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British government should not restrict post-study work visa, says MP Karan Bilimoria

(This story originally appeared in

on Feb 09, 2023)

Recent reports of likely immigration policy changes by the British government with respect to international students are a cause for worry in India.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, MP in the British House of Lords, is concerned over the reported plans by the British government to cut the number of international students, going to study in the United Kingdom, as part of an overall plan to reduce net migration.

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“The rumours about the British government changing the immigration policy around international students are very worrying. The concerns in the UK are over the big rise in net migration figures linked to illegal immigration and that needs to be stopped. But international students should be excluded from the net migration figures to the UK,” said Bilimoria, president of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), an advisory body serving the interests of international students.

Also the chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Bilimoria told Times of India that most international students in the UK, including those from India, returned to their home countries after they finished their studies. “Some stay back for skilled work while a very small section decides to immigrate legally to the UK,” he added.

According to statistics from the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency, there were 679,970 international students pursuing their degrees in the UK in 2020-2021, a significant rise of 8.7% over the previous year.

Bilimoria is also concerned over any move to pick and choose only those international students who get enrolled at ‘elite’ universities. “While a few universities in the UK belong to an ‘elite’ group, all varsities that are accredited and of high quality attract international students who form lifelong bonds in the country and contribute in a big way to the country’s economy,” Bilimoria said.

There are also concerns over British home secretary Suella Braverman’s reported plans to introduce changes to the graduate visa route for international students which could include cutting the post-study work (PSW) visa to six months from the current two years. The PSW visa, which is a big draw for Indian students, allows international students in the UK to stay back for up to two years after they finish their courses, to look for a job.“The post-study work visa is a huge benefit for Indian students in the UK and the number of Indian students has gone up significantly since the graduate immigration route opened in July 2021. Earlier, many Indian students did not choose the UK for their higher education because of the lack of post-study work opportunities,” Bilimoria, who is co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for international students in the British parliament, and had been advocating for the reintroduction of the PSW visa for students ever since it was scrapped in 2012 said. The British High Commission granted 1.29 lakh student visas to Indians in the year ending September 2022.

The PSW visa, according to Bilimoria, is a win-win for all and any changes to reduce it will be short-sighted, foolish and damaging. “While international students can work and finance their expensive courses in the UK through the post-study work route; they also gain valuable work experience,” he said. There are also benefits for the UK economy since international students can help fill vacancies for skilled jobs. “The PSW opportunities are also helping build bridges between India and the UK with students who studied in Britain becoming brand ambassadors for the country,” Bilimoria said.