Graduate Visa Schemes

Tessa Robinson


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October 1, 2019

Categories BrexitEmployment LawImmigration Law

The two-year post study work visa – a new incarnation!

The Home Office has recently announced the return of the two year post study work visa for international graduate students.

This visa was originally introduced in 2004, but was removed from the UK’s immigration system by Theresa May, when Home Secretary in 2012. Currently, graduates with a Bachelors or Masters degree are allowed to look for work for only four months, and must secure a role which provides them with a Tier 2 General Visa during this time, otherwise they must leave the country. This results in the possible loss of talent which has been crafted by the UK’s education system.

Past versions of graduate visa schemes

The idea of a post-graduate visa has been around from 2004 in many different incarnations. It was originally introduced as a Science and Engineering Graduates Scheme in 2004 – under this scheme the visa was limited to graduates in certain subjects and the post-graduation work period was limited to only 12 months. A similar scheme was introduced in Scotland a year later – during a time when regional immigration policy was still permitted! The period of work permitted under the “Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme” was extended to two years.

The Scottish scheme was deemed a success and so in 2007 the UK opened the International Graduates Scheme, but with only a 12 month post- graduation period. This scheme was then absorbed into the Points Based System in 2008 and a Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa was introduced (and later abolished).

The Post-Study Student Work Visa

The new two year post study visa will apply to international students starting their degree in September 2020. It is however unknown whether current students already on courses in the UK will also benefit from the re-incarnation of this visa.

Under the new visa scheme, the visas would have no cap on numbers, and would allow graduates to apply for jobs regardless of their skills or the subject they studied. There is also no limit on the type of work an individual must secure during this time. A student must have a Tier 4 student visa at the time they apply for the student work visa, and will be able to immediately switch onto the Tier 2 General visa route if they find a job which meets the skill and salary requirements of that route.

How will this benefit employers?

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the two year post study visa has been re-introduced in the lead-up to Brexit.The visa goes further than the Home Office’s latest immigration white paper which proposed extending the four month limit on finding work to six months.

There have been some concerns from employers that following the end of free movement, there could be a lack of individuals available to fill jobs that do not meet the minimum criteria of the Tier 2 visa scheme.

In addition, graduate roles often do not attract the minimum salary required to obtain a sponsored Tier 2 General visa, which means businesses lose out of recruiting talented graduates from overseas who studied under the UK’s university system.

The two year student work visa is likely to be beneficial to both graduates and employers. It will allow graduates to secure any work whilst searching for a role which satisfies the tighter criteria of a sponsored Tier 2 visa. At the same time it creates a new pool of workers from which employers can employ without restriction, potentially filling lower paid high turnover roles. In addition, it may also allow employers to employ graduates in lower paid entry roles, allow them to gain experience, and by the end of the two years recruit them into a role which satisfies the requirements of the Tier 2 visa system meaning that talent is not automatically lost at the point of graduation.

This is a further example of a new pool of talent from which employers can seek to recruit, and may provide some temporary solutions to the predicted recruitment problems post Brexit.

If you wish to discuss the two year student work visa system or other recruitment solutions in light of the immigration system post-Brexit, please contact Tessa Robinson on 01227 763939.