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Overseas Students: Entry Clearances

Question for Department for Education

UIN 86772, tabled on 8 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of extending the duration of the graduate work visa.

Answered on

15 September 2020

Extensive engagement has taken place across the government, both at a ministerial level and official level, throughout the development of the future immigration system, including on the new graduate and student routes and other points-based routes.

The graduate route, launching in summer 2021, represents our continued commitment to support the UK’s education sector and our strong desire to make a truly world-leading offer to international students, allowing new graduates the opportunity to remain in the UK to work or to look for work after their studies. This is already a substantial improvement on the UK’s previous post-study work offer of 4 months (6 months under the limited pilot programme). Since we had originally announced the details of the graduate route last September, the government announced a further change, extending the post-study work period to 3 years for PhD graduates.

We believe that 2 years (3 years for PhD graduates) is a fair and generous amount of time to allow international graduates to have unrestricted access to the UK labour market, enabling them to gain valuable work experience and to kick-start their careers. We also believe this will help to ensure that the UK continues to be an attractive destination for international students. We will of course keep the operation of the graduate route under review once it has been implemented.

At the end of their leave as a graduate, international students who wish to stay and work in the UK for longer will also be eligible to switch into employment immigration routes. We are reviewing and simplifying the employment routes as part of the government’s work on the future borders and immigration system to ensure that they meet the UK’s needs.

The government also recently published and updated bespoke guidance for students impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, setting out important flexibilities at this time. This includes confirming that those studying by distance/blended learning will be eligible to apply for the graduate route provided they are in the UK by 6 April 2021 and meet other requirements of the route.

We now have a world-class student visa offer befitting our world-class higher education sector, which will only improve once the student route is operational later this year and student visa processes are further streamlined.