How will the new UK visa rules affect international students?

The UK government have released it’s immigration White Paper which explains how immigration rules could change for those coming to the UK in the future, including international students. This paper is just a proposal at this stage, so would still need to go through parliament to become law. One of the suggested changes is to extend the time that international students can stay in the UK after completing a bachelor’s, masters or PhD. So, we’re going to look at how these new rules could affect international students currently studying or due to arrive.

The home secretary, Sajid Javid states in the white paper forward that “We will also retain our openness to students who wish to study at our universities.  There will continue to be no limits on the number of international students who we will continue to encourage to come to study here, and we will make it easier for the most talented graduates to stay and work.” This is a positive statement which recognises the contribution and value of international students in the UK.

In the future, the period of leave to remain for new students arriving in the UK will extend to include a further 2 months for those studying under PhD level and the period of leave granted to PhD students will include a 12 month right to remain and work following completion of studies. This extension gives a more welcoming message to international students wishing to study in Britain and provides a much-needed extension to UK stay post-study.

One of the main changes the government would like to introduce, is a “skills-based” immigration system where the criteria for approving a visa would be based on the skills and talent a worker has to offer, rather than the country of origin and other criteria that made up the points-based system. This has the potential to benefit international students and professionals if the annual cap on skilled workers here in the UK is removed. Another interesting addition was the removal of the labour market test. This shift could have an impact on employment options for international students. The labour market test is a requirement under the current law where an employer needs to show evidence that the role couldn’t be filled by an EU/EEA/UK national, also to ensure that the role is skilled and therefore warrants a visa being issued. It’s difficult to predict how the new immigration scheme will function in practice and it’s reasonable to expect that it will be modified in the process of becoming law, but there seem to be some positive additions to how the UK will welcome international students in the future.

The proposal may not cover all aspects for international students, however some industries are recognising the possibilities the new system could bring. "Indian Industry has long called for a fair, transparent and skills-based immigration system, and today's proposals go some way to achieving these goals," said Jim Bligh, of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Chair of CII's UK India Business Forum. "Tackling the UK's skills gaps, particularly in digital and technology, must remain a key focus for government and it is welcome that this paper recognises the value that skilled workers from overseas can bring to helping improve the UK's skills base," he said.

The UK Government’s current proposal for the new immigration scheme will need to pass through the House of Commons and then the House of Lords to become law. This process creates amendments and changes to the original proposal taking into account a wide range of political perspectives, the current proposed timetable is 2021 however, this date could change due to the UK’s ongoing negotiations with the EU about an agreed withdrawal arrangement.

If you’re a current or prospective student, find out where the immigration advice team at your university is. They will be available throughout the year to provide specific advice and check documents for you. In the meantime, register today with GradLink for all the latest news, careers advice and global jobs relevant to international students and graduates.




By Jen Garmston Published: Mar 04,2019