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UK Plans a New Type of Visa for Graduates Seeking Further Employment


Changes in a nutshell


  • International graduates may be allowed to stay and work in the UK for up to two years after they graduate. They would be able to do so under a new visa in the forthcoming academic year 2020/2021. Students eligible for this initiative must have a degree from a trusted UK university.

  • In the course of two years, graduates will be able to choose any role, without skill level or salary threshold restrictions. As for now, graduates only have four months to find a role that would match the Tier 2 (General) sponsorship programme.

  • Employers would also benefit from the opportunity to employ skilled graduates who could otherwise fail to meet the Tier 2 visa requirements right after graduation. Currently, graduates can’t secure a permanent role unless they manage to switch to a Tier 2 (General) or other relevant visa.

  • Earlier this year, a new Global Talent Visa was announced tackling the concerns of possible shortage in scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical (STEM) sectors in case of a no-deal Brexit.


In more detail


The Prime Minister unveiled plans of a Graduate Route that would help recruit more talents to the United Kingdom. This programme would enable foreign students who got a degree from trusted higher education providers in the UK to work in the country for up to two years after graduation.  


Two-year work period. The Graduate Route will enable international graduates (regardless of subject) to remain in the United Kingdom for two years following their graduation and find a job. As for now, foreign graduates only have a maximum of four months to find a role that suits the requirements.


What’s needed? To be eligible for the programme, students must have a complete degree from a UK university that has consistently complied with the UK immigration rules. These students will be exempt from quotas or visa caps.


When? The new route would apply to foreign students from the academic year 2020/2021 onwards. Hence, the first visa applications falling into this new category are expected in 2023 - unless the government decides to apply retroactive force to the programme.


What are the outcomes?


Greater flexibility. The two-year period will give students more leeway to land a permanent role in the UK. They will be able to apply for any role whatever the skill level, with no need to match the Tier 2 (General) requirements. As for now, students only have four months’ time to find a job that fits the Tier 2 (General) category, with applicable salary and skill level thresholds.


Perks for the labour market. Employers will have access to an increased base of skilled graduates who wouldn’t meet the Tier 2 (General) requirements under the current rules. Currently, graduates only have four months to find a suitable role. Employers can’t offer them permanent roles unless students can switch to a Tier 2 (General) or other visa.


Benefits for STEM graduates. The Graduate Route benefits all graduates regardless of subject, yet it’s even more relevant in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors. It’s not uncommon that students in these fields have to accept lower paid jobs before they can possibly acquire a skilled role meeting the Tier 2 visa requirements.


What’s behind the initiative?


Blast from the past. The Graduate Route which was positioned as a new immigration programme aimed to attract talent had actually worked in the past as a post-study work visa. This opportunity was considered overly ‘generous’ and closed back in 2012 in an attempt to meet immigration targets.


Boost for STEM. One of the goals of the Global Talent Visa announced earlier this year is to recruit the best minds for the STEM sector. The topic became even hotter given the no-deal Brexit prospects. Many experts voiced concerns that the sector would be disproportionately impacted.


Shifting the focus. Now it’s not about curbing immigration but about attracting relevant skills to the UK labour market. However, this more liberal approach goes hand in hand with tightened border control and criminal record checks. For instance, it’s planned to introduce more stringent border controls for serious criminals looking to enter the UK in case of a no-deal Brexit.


What to expect?


Stricter enforcement. The previous route was closed in 2012 due to concerns of abuse by education providers and employers. The new initiative may entail increased enforcement and compliance requirements. However, the risk of abuse should be minimised with a ‘trusted university’ requirement. The college must provide a proven track record of upholding immigration checks. Educational institutions may expect extra attention from the authorities and daunting penalties for failure to comply.


MAC checks. A body reviewing immigration systems the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is now assessing the Australian immigration system. The report is due in 2020. The MAC will determine whether migrants with specific education levels and skillsets should be granted extra points. Should MAC recommend additional points for UK college graduates in general or STEM skillsets in particular, graduates may be able to enjoy greater benefits as part of the new immigration system from 2021 onwards.


Astons is a leading global immigration advisory firm with offices in London, Moscow, Dubai, Cyprus and China and offers residency & citizenship investment solutions in the UK,  EU & the Caribbean.


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