Final year international students to miss out on new post-study work, candidates warn

Written by Becky Gelder
Images by Redbrick

New post-study work visas will enable students to remain in the UK for up to two years after they graduate in order to find work, with the opportunity to then potentially transition to a skilled work visa if they secure a job.

First announced in September 2019, the route would see the end of the current system whereby international students are given just four months after finishing their degree before they have to leave.

The new Graduate Route will only be made available to those who graduate in the summer of 2021 or later, meaning many current international students studying in the UK will not have access to the visa. This concern was set to be addressed in a petition to the UK government, which requested the date of implementation to be changed, so as to include all those graduating before 2021 as well.

The petition stated that it would be ‘unfair’ to current international students if this was not achieved. However, due to the December 2019 general election, the petition was closed early and is no longer open to new signatures. Before it was closed, the petition had gained 30,388 signatures of the 100,000 needed. 

In a factsheet released prior to the election, the Home Office explained that the Graduate Route could not be implemented earlier due to the fact that ‘it takes time to develop a new immigration route and ensure the framework is in place for it to successfully operate.’

It takes time to develop a new immigration route and ensure the framework is in place for it to successfully operate

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has provided students with an overview of the upcoming changes to the Graduate Route. While emphasising the fact that the government is still engaged in discussions regarding the topic of the Graduate Route, it has also been noted that there is limited information available about the changes, and that new information may not be fully available until 2021.

As an international student at the University of Birmingham, and one of the candidates who ran for the role of International Officer in this year’s Guild Elections, Moyosore Ale believes that finding a job is a top priority for international students. 

Ale explained: ‘This year has been particularly challenging because of Brexit, but the silver lining is the post-study work visa. This will not only ease the mental stress of constantly wondering what your fate after your studies will be, it will also make it easier to focus on actually enjoying your student experience. This would also encourage more international students to study in the UK, which I believe will be better for the economy overall.

‘However, as exciting as the prospect of the post-study work visa is, international students graduating this year don’t have access to this. So, we are placed in a more difficult position as we are in the year before its emergence and employers are even less likely to hire us as they can simply wait a few more months for post-study work visa students.’

International students graduating this year don’t have access to this

Ale also brought attention to the fact that, for international students, finding a job in the UK can be very difficult: ‘the main reason we get rejected even before applying is companies not wanting or being unable to sponsor our visa … it can be very frustrating especially when you feel like you have the required skills. I have heard so many stories of students who took a hard hit when they had to leave the country after studies, especially after spending so much money.’

Suresh Jyani, one of the candidates who ran for Postgraduate Officer in this year’s Guild Elections, had also addressed this issue in his manifesto. Throughout his campaign, he highlighted the importance of the post-study work visa being made available to those graduating this year.

In a statement to Redbrick, Jyani explained: ‘international students invest around £30,000 on a one year masters … without a job it’s just a piece of paper.’ His petition to the UK government would therefore look to ‘include students of 2019 enrolment’ in the post-study work visa.