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UUKi publishes guide for businesses employing international students in the UK

A guide explaining the UK’s new post-study work rights in an effort to ensure employers at businesses across the country have the information they need to employ international graduates from UK institutions has been published by Universities UK International.

The guide aims to help employers navigate the immigration system and runs through the main considerations for businesses as they think about visas.

"The UK has some of the best higher education institutions in the world"

Working in conjunction with immigration firm Fragomen, the “tool kit” provides details around sponsorship and sponsor licences, Tier 2 work visa categories, as well as an overview of Brexit and how it will impact businesses employing or seeking to employ international students.

“The biggest challenge… is how to make sure that UK-based employers take up the opportunity presented”

“There is a wealth of information available online about visas and immigration law, all from a variety of sources. The trick is to know where to look and how to act on information you find, but that is not always easy,” the authors of the guide explain in its introduction.

“This tool kit runs through the main considerations for a company as they think about visas… [but] we do not provide full legal advice, nor do we cover every single immigration category.

“But the tool kit should contain enough information to help you understand what to look for, as and when immigration becomes an issue,” add the authors.

Much to the elation of UK stakeholders, the government announced the reintroduction of post-study work visa in September 2019, with students graduating in the 2020/21 academic year set to benefit from the new immigration rule.

“The UK has some of the best higher education institutions in the world. This new [visa] category will allow those who have made the personal and financial investment to study in the UK to commence or continue their journey into employment without having to navigate the complexities of sponsorship,” Fragomen senior manager Naomi Goldshtein told The PIE News.

However, director of UUKi Vivienne Stern told The PIE that while she welcomed the UK’s new post-study work rights, she cautioned that businesses may not know how to make full use of the new visa route. 

“The biggest challenge and the one that we are thinking very hard about is how to make sure that UK-based employers take up the opportunity presented by the two-year post-study work visa,” she said.

“There’s a real chance that… employers don’t know that or they’re worried about taking on international graduates, or they simply don’t make the connection between this opportunity and the kind of things it might help them to do.

“So one of the things that we really want to make sure we put some work into is ensuring that now we’ve got this commitment to a new route, we make the most of it, and that we ensure the UK economy benefits from access to this pool of talent,” Stern told The PIE.

Stern said that one of the reasons UUKi lobbied hard for the new route was because the organisation believed post-study work opportunities had been holding the UK back, compared with competitor countries. 

“It was really clear, the UK had been falling behind, as other systems grew really rapidly, and that supported evidence that we’ve seen from lots of other places, that graduates really like an opportunity to get a bit of work experience alongside a degree.”

UUKi’s new guide goes into some detail on Brexit, pointing out that the real change is likely to come in January 2021 when the UK implements an entirely new immigration system for Europeans and non-Europeans alike. 

Stern explained that despite the uncertainty she is optimistic for the future of the new post-study work rights. 

“We’re in the middle of a general election. The outgoing government has announced this new route, but what’s the guarantee that it will actually be implemented by an incoming government?” she said.

“We’re pretty confident that whoever forms the next government will see this new route implemented”

“The answer to that question is that this proposal has always had cross-party support. 

“So we’re pretty confident that whoever forms the next government will see this new route implemented. But we understand that it can create an amount of uncertainty,” Stern added. 

Later this year, UUKi is looking to publish an analysis that shows what happened to the UK’s market share after the post-study work visa was taken out of the immigration system.

Stern also spoke about how the UK might recover from this drop in enrolment and the areas that could be key for the UK in the search for global talent.

“One of those places is obviously India, and we’ve got some brilliant evidence already for the introduction of Indian groups causing a huge spike in interest in the UK.

“And it’s not just India, there have been other countries too,” She added.

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