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Personelle Today

mei 15, 2024


Graduate visa review finds benefits for skilled worker recruitment

The Home Office should retain the graduate visa route in its current form, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended, as it offers overseas nationals who graduated from UK universities an opportunity to build work experience and progress into higher-paying, skilled jobs.


The MAC was asked by the government to conduct a rapid review of the graduate visa route, considering whether it facilitated any abuse of the UK’s immigration rules and whether it undermined the integrity of the UK’s higher education system.


The graduate visa permits international students to stay in the UK for at least two years after completing a course at a UK university.


The report finds that 50% of people who arrived in the UK on a graduate visa between July and December 2021, who have now seen their graduate visa expire, switched to either a work visa or a student visa for further study.


Most of these (86%) found work that allowed them to be sponsored under the skilled worker visa route, while 1% obtained other worker visas and 13% took up student visas.


Interviews with graduate visa holders found some were hoping to be sponsored under the skilled worker route and had taken jobs they believed acted as a bridge to future sponsorship with the same employer, or would improve their chances of getting sponsored by another organisation. Most were optimistic about meeting the salary threshold.


The MAC found that claims made by the Home Office that the majority of graduate visa holders switching to the skilled worker route go into care work were incorrect. It found Home Office data showed that 40% go into professional occupations, 22% into associate professional and technical occupations, and 20% into care work roles.


It noted that if the government is concerned about the proportion going into the care sector it should recognise that “the problem lies in the care sector rather than the international study sector”.


The report says: “Former students, and other migrants, do care work in the UK because this work is eligible for the skilled worker route and there is high demand for care workers at the low salary threshold. In the period for which we had data, most former students who moved into the skilled worker route to do care work moved into this route directly, rather than via the graduate route, and time on the graduate route reduces the likelihood of entering care work in the longer term, perhaps through gaining experience.”


It also found that those switching from the graduate to the skilled worker route are more likely to be working in London and the South East.


Sixty-one per cent of switchers to the skilled worker visa earned £30,000 or less, compared with 60% of domestic graduates.


It added that students who switch directly to the skilled worker visa, without having held a graduate visa, are more likely to be in lower-paid roles and occupations less traditionally associated with graduate employment.


In a letter to home secretary James Cleverly today, the MAC said it had not found any evidence of widespread abuse of the graduate route, and said the visa was broadly achieving its objectives.


The report highlights how important international graduates are for the UK economy, suggested Rosalind Gill, head of policy and engagement at the National Centre for Universities and Business.


“International students enrich the academic environment, fostering diverse perspectives and cultural exchange. Their presence not only enhances the learning experience for domestic students but also creates numerous networking and collaborative opportunities, preparing all students for success in an increasingly globalised world,” she said.


“The uncertainty caused by the government request for a review has already severely disrupted international student recruitment. To avoid further impact, the government must respond swiftly to confirm that no changes to the route will be made. This matters to universities but also to businesses because international students enrich the learning experience of domestic students and also support the UK workforce.”


John Foster, CBI chief policy and campaigns officer, said: “Studying at university is one of our biggest export successes. Attracting international students boosts local economies and losing competitiveness would put support for undergraduate teaching and innovation at risk.


“With the MAC finding that the graduate visa is achieving the government’s own policy objectives and is not being abused, it’s time to put its future beyond doubt and end this period of damaging speculation.”


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