Alex Wright tells HRNews about forthcoming restrictions to student visa routes which may affect employers’ recruitment processes

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    As you may have seen in the news the government has announced restrictions to student visa routes as part of its efforts to cut net migration. So, what are the cuts and what impact will they have? We’ll consider that.

    The announcement by Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has been widely reported in the media. She said: “The UK is a top destination for the brightest students to learn at some of the world’s best universities. But we have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of student dependents being brought into the country with visas. It is time for us to tighten up this route to ensure we can cut migration numbers and meet the government’s pledge to the British people to cut net migration.”

    She has proposed three main changes affecting visa routes:

    The first will restrict international students on student visas from being able to bring family members to the UK with them unless the international student is enrolled on a postgraduate course currently designated as research programmes.

    The second will prevent overseas students from switching from the student visa route into work routes until their studies have been completed. The government says this will stop people from using a student visa as a backdoor route to work in the UK.

    The third change is a review of the maintenance requirements for both student visa applications and associated dependant visa applications. The government says it wants students to demonstrate they can look after themselves and their dependants in the UK, as well as clamp down on unscrupulous international student agents who may be supporting inappropriate applications.

    So, let’s consider what this will mean in practice. Alex Wright is an immigration specialist and earlier he joined me from Manchester to discuss it. First the impact on employers:

    Alex Wright: “To be honest, it's not going to affect them significantly at the moment. The more significant impact is going to be on students picking where they choose to attend for their courses, but I think what we're going to be looking at, potentially, a couple years down the line, it might significantly affect the graduate market, the level of skills we have, the number of people coming to the UK for their studies. So, what that could mean for employers is that the pool of talent they have access to now might well dwindle over the next few years. So, they should be prepared to challenge their recruitment policies and look further afield, potentially, in years to come.”

    Joe Glavina: “The second announcement is removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route and into work routes before their studies have been completed. Is that significant in your view?”

    Alex Wright: “I think that could be very significant. At present, we have a system whereby if you are coming within three months of completing your degree level studies then you can switch over to the Skilled Worker route a little bit early and normally most students have a couple of months on their visa after their course ends to allow them to tie up any loose ends, make another visa application. So, realistically, what you've got is around a five-month window for most students to move into skilled worker and that gives employers a lot of flexibility in terms of when they want to recruit, when they want to start, when they want to time their grad schemes to commence. So, realistically, they could be looking at that being bottlenecked. So, if the Home Office move to a position whereby not only do you have to be within three months of completing your studies, you have to have your final degree certificate in your hand, or your final transcript, then that means it's going to be a little bit more difficult for employers to time the move of those visas to get their scheme started and to pick a time. Most of them want their graduate cohorts to, unsurprisingly, start at the same time so that they can be educated and trained alongside each other but if this does come through that might significantly reduce flexibility. So, employers want to be aware of when they're choosing to start their recruitment processes for graduates, when they want to start their grad schemes, and making sure they've got everything prepared so that they can make those visa applications within that more limited window.”

    Joe Glavina: “So, the third change, reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependents.”

    Alex Wright: “Yes, so at present if you want to come to the UK as a student you have to demonstrate access to a certain level of maintenance funds. So, you have to demonstrate that you have enough rent for your first nine months in the UK, you have to demonstrate your first year of access to course fees. Generally, you need to show that you've either paid those funds to university already but in terms of your individual maintenance outside of your course fees you normally need to show that you've held that amount for a period of 28 days. It may well be the Home Office brings it up to 90, which they do for some other visa types, or they may increase the level of maintenance they expect students to demonstrate. So, it may be a little bit less straightforward for students to simply jump on their course at short notice, it might require a bit more forward planning and financial planning.”

    Those announcements by the government came on 23 May and are set out in a press release. We have put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.


    - Link to Government press release

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