The university sector finally has some good news. The government has confirmed that the much anticipated Graduate visa route will officially launch at 9am on 1st July 2021. It will be available to all international students who have completed a degree at a Higher Education institution in the UK. To qualify students will need to have a valid Tier 4 or Student visa at the time of applying. Back in 2019 the government announced it would be bringing back the Tier 1 Post Study Work visa and, essentially, this is it, albeit in a new guise. It will allow international students to work after completing their education in the UK, without relying on the cumbersome process of sponsorship.
The Education Times covers the news explaining how the visa route will be unsponsored, meaning applicants will not need a job offer to apply for it. There'll be no minimum salary requirements and no cap on numbers. Graduates on the route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop a career as they want to. So let’s hear more about it from one of the lawyers advising our university clients on immigration matters. Shuabe Shabudin joined me by video-link from Birmingham:
Shuabe Shabudin: “The Graduate visa is something that Priti Patel announced in the summer of last year and, I must say, that when she announced it was actually met with quite a lot of excitement. The reason I say that is the over the last few years, clearly, Brexit has had an impact on a number of areas, a number of different sectors, and not least the immigration sector and the university sector with it. What do I mean by that? Well, there have been a huge number of changes to the UK immigration system over the last few years and the general trend has been to restrict the ability for migrants, both students and workers, to come to the UK. So when we had news of the Graduate visa, which sounded a lot like the old Post Study Work visa, it was something that was really something to be excited about. The Post Study Work visa was a route that was closed back in 2012 but under which an individual that had completed their degree was able to remain in the UK for a period of time and look for, and have, work. Now, they didn't have to be sponsored by an employer and they didn't even actually have to be earning a particular minimum salary. So it was a really, really good route, a really good way of enticing people and encouraging foreign students to stay in the UK. Clearly then, when that was shut down in 2012, there was a bit of an outcry and a lot of people were really campaigning and appealing for that route to be reopened. Back to summer, last year, Summer 2020, and that's what we thought we got from Priti Patel. There was very little detail about it at the start but at the start of this month, March 2021, there was a good amount of information that was released in relation to it and so what we now know is that the Graduate visa route is going to be opened up from the first of July 2021, it's going to be open to any student that has successfully completed an undergraduate or postgraduate degree and they will be entitled to remain in the UK after that course of study for two or three years depending on what that course was. During that two or three year period they will be able to work, they will be able to look for work and, very interestingly, they'll be able to take up self employment. So a lot of routes and a lot of ways for good talent to be retained in the UK. Just as before, there won't be the need for that job to be employer sponsored, or for there to be any minimum salary requirement."
Joe Glavina: "It’s certainly a very good news story for the sector"
Shuabe Shabudin: "I think that's exactly right. Joe, it certainly is a good news story. As I mentioned, just before, you know there is very much a trend towards things being restricted, towards the borders being closed, towards UK work being protected for UK workers. Now, one of the ways that that hit upon the university sector is that clearly it made UK university degrees less desirable because why would you spend all the money, four years plus, studying in a country when you weren't then able to use the degree, the knowledge that you'd garnered, to work in that country itself. So with this introduction of the Graduate visa route, with this two or three year extension of a foreign student's right to be in the UK, it will bring the UK universities back up to the level of standing that they were in before and, perhaps, where people who are otherwise travelling to the US or to Australia to study, perhaps that will then bring them back into the UK. Now make no bones about it, the UK university sector has been very hard hit by the pandemic, of course, with the impact around the way that isolation was being dealt with and just the reduction in fees from students perhaps no longer taking up their courses, but also even before that, after the referendum, there was a huge number of foreign students that were no longer coming to the UK specifically because of Brexit. So there really has been a long overdue need for some kind of a boost, some kind of an improvement or just, as we say a good news story. So one thing that we're discussing with a number of our clients is how they can now capitalise on this information, on this news that's been released in relation to the Graduate visa, and perhaps be using that as part of their comms, perhaps be using that as part of the literature, the marketing publications, to remind prospective international students that this is now something that they can avail themselves of after their successful completion of the degree and, in effect, it is an additional two or three years that would be added onto their visa with very little difficulty at all."
We are waiting for the government to publish further details and guidance on the Graduate Visa but meanwhile the Home Office has a blog which is a good source of information and it covers the key points of the scheme. We’ve put a link to that in the transcript of this programme.
Link to Home Office blog on Graduate Visa route