Indian Students Likely to Be Hit Hard As UK Plans to Cut Duration of Post-Study Visa

New Delhi: United Kingdom’s home secretary, Suella Braverman, is planning to cut the period of stay allowed for overseas students under a post-study visa route, according to Mint based on a leaked report published by a UK media house.

At present, foreign students who complete graduation in the UK are allowed to stay back in the country for up to two years after securing their degrees while looking for skilled jobs. The proposed plan by Braverman, however, wants to cut this period down to six months. In the event of students not being able to find a skilled job and obtain a work visa in the said six-month period, they must leave the country, according to Braverman’s proposed reform of the UK Graduate Visa route.

The UK media house report said the Graduate Visa route is being “misused by students who take admissions in short courses at ‘less respectable universities'” quoting supporters of Braverman’s plan. “It’s being used as a backdoor immigration route,” the media report quoted government sources as saying.

The media report also notes that the UK’s Department of Education “is trying to block the changes as it fears it would harm the UK’s attractiveness to international students”. According to the Department of Education, the two-year post-study offer in the UK is aligned with most of the UK’s competitors and the duration is less only in the United States, which offers a one-year post-study visa.

If Braverman’s plans were to be implemented Indian students would be worst affected. According to the latest statistics by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), Indians overtook the Chinese as the largest cohort of foreign students last year. The latest Graduate Visa route, introduced in July 2021, is dominated by Indians, who account for 41% of the visas granted.

Braverman’s proposal is among several such proposals brought out by the UK Home Office and the Department of Education after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sought plans for reducing the number of foreign students coming to the UK. According to the latest figures, there are 6,80,000 foreign students in the UK. The UK government’s 2019 Higher Education Strategy included a target of 6,00,000 students by 2030, which was already met in 2022.

The UK government is also mulling over allowing 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.

While refusing to comment on the leaked report, a government spokesperson, however, 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.”

Braverman’s proposal comes at a time when India and UK are holding negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). In December 2022, six rounds of FTA negotiations concluded. Meanwhile, British trade minister, Kemi Badenoch, once again made it clear on Sunday, January 22, that the FTA will not include any increase in the number of free movement visa offers for Indians. The UK-Australia FTA, on the other hand, allows Australians under 35 years of age to live and work in the UK for up to three years.

This article was first published on The Wire.