UK to extend work visas for foreign graduates by two years

A key plank Theresa May’s restrictive immigration policies has been overturned as International students are to be offered a two-year work visa after graduating from a British university.

Currently, graduates with bachelors or master’s degrees are allowed to look for work for only four months. From next year all international graduates could qualify for a two-year period to work in the UK, increasing their chances of finding long-term employment after studying.

It is a return to the policy that was scrapped by the coalition government in 2012. May as home secretary said the two-year post-study work visa was “too generous”.

That move was blamed for a drop in international student enrolments. Jo Johnson, who resigned as universities minister last week, has campaigned for post-study visas to be extended, and in April he tabled an amendment to the immigration bill calling for two-year work visas.

Under the new policy, the visas would have no cap on numbers and would allow graduates to apply for jobs regardless of their skills or the subject they studied. The government said part of the aim was to recruit talented graduates in disciplines such as maths, engineering and technology.

The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by Universities UK, which represents 130 institutions. Its members are braced for falling numbers of students from the EU in the event of Brexit.

Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, said the previous visa regime put the UK at a “competitive disadvantage” in recruiting international students.

“The introduction of a two-year post-study work visa is something Universities UK has long campaigned for and we strongly welcome this policy change, which will put us back where we belong as a first-choice study destination.

“Not only will a wide range of employers now benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, these students hold lifelong links with the UK,” Jarvis said.

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