Go-getters don’t have to go home: government tweaks student visas

Graduates entrepreneurs with “world-class innovative ideas” will be allowed to remain in the UK beyond their university studies, as the government responds to criticisms of its new visa regime for overseas students.

Up to 1,000 places for non-EU students will be made available under the Graduate Entrepreneur Route, immigration minister Damian Green confirmed.

Overseas students can currently work in the UK for two years after their course has finished, but tighter restrictions on post-work study will be introduced in April.

From then, only graduates with a job offer from a reputable employer accredited by the UK Border Agency at a salary of at least £20,000 will be able to continue living and working in the UK.

The tightening of the regime is part of moves to cut net immigration from about 250,000 a year to the “tens of thousands” by the end of the Parliament.

Mr Green said: “It is vital that we continue to attract the brightest and the best international students but we have to be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay.”

The Home Office said the new route meant “young entrepreneurs or small company directors will get the chance to stay on in the UK after their studies if they have £50,000 to invest in their business”.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, welcomed the initiative, but said it would only affect “a small number of international students”.

She added: “We support the elimination of abuse in the visa system but are concerned that an unintended consequence of the changes to Tier 4 [the level of the immigration system used by students] is that legitimate students will be put off, or prevented from studying in the UK.

“International students at our world renowned universities should not be treated as migrants for the purposes of the government’s net migration figures, since the majority of them leave the UK at the end of their studies.”

Ms Dandridge said the new rules on post-study work “could harm the UK’s international competitiveness, and the competitiveness of universities in the international student market”.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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