The UK government should reintroduce post-study work visas and let “leading universities” issue a limited number of visas direct to “the best Indian students”, according to MPs.
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee makes the recommendations in a report on UK-India relations published on 24 June. The report notes that the number of Indian students coming to UK universities halved from around 40,000 in 2010 to around 20,000 in 2014 – a period which included the abolition of post-study work visas in 2012.
The report, titled Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India Ties, backs a plan for a two-year post-study work visa launched by former Conservative universities minister Jo Johnson and Labour MP Paul Blomfield – a plan that some suggest the government will accept.
The government should “commit to increasing the post-study visa available to international students to cover at least two years”, the report says.
It adds that the government should “review the possibility of involving universities in visa application processes. Having the UK’s leading universities able to issue a limited number of visas directly to the best Indian students would increase competition at home and decrease bureaucratic hurdles for those looking to develop their skills in the UK.”
The report also takes issue with the fact that Indian students are not included in the list of “low risk” nations, which grants students from those nations more favourable treatment under the Tier 4 student visa system. The list of “low risk” nations includes nations as diverse as Cambodia and Kazakhstan, Indonesia and China – but not India.
As part of “urgently” reviewing its policies towards Indian students, the government should reconsider “particularly the decision to exclude them from the ‘low risk’ list”, the MPs’ report says.
And the report says more broadly: “The [Foreign Office] should ensure that the goal of improving the overall relationship with India is woven into the broader government migration policy. It should push for reforms to make it easier for India’s skilled workers, students, and tourists to enter the UK.”
The MPs say the government’s commitment to the “tens of thousands” net migration target is “completely incompatible with a post-Brexit immigration policy that will allow unlimited numbers of students, workers within certain sectors, seasonal workers, and key workers. This incompatibility must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
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