New U.K. restrictions on work after study

From April, foreign students from non-European Union countries will be required to have a firm job offer of a minimum £20,000 a year from a government-approved employer if they wish to stay on in Britain after completing their studies, the government announced on Tuesday, piling agony on non-EU students already groaning under a raft of new restrictions which have led to a drop in Indian student numbers.

Under the current rules, students can work in Britain for two years after finishing their course but the government claims that the system is being abused with people using student visas to enter the country and then dropping out of their studies to look for employment.

The Conservative Immigration Minister, Damian Green said in the past “too many students have come to the U.K. to work rather than study and this abuse must end”.

“It is vital that we continue to attract the brightest and the best international students but we have to be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay,” he said.

In a statement, the Home Office said that from April 6, “a more selective system” would come into effect so that “only the most talented international graduates can apply to stay in the U.K. for work purposes”.

“That means only those graduating from a university, and having a job offer from a reputable employer accredited by the U.K. Border Agency at a salary of £20,000 or more, will be able to continue living and working in the U.K. in order to benefit the British economy,” it said.

To boost the economy, student entrepreneurs with at least “£50,000 to invest in their business” will also be allowed to stay on and work after their studies.

Under a new “Graduate Entrepreneur” scheme, up to 1,000 university places will be available for students “working on world-class innovative ideas who want to stay and develop them but do not meet the requirements of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route”.

The new rules are part of a government crackdown on non-EU immigration to fulfill the Conservative Party's election pledge to drastically cut down immigration-levels. The issue has caused tensions within the ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrats opposed to what they regard as a xenophobic approach to immigration.

Businesses and universities have warned that too many restrictions would drive away international talent and ultimately hurt the economy. Non-EU students contribute nearly £8 billion to British economy every year, an estimated £6 billion in fee alone.

“This scheme is more restrictive than the old post-study work route and we are concerned that some Russell Group courses have already seen a drop of 30 per cent from India,” Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group of 20 top universities that include Oxford and Cambridge, told The Financial Times.
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