Foreign students studying at universities in the United Kingdom will be allowed to remain in the UK for two years after graduation. The announcement was widely welcomed by international students as they prepare to start their new academic year this fall.
This comes as UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson amended immigration laws within the higher education sector, allowing an extension on post-study work visas for international graduates studying in the United Kingdom.
The decision, which will take effect next year for students holding tier 4 general student visas, reverses one of many controversial policies, imposed by former Prime Minister Theresa May. According to the existing law, international students are permitted to stay in the UK for only four months after completing their studies. May, who introduced the law while serving as home secretary in 2012, believed the post-study visa rule to be “too generous.”
The new policy, orchestrated by the current government, aims to minimize losses of the education sector expected to accompany Brexit. Some experts expect a drop in the number of European students following the loss of their current EU academic privileges.
For Arab students like Houssam Farzouli, a graduate student at the UK’s School of Oriental and African Studies, the new law is a relief.
“This is good news. It was always hard for students like us because we had only four months after graduation to find work. That was almost impossible - even for English people,” said Farzouli.
Immigration lawyers are weighing in on the new policy, which aims at increasing the number of skilled workers in the country after Brexit. Paul Gulbenkian, an immigration lawyer at OTS Solicitors and a former judge said “this government saw the benefit of students coming from overseas.”
“Theresa May was very keen to keep down numbers of immigrants in the UK and wanted to be strict on her immigration policies,” Gulbenkian said.
He said this policy is expected to face backlash after Brexit.
“Boris and the new cabinet are much more flexible and want to encourage people to come especially skilled people,” Gulbenkian said.
Last year 460,000 foreign students studied at British universities with about 180,000 from outside the EU, from which only a few thousand moved on to skilled work visas.
The previous government according to Gulbenkian wanted to “take a very tough line reducing numbers to 100,000 immigrants per year.”
Revenue from foreign students coming to the UK has become an important faction of the education sector contribution to the economy with almost 32 billion dollars coming in every year.
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