London, September 16
A key representative body of Indian students in the UK has kick-started a campaign with a letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on him to ensure that the recently announced two-year post-study work visa is offered to all international students currently studying in the country.
The National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK) says plans to make the new Graduate Visa route, announced by the UK government last week, valid from the 2020-21 cohort of students had caused "significant unrest and confusion" among students in the process of beginning the 2019-20 academic year this month.
"We strongly recommend that international students with valid Tier-4 student leave at the point of announcement of the scheme i.e. on September 10, 2019, and afterwards, be eligible for the Graduate visa,” notes the NISAU UK's letter issued to Downing Street on Sunday.
"We understand that details of the Graduate visa route may still be under development… it would seem that students who have started their studies before September 2020 may be out of scope. This has led to significant unrest and confusion amongst current and incoming students who are arriving now for the September 2019-20 academic year,” it says.
As one of the student bodies, which had actively campaigned for the post-study visa to be re-instated, the NISAU UK welcomed the government's announcement of a new Graduate Visa open to allow eligible students to work, or crucially look for work, in any career or position of their choice, for two years after completing their studies.
However, they warn that current and incoming students are concerned about potential discrimination they may face from employers who would have the option to offer a job to someone with two years leave to remain in the country as opposed to the current level of four months.
"It seems unfair that current and incoming students would be unable to experience the world-class work experiences that the UK has to offer, even though they choose to come here despite there being no confirmed post-study work visa in place," the letter signed by the NISAU UK's Founder and Chair Sanam Arora and president Mohanish Borana.
The organisation claims that the latest 42 per cent hike in the number of Indian students applying to UK universities was a direct result of the expectation that the post-study offer would be fully re-instated.
"As the dynamic living bridge between our two great nations, the Indian student and alumni community plays a significant role in the bilateral relationship and the ‘Graduate' visa will enable us to contribute further to this special partnership," the NISAU UK adds.
Britain had ended its two-year post-study work visa offer during Theresa May's term as UK home secretary in 2012, widely seen as responsible for a major drop in student numbers from countries like India. By announcing the new Graduate Visa last week, Boris Johnson had effectively re-instated the policy ended by his predecessor and the announcement was widely welcomed by the university chiefs.
"Although 82 per cent of our Indian graduates are satisfied with their careers wherever they are working, we know that they value the opportunity to spend some time in the UK working after their degree. This visa will make it significantly easier for them to do that,” said Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK International, which had been lobbying for such a visa for many years.
The NISAU UK had almost instantly started receiving queries from Indian students already enrolled at UK universities or in the process of applying, resulting in the campaign to ensure any new rules do not discriminate against the current cohort of students. PTI
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