International graduate entrepreneurs ‘shunning UK due to visa problems’

International graduates are shunning the UK as a business destination because of “impossible visa restrictions”, a new study claims.

November 27, 2014

While 42 per cent of the 1,600 international graduate students polled by the National Union of Students said they wanted to set up a business after graduation, only 33 per cent wanted to start one in the UK.

Almost one-third also thought that the processes in place for international students to work once they have finished studying in the UK was worse than other countries, according to the report, titled Made in the UK: Unlocking the Door to International Entrepreneurs, which was published on November.

The report, which was written in partnership with The Entrepreneurs Network thinktank, appears amid growing concerns that international students are choosing to study in the US or Australia.Opportunities for graduate employment in the UK have become more limited, following the abolition in 2012 of the post-study work visa, which allowed graduates to work for two years.

A new visa – the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa – was established in April 2012 to allow business-minded graduates to remain in the UK after their studies ended. Yet just 119 were granted in the scheme’s first year.

According to the study’s poll, only 2 per of those respondents who said they intend to start a business following graduation actually applied for the UK Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa. Almost two-thirds claimed they didn’t consider applying for it.

“It’s once again saddening to see more research which shows that many international students feel unwelcome in the UK as a result of the government’s hostile and overzealous policies,” said Shreya Paudel, international students’ officer at the NUS.

He called for the introduction of a one-year post-study work visa, saying the UK “should be celebrating international graduates with entrepreneurial spirit who want to contribute to this country”.

“Instead, many graduates are put off from starting businesses here because of impossible visa restrictions that place them in Catch-22 situations,” said Mr Paudel.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous to shut out a whole group of people who want to contribute to this country’s economy just to meet a political agenda,” he added.

The report comes on the day it emerged that net migration to the UK hit 260,000 in the year to June, way off the government’s target, which would have seen it reduced to the “tens of thousands” by May 2015.

Philip Salter, director of The Entrepreneurs Network, said the report shows that the UK visa system “isn’t supporting the entrepreneurial ambitions of international graduates”.

“In its current form, the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa isn’t fit for purpose,” he said.

“We are training some of the world’s best and brightest young people at our world-class universities, only to push them to set up their businesses overseas.”

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