strong competition as well as generous post study options.
International students are already being deterred from coming to the UK by constant rule changes and the UK Border Agency’s action in 2010 when hundreds of Tier 4 licensed colleges were suspended or closed leaving thousands of students stranded, confused and ‘out of pocket’.
Abolishing options at the end of a study period, such as the Post Study Work Visa (PSW), will be a disaster for Universities and higher education providers
The ending of Tier 1 will almost certainly destroy the multi-billion pound overseas market for universities, many of which depend on revenue from international fee paying students.
The post study work aisa is a major selling point for universities marketing courses which will cost a student almost £30000 in fees alone.
At a time of the ‘double whammy’ combination of severe budget cuts and fee increases for resident students, universities need international students more than ever. In some cases, their very survival depends on it. The last thing they need is further restrictions and a message going out to the world that ‘UK Education PLC’ has gone into reverse gear.
You can respond online to the consultation at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/student-consult-online which will take around 30 minutes to read and complete.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Tier 2 Working Visas, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: