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Visa - Visa

UK work visas for foreign graduates extended

International students are to be offered a two-year work visa after graduating from a British university.

Currently, graduates with bachelor's or master’s degrees can look for work for only four months. From next year all international graduates could qualify for a two-year period to work in the UK, increasing their chances of finding long-term employment after studying.

The measure goes further than the Home Office’s latest immigration white paper, which proposed extending the four-month limit to six months and the limit for those with doctorates to a year.

Under the new policy, the visas would have no cap on numbers and would allow graduates to apply for jobs regardless of their skills or the subject they studied. The government said part of the aim was to recruit talented graduates in disciplines such as maths, engineering and technology.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “The important contribution international students make to our country and universities is both cultural and economic. Their presence benefits Britain, which is why we’ve increased the period of time these students can remain in the UK after their studies. Our universities thrive on being open global institutions. Introducing the graduate route ensures our prestigious higher education sector will continue to attract the best talent from around the world to global Britain.”

The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by Universities UK, which represents 130 institutions. Its members are braced for falling numbers of students from the EU in the event of Brexit. Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, said the previous visa regime put the UK at a “competitive disadvantage” in recruiting international students.

Last year UK universities educated around 460,000 international students, not including those from within the EU. The government aims to grow the number to 600,000 over the next 10 years.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the new immigration route would be available to international students “who have successfully completed a course in any subject at undergraduate level or higher at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance, and have tier 4 [visa] at the point the route is introduced,” starting from next year.

The DfE said the route would allow students to look for work at any level, and allow them to later apply for longer-term work visas. “Those on the route will be able to switch on to the skilled work route if they find a job which meets the skill requirement of the route,” the DfE said.

Read: the Guardian - UK work visas for foreign graduates to be extended to two years