University of Essex and business leaders back calls for new work visa for international students

University of Essex student graduating. Picture: University of Essex

University of Essex student graduating. Picture: University of Essex - Credit: Archant

The University of Essex and business leaders are backing calls for a new visa to allow qualified international students to work in skilled jobs for a period after graduation.

University of Essex students. Picture: University of Essex

University of Essex students. Picture: University of Essex - Credit: Archant

According to Universities UK, the move would allow the UK to compete with other popular destinations such as Australia and Canada who have more welcoming student visa policies. The latest HEPI economic impact study suggests the economic impact of international students in the East of England is £1.3 billion.

The University of Essex has more than 15,000 students. 22% of whom are from outside the EU, most commonly China, the US, Nigeria, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex Professor Anthony Forster said: “We strongly support this proposal which we believe is an essential step to making the Eastern region and the rest of the UK as attractive as possible to the international students and graduates who make such a vital contribution to our community and economy.

“We are a truly global community at Essex with staff and students drawn from more than 140 countries.


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“We know our international students bring not only investment, but skills and perspectives which are valued by UK students and employers.

“Sending out a strong message that Essex and the UK are open to global talent makes sense for everyone.”

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Under the new visa proposal, universities would be able to sponsor graduates to search for and gain work experience in the UK for up to two years. This would be on a more flexible basis than currently permitted, without restrictions on job level or salary, and without an employer sponsorship requirement.

The University claims that this would encourage international graduates to live and work in cities where average wages are lower than London, but where their skills and continued contribution to the local economy makes a real difference.

The proposal has also been supported by business leaders. Denise Rossiter, Chief Executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “Making the UK and Essex more attractive to these talented young people is a win-win approach and will secure this vital inward investment for local industry and people.”

Explainer - What would new visa rules mean for foreign graduates?

Under this proposed visa, all higher education institutions registered as Tier 4 sponsors would be able to sponsor their graduates to search for and gain work experience in the UK for up to two years on a more flexible basis than currently permitted by the Tier 2 visa, without restrictions on job level or salary, and without an employer sponsorship requirement. Universities would have the flexibility to manage the licence for the new visa system separately from their Tier 4 licence.

Currently, students must find a job with a salary of at least £20,800 at an employer with a Tier 2 sponsor licence within four months of completing their course, or find sponsorship as an entrepreneur. PhD students are separately able to stay for up to 12 months following completion of their degree. This new, proposed visa would give international graduates a longer period to search for a Tier 2 eligible role.

Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand all offer international graduates the opportunity to stay and work for at least a year following graduation. The US and Canada offers up to three years and Australia up to four years, depending on the subject and qualification studied and length of original degree; New Zealand has recently announced changes which will allow graduates to stay for up to three years. In all four countries, this includes periods of job searching and there are no restrictions on the types of employers graduates can work for.

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