British Home Secretary Suella Braverman is planning to reduce the time of stay allowed for overseas students under the existing post-study visa route, a UK media reported on Wednesday. The post-study visa is officially referred to as 'Graduate Visa'.
As per current visa policy, foreign graduates, after completing their studies, can stay on for up to two years without the requirement of a specific employment offer. However, this is likely to be cut under Braverman's proposed plan.
Braverman has on many occasions in the past said that she wants to reduce the number of foreign students studying at British universities after a record 486,000 visas were granted in 2021.
According to 'The Times', the home secretary has drawn up a plan to 'reform' the 'Graduate Visa' route requiring students to obtain a work visa by getting a skilled job or leave the UK after six months. Her proposal, however, has faced pushback from the UK Department for Education (DfE). The education ministry is opposing the move as it fears that change would harm the UK's attractiveness to international students.
Those backing Braverman's plan say the Graduate Visa is being increasingly used by students on short courses at "less respectable universities". "It's being used as a backdoor immigration route," a source told The Times. The education department, however, argues that the two-year Graduate Visa scheme was aligned with most of Britain's main competitors, with only the US offering a one-year visa.
Last year, Indians overtook the Chinese as the largest cohort of foreign students in the UK, according to the latest statistics by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). And the post-study visa route, which was introduced in July 2021, was dominated by Indians accounting for 41 per cent of the visas granted.
The home secretary's proposal is reportedly among several drawn up after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asked her office and education department to submit proposals for reducing the number of foreign students coming to the UK. Figures published last week showed there were 680,000 foreign students in the country, according to the news agency PTI.
The UK Home Office is considering one more proposal which would reportedly allow foreign students to bring dependent family members with them only if they were on postgraduate research-based courses such as a PhD, or postgraduate courses that were at least two years long.
According to the report, Braverman's office refused to comment on the report, but a government spokesperson said the country's points-based system was designed to be flexible according to the UK's needs, including attracting top-class talent from across the world to contribute to the country's excellent academic reputation and to help keep universities competitive on the world stage.
(With inputs from PTI)
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