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A tough battle for the visa of international students has taken place in the UK between the end of 2014 and the beginning of the New Year. Before Christmas in fact UK Home Secretary Theresa May presented a plan requiring all non-EU international students to leave the country on graduation and to apply for a new visa from outside the UK if they intend to work in Britain. The proposal was part of the Tories’ election manifesto already from 2010.
However, the plan provoked a highly critical response with a sharp campaign in January operated by Sir James Dyson, one of Britain’s most prominent inventors and business leaders, and the former universities minister David Willetts. The additional political opposition from ministers, including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, has kicked the proposal off the agenda. This means that non-EU graduates will continue to have 4 months to get a job earning GBP 24 000 a year (approximately EUR 31 000) and apply for a work visa without leaving the UK.
The desire to restrict the opportunities for non-EU graduates to stay in the UK is in line with the British worries of an excessive labour immigration and the proposal of Ms. May has been only the last attempt to further limit the extension of international students’ visa. In fact, while before 2012 non-EU graduates used to have 2 years to find a job, in 2012 the allowed period was scaled down to 4 months. The measure produced an annual drop of 84% in the number of graduates who were granted extended visas that year, consequently producing a 5% drop in non-EU postgraduate student numbers in 2012-13 according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The campaign against restrictive policies concerning international student’s visa claims the argument that such measures harm the UK competitiveness and attractiveness for international talents.