Rishi Sunak backtracks on plans to restrict UK graduate visas. What this means for Indian students

The UK graduate visa allows overseas students to work in the country for up to two years after graduation.

Livemint
First Published22 May 2024
Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, departs 10 Downing Street to attend a weekly questions and answers session in parliament in London, UK, on Wednesday
Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, departs 10 Downing Street to attend a weekly questions and answers session in parliament in London, UK, on Wednesday(Bloomberg)

After staunch opposition from cabinet colleagues, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reportedly abandoned plans for a radical crackdown on graduate visas. The UK graduate visa allows overseas students to work in the country for up to two years after graduation. 

Although there has been no official announcement about the restrictive plan's abandonment yet, The Guardian has reported that it might coincide with the publication of the Office for National Statistics’ quarterly net migration figures on Thursday (May 23). 

Sunak had been considering restricting and even scrapping the UK graduate visa route to reduce migration to the country. However, after staunch opposition —wherein the cabinet argued it would be damaging for universities and the economy — the Sunak government is likely to opt for more modest reforms to close loopholes and “prevent abuse” of the immigration system, The Guardian reported.

According to the Financial Times, the UK government is considering a clampdown on recruitment agents that market British degree courses overseas. Those who fail to supply the type of students they promise will be penalized.

Also read: UK Graduate Visa: Indian students aspiring to study abroad have a reason to cheer. Know what the latest rules are

What could it mean for Indian students?

India sends more students to study in the UK than almost any other country. They account for more than 40 per cent (45,600) of all graduate visas in the UK (1.14 lakh).

According to the Sun, Indian students and other overseas students who use the graduate visa route to stay in the UK at the end of their studies could face mandatory English tests.

Universities and colleges with high dropout rates are likely to lose their licence to recruit overseas.

Also read: UK Family visa: British govt's salary threshold hike norm comes into effect | Check new rules here

‘No evidence of widespread abuse of UK graduate visa’

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), in its report published on May 14, has recommended the continuation of the graduate route work visa, in its current form.

UK graduate visa is also known as PSW or post-study work visa. 

The committee categorically stated that there was no evidence of widespread abuse of this visa category, i.e., the graduate UK visa route. However, it mentioned that the exploitation may be happening because of “poor practices by agents” who may be mis-selling UK higher education.

Also read: Rishi Sunak’s visa politics has implications for Indian students

The use of the graduate route was found to be highest among four countries – India, China, Pakistan and Nigeria. 

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