Return of Post Study Work Visa for International Students
In welcome news for international students, the UK government recently announced the return of the two year Post Study Work visa - a route that had previously been abolished in 2012 in a bid to reduce net migration figures. Australia and Canada already offers post study work visas so the failure of successive governments to resurrect this offering placed the UK at a competitive disadvantage when enticing international students to study in the UK.
Following seven years of intense lobbying by the higher education sector, the new graduate work visa promises to help the UK position itself as a first choice study destination in a competitive and highly lucrative international student market.
The new immigration work route will allow eligible international students studying any subject at a higher education provider to work in the UK or look for work for a two year period following completion of their studies. The Post Study Work visa will also provide UK employers with the flexibility to hire highly skilled international graduates from top UK universities without the constraints of Tier 2 sponsorship.
Who can apply for a Post Study Work Visa?
The key eligibility requirements we know so far are that the international student must:
- Hold a valid Tier 4 (General) student visa at the time of their application
- Have successfully completed a course of study in the UK at undergraduate level or above (RQF 6 +)
- Have studied at a “trusted UK university or at a higher education provider with a proven track record in upholding immigration checks and other rules on studying in the UK’’
There appears to be no cap on international student numbers who will be able to apply under this new route.
What does a ‘proven track record’ mean?
Subject to holding a ‘proven track record’ the Post Study Work visa may also benefit international students undertaking degree level study at a wider range of higher education providers than just a ‘trusted UK university.’
Following higher education regulatory reform introduced from 1 August 2019, Tier 4 sponsors can establish such a ‘track record of compliance’ by meeting the following criteria:
- Be registered or regulated by a specific Educational Oversight body (for English Higher Education Providers, this is the Office for Students)
- Pass a Home Office Basic Compliance Assessment (BCA) for four consecutive years. BCA’s measure a Tier 4 sponsor’s international student enrolment, course completion and visa refusal rates of their prospective sponsored students. Failure to meet core metrics on an annual basis risks revocation of their Tier 4 sponsor licence
- Maintain Educational Oversight for four consecutive years
Education providers which can establish such a track record are now referred to as Higher Education Providers (HEPs). International students studying at a HEP can benefit from a wide range of privileges and enhanced visa conditions, including working a certain number of hours per week and applying to extend their stay from within the UK. Further to the recent government announcement, it appears that being able to apply for a two year Post Study Work visa may be added to the list of Tier 4 privileges.
When will this new Post Study Work Visa be available?
Notwithstanding a Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules published only two days before, no mention was made about the Post Study Work visa.
Accordingly, the date of implementation is not clear. However, the UK Council for International Students (UKCISA) report that the Home Office has advised that the route will open in 2021. This means that any Tier 4 students starting their course in academic year 2020-2021 will benefit from the new Post Study Work Visa. Any international student with current Tier 4 leave who will complete their course in or after the summer of 2021 will also be eligible to apply for a Post Study Work visa.
This announcement is therefore disappointing for international students graduating this year or next summer 2020. Such Tier 4 graduates will have to rely on the existing post study work routes, including Tier 2 (General) visa sponsorship or the new Start Up or Innovator categories for business entrepreneurs.
UKCISA is also reporting that the two year Post Study Work visa will not be extendable and will not lead to settlement.
Post Brexit Boost?
This Post Study Work visa announcement follows the new fast-track visa route for scientists, the removal of the limit on PhD students moving into the skilled work visa route and further rule changes to bring forward the earliest point at which a Tier 4 student can switch to a Tier 2 visa.
Such positive immigration changes indicate that Boris Johnson’s government is keen to show to the world that a post Brexit UK aims to retain the brightest and the best.
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