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UK confirms Covid visa concessions to April 2022 – as Grad route launches

The UK’s Minister for Immigration Kevin Foster confirmed on 1 July – the day the new Graduate Route officially opened – that Covid concessions on visa rules around a requirement to be in the UK to study will be extended to 6 April 2022 for the next intake.

Requiring September arrival "would not be an appropriate decision" acknowledged Immigration Minister Kevin Foster

"We accept that to bring the concessions to an end in late September would now not be an appropriate"

The news means newly arriving international students will be able to begin studying remotely if health and visa protocols require them to do so but can still be eligible for work rights upon graduating.

“Those are the rules that relate, for example, to blended learning and distance learning,” Foster clarified, addressing UKCISA Conference delegates.

“We are keen to avoid this way a surge of travel in late September, early October, not least given a number of our biggest markets for international students, India, Pakistan and I think Nigeria [Nigeria currently on amber travel list] remain on both the UK government and the devolved administrations read lists which would mean to enter managed hotel quarantine on arrival in the UK.”

He added, “Put simply, to use a large amount of capacity in a couple of weeks for that [quarantine] purpose is not something we believe would be an appropriate way forward. For universities to manage the arrival of their own students via that test in those sorts of numbers wouldn’t be particularly helpful either.

Foster underlined that the government would encourage students to consider 6 April as a “deadline, not a target for arrival”.

“We hope the world will be in a much better position come February and March next year, particularly with vaccination programmes advancing rapidly now in a number in many countries,” he said.

“It means Indian applicants may be more assured to accept places offered”

“We accept that to bring the concessions to an end in late September would now not be an appropriate decision, given it is inevitable there will be a large number of countries still on both the UK government’s and the devolved administrations red list at the end of September.”

Students who started their courses in autumn 2020 or spring 2021 will be required to be in the UK by 27 September, as per the latest guidance.

UKCISA‘s chief executive, Anne Marie Graham, commented, “We welcome the news that the UK government will extend the current time-limited concessions to support those students who are planning study in the 2021-22 academic year.

“This provides important reassurance to international students, and enables UKCISA and our members to provide clear and timely advice and guidance to international students at this important stage of the student application cycle.”

Russell Group head of policy, Stephanie Smith, added, “This is a sensible move that will help protect student and community health.”

It means Indian applicants may be more assured to accept places offered, according to Susan Fang of Oxbridge Holdings Inc. She said, “It’s the best call the government could have made given the circumstance.

“The news will help incentivise these Indian students to accept their offers firmly, with the assurance that even if they chose to stay in their country to start their course, their chances of staying in the UK afterwards will not be jeopardised.”

We are determined to use the new system to attract global talent

Foster also used his platform to assure the UK sector that the government is determined to do all it can to support international students.

Early this year, we ended free movement with Europe and introduced a new points-based system. This represents one of the most significant overhauls of this country’s approach to immigration in decades,” he said. “And we are determined to use the new system to attract global talent.”

The graduate route is open to all those who successfully complete a degree, at undergraduate level or above. It provides students with an opportunity to work or look for work at any level post-study without needing to be sponsored.

Foster confirmed, “No job offer will be required to qualify for this visa. Someone on the graduate route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their careers.

“We believe this will enable them to gain valuable skills and contribute to the economy. They can then apply to switch into a permanent work route, such as skilled worker at any point if they find a suitable job which qualifies for it.”

He also confirmed that students do not need to meet any maintenance or English language requirements: “Inherently, they would have done that as part of being on the student route itself”.

“Students can apply once their sponsor has confirmed they have successfully completed their qualifying course”

Foster reminded the sector that applications for the graduate route can only be made in the UK and only by those with valid student permission.

“We’ve designed the graduate route in such a way it is as simple and straightforward to use as possible. We have streamlined the application process so students can apply once their sponsor has confirmed they have successfully completed their qualifying course.”

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