• Wednesday, June 12, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

UK tightens student visa rules, but Graduate Route remains unchanged

Regarding the Graduate Route, the Home Office acknowledged the Migration Advisory Committee’s recent warning that rogue recruitment agents jeopardise the system.

New compliance standards for institutions recruiting students from overseas will be introduced. (Representational image from iStock)

By: Vivek Mishra

The Graduate Route scheme, favoured by Indian students for post-study work, will remain unaffected for now. The government announced on Thursday that the scheme will be kept “under review” as it introduced proposals to tighten student visas to prevent them from being used as a “gateway to immigration”.

These measures come in response to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealing a 10 per cent decrease in net migration, a statistic prime minister Rishi Sunak welcomed on the first official day of his campaign for a general election set for July 4. Reducing migration, both legal and illegal, ranks high among Sunak’s priorities.

“Since I became prime minister, net migration has fallen by 10 per cent. The plan is working. Let’s stick with it,” he said.

The Home Office highlighted that the ONS figures do not encompass the stricter visa rules on family dependents implemented earlier this year, resulting in a 25 per cent reduction in visa applications since their enforcement.

In addition to these measures, the government intends to regulate the recruitment of international students by “cracking down on rogue recruitment agents.” Universities will be required to adhere to a “rigorous framework for agents.”

New compliance standards for institutions recruiting students from overseas will be introduced. Universities that admit international students who subsequently fail visa checks, enrolment, or course completion risk losing their sponsor licence.

“Applications are already dwindling, but we must intensify our efforts to ensure our immigration routes aren’t exploited. That’s why we are clamping down on rogue international agents and building on government-wide initiatives to ensure international students come here to study, not work,” said Home Secretary James Cleverly.

Regarding the Graduate Route, the Home Office acknowledged the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recent warning that rogue recruitment agents jeopardise the system. These agents exploit student and graduate visa holders through “mis-selling” UK higher education. Given that migrants on the student route transition directly to the Graduate Route, immediate action is imperative. The Home Office further noted that the scheme is not attracting the “highest earners who contribute to our economy” based on analysis from the tax department.

“New proposals will strengthen the oversight of student visas, ensuring only genuine students can enter the UK; the Graduate Route will remain under review,” stated the Home Office. This implies that the route is secure at least until the election, after which a newly elected government will determine its future.

“We are absolutely delighted and greatly relieved that the UK government has made the right decision to retain the Graduate Route as it is crucial for Indian students. We are also pleased that the focus will shift to regulating agents,” said Sanam Arora, Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK.

Among other proposed measures, financial maintenance requirements will be heightened, necessitating international students to demonstrate their financial self-sufficiency. The government is reassessing English language assessments to standardise independent evaluations, ensuring all international students possess the necessary skills to comprehend their course materials. Restrictions on remote delivery will guarantee that overseas students primarily undertake face-to-face courses, according to the Home Office.

These proposals form part of the Sunak-led government’s overarching strategy to reduce legal migration, which it claims would have prevented 300,000 arrivals last year under its new regulations.

(PTI)

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