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Newly Proposed Graduate Immigration Route

Sheraaz Hingora is a Barrister specialising in Immigration and Asylum law, Public law, Family law and false imprisonment claims at Clarendon Park Chambers.
24 Oct 2019

The Home Office has announced a new set of visa guidelines for international students. Under the new policy, international students will be allowed to remain in Britain for two years after graduation[1] to stay and work or look for work.

This new immigration route is called the Graduate Immigration Route[2]. Based on informal guidance issued by the Ministry, there will be no restrictions on the types of jobs that students can seek, nor will there be a cap on the number of students who can benefit from this policy[3]. Applicants on this route can look for work at any skill level. With regards to the scope of this policy, it will apply to international students who are ‘pursuing a course of study at undergraduate level or above‘ and to trusted institutions with a well-established history of upholding immigration checks[4]. This policy reverses Theresa May’s hard-line immigration stance which required international students to leave Britain two to four months after finishing a course of study. This reform is a clear strategy towards a more open Britain.

International students who graduate from British universities in the year 2021 and onwards will be eligible to apply for this route. This includes students who have already started their courses. Unfortunately, those whose Tier 4 leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible for it. Individuals applying for the Graduate Immigration Route will not need a sponsor, and Tier 4 sponsors will not need to fulfil any sponsorship duties for their students if they switch onto the Graduate Immigration Route[5]. However, there remain several unanswered questions surrounding this new policy. The phrase ‘a course of study…‘ is vague and there are uncertainties as to whether it includes professional courses such as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), or if it only refers to Bachelors, Masters and PhD qualifications. Under the previous policy, courses such as the BPTC fell within the definition of ‘a course of study at undergraduate level or above’. However, it remains unclear as to whether this new, more generous immigration policy will apply to students pursuing professional training courses.

Proponents of this new policy are confident that it will help preserve the United Kingdom’s position as one of the most favoured destinations for international students[6]. Furthermore, this reform will alleviate the pressures faced by international students, as they will no longer be subject to severe time constraints when looking for jobs. Business groups, educational bodies and lawmakers alike have praised this shift in policy. Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, asserted that international students bring in significant positive social outcomes and substantial economic contributions of £26 billion to Britain[7]. However, other groups such as Migration Watch UK regard the change a retrograde step which could lead to foreign graduates obtaining unskilled, low-paying jobs[8]. Only time will tell if this concern will indeed manifest. It is important to note that this route is non-extendable and does not count towards settlement[9]. In any event, this new policy will undoubtedly be well-received by the incoming batch of international students intent on pursuing their tertiary education in Britain.

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