In Brief

The new visa rules for foreign students explained

Home Office set to reverse Theresa May’s tougher curbs in bid to attract ‘brightest and best’ after Brexit

The Government is planning to ease visa restrictions to allow foreign students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find work, the Home Office has announced.

The proposals are a reversal of rules introduced in 2012 by then-home secretary Theresa May that force students from abroad to leave within four months of finishing a degree, the BBC reports.

Boris Johnson said the changes, due to come into force next year, would help students “unlock their potential” and begin careers in the UK.

The move goes further than the latest immigration white paper from the Home Office, “which suggested extending the limit to six months for those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees”, says PoliticsHome.

Johnson’s planned rules will apply to students starting undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD courses at institutions that have an adequate history of upholding immigration checks.

The prime minister made the announcement during the launch of a £200m genetics project that makes DNA samples from 500,000 British volunteers available to researchers worldwide for use in the development of new disease treatments.

Johnson said: “We are bringing together experts from around the globe to work in the UK on the world’s largest genetics research project, set to help us better treat life-threatening illnesses and ultimately save lives. 

“Breakthroughs of this kind wouldn’t be possible without being open to the brightest and the best from across the globe to study and work in the UK.

“That’s why we’re unveiling a new route for international students to unlock their potential and start their careers in the UK.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the visa rule changes demonstrate the Government’s “global outlook”. Labour has also backed the move, with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott welcoming the chance for foreign graduates “to contribute to our economy, our universities and to research”.

As The Telegraph notes, recruiting international students is a lucrative revenue stream for universities, many of which advertise overseas and pay agents to market their courses in target countries.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said the new visa rules would benefit the UK economy and reinstate the UK as a “first choice study destination”.

“Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK, as well as £26bn in economic contributions, but for too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students,” he said.

But Alp Mehmet, chair of anti-immigration think-tank Migration Watch UK, said the decision was “unwise” and would “likely lead to foreign graduates staying on to stack shelves”.

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