Measures to limit how long the majority of students can remain in the UK after graduating have proved controversial.
16 February 2012
UK visa restrictions for students criticised by industries
The Home Office announced on Monday that much tighter conditions would be placed on students studying on a UK visa, Immigration Minister Damian Green claimed the new steps will reduce net immigration but businesses have labelled the move as a 'retrograde step'.
The new UK visa rules, which are expected to take effect from 6, April, will limit who can stay to only those with either a job offer of at least £20,000 or £50,000 to invest in their own business.
Director-general of the Institute of Directors (IoD), Simon Walker, said "it is pure sophistry to manipulate immigration figures by shooing to the door highly-trained international students with MBAs to make way for unskilled migrants from the EU."
Mr Green claimed that the measures will limit the UK to only the best and brightest migrants and reduce net UK immigration. The Coalition's promise to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands has so far struggled to meet expectations but with students accounting for nearly half of the total annual migrants, Mr Green claims this new step will reduce net immigration by 60,000 a year.
However, Mr Walker has spoken out against the measures, claiming that other countries welcome foreign students from emerging nations but that "Britain makes it difficult and artificially expensive for them to enter, and now proposes to eject them ignominiously when their studies are finished."
Mr Walker's objections have largely been supported by the UK's universities who have attempted to maintain levels of foreign students; almost 10% of the education industry's income came from international students between 2009 and 2010.
Anti-immigration group MigrationWatch UK have defended the Government's decision, chairman Sir Andrew Green said "if the 'highly-skilled MBAs' referred to by the IoD cannot secure a salary of £20,000 a year they cannot be as vital as implied. Some employers may want cheap labour but British graduates need jobs."
The UK's universities have been lobbying Whitehall to remove students from migration statistics but Mr Green said "while many think of students as temporary visitors, around 20% of student arrivals were still in the UK five years later."
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent UK immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.