Home Study Abroad UK’s New Visa Rules: What They Mean for Indian Students and Migrants, as per Experts

UK’s New Visa Rules: What They Mean for Indian Students and Migrants, as per Experts

by EgovJob | Suresh

UK’s New Visa Rules: Indian students would be the most affected if this policy were adjusted to limit visas to only the “best and the brightest” and to control the flow of students.

On May 14, 2024, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released its swift assessment of the Graduate Route Visa (GRV). The MAC has recommended that the GRV should remain unchanged. However, if the policy is altered to comply with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s proposal to limit visas to only the “best and the brightest” and reduce the number of international students entering the country, Indians, who constitute the largest market for UK study visas, will face significant repercussions.

With the projected increase in the number of Indian students pursuing higher education in the UK to reach 170,000 by 2025 (Source: Indian Student Mobility report 2023-24), any alteration in policy will directly influence the number of Indian students opting for the UK as their study abroad destination.

The significance of the Graduate Route Visa (GRV) is magnified by the fact that, according to the National Indian Students and Alumni Association (NISAU) UK, 70% of Indian students view the opportunity to gain work experience as a critical factor when selecting an international study destination.

Experts analyze the GRV, the recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), and the implications of recent immigration policy adjustments, such as the prohibition on bringing dependents and the increase in the salary threshold for graduate sponsorship and the Skilled Worker Visa.

What is a Graduate Route Visa (GRV)? The Graduate Route Visa (GRV), launched by the UK government in 2021, allows students to remain in the UK for a minimum of two years after completing a qualifying course—a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree, or other eligible course—under the Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa.

A Graduate visa is valid for two years, but for individuals with a Ph.D. or other doctoral qualification, it extends to three years. A Graduate Visa cannot be renewed, but the individual can transition to a Skilled Worker visa.

What’s on the anvil? MAC’s key recommendations

  • The Graduate route has met the government’s goals and should be maintained in its present format.
  • To safeguard the integrity of the UK Higher Education system, mandatory requirements for universities and enhanced disclosure of agent use, including the implementation of a new mandatory registration system, should be explored.
  • It is proposed to add a requirement for universities to confirm the course outcome (e.g., class of degree), in addition to the existing requirement of demonstrating successful course completion when applying for a Graduate visa.

The government should prioritize the broader impact of policy changes rather than concentrating solely on net migration effects.

How will MAC recommendations impact Indians and Indian students?: “The recent recommendation by the MAC to maintain the Graduate Route visa without changes is a positive development for Indian students eagerly seeking clarity. With this assurance, Indian students aspiring for higher education in the UK can confidently proceed to pay their deposits, secure admissions, book accommodations, and plan their travel arrangements. It’s reassuring to note that any potential changes to the immigration policy will not affect current students or those starting their studies in the upcoming September-October intake,” says Saurabh Arora, Founder & CEO of University Living.

How expensive is education in the UK? “Although basic academic costs vary from £10,000 to £38,000 per year for undergraduates and £11,000 to £32,000 for postgraduates, additional expenses for housing, food, and travel can average between £9,000 and £12,000 annually, potentially exceeding a total of £30,000 per year. However, the benefits of gaining international work experience and the long-term advantages of a UK education can outweigh these costs, ultimately improving career prospects,” explains Manisha Zaveri, Joint Managing Director of Career Mosaic.

Sachin Jain, Country Manager for ETS India and South Asia, asserts that the recent MAC report, supported by data, and the UK’s unchanged policy providing work opportunities after graduation will ensure the country remains an attractive destination for international students.

Impact of increase in salary threshold amendment of April 2024: The median monthly income for an individual working on the Graduate route is £750, equivalent to £21,000 annually. However, following the April 2024 changes to the immigration policy, the minimum graduate salary for sponsorship has risen from £20,960 to at least £30,960 per annum. Additionally, the Skilled Worker visa route’s minimum salary threshold has increased from £26,200 to £38,700 gross per annum. While those on a Graduate visa benefit from a ‘new entrant’ discount, this discount only lasts for four years and includes time already spent on a Graduate visa. As a result, some employers have begun reviewing their graduate intake policies and approach to sponsorship, impacting numerous recent graduates, including those from India.

Is the 2024 No-dependent policy a huge deterrent?: As a reminder, in January of this year, the UK announce a no-dependent policy, which means that international students studying in the UK, except those on research postgraduate programmes, will no longer be permit to bring dependents with them on their UK student visa.

Is it worth sending students to the UK? Lord Karan Bilimoria, a Member of the UK’s House of Lords and Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, expressed concern about recent immigration policy changes, stating, “The current government’s anti-immigration and anti-international student rhetoric is so damaging. Not only is it causing concern among prospective students to the UK, but it is also hugely damaging to the entire university sector.” He further highlighted the impact of removing dependents’ visas for all students except Ph.D. students, noting that this change could deter some of the best students from coming to the UK. He also mentioned that approximately 25% of students in UK business schools bring dependents and that these students may reconsider studying in the UK if they are unable to bring their dependents. However, he note that fears regarding changes to the two-year Graduate Route Visa have been alleviate.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, also commented, “The government has heeded the MAC’s recommendation to maintain the Graduate Route Visa, and international students will opt to study in the UK, home to some of the world’s finest universities.”


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