UK post-study visa hopefuls will now be able apply for the Graduate Route if they arrive in the UK by Sept. 27, 2021, after the UK Home Office extended the deadline in view of pandemic travel restrictions. Students completing their course remotely were previously expected to be in the UK by June 21 to be eligible for the two-year post-study visa. This move will serve international students in India the most, as many have started their courses remotely while holding on to hope for future post-study visa concessions.
According to the official update, applicants who begin their studies in autumn 2020 have until September 27 to enter the UK and still qualify for the post-study visa via the Graduate Route. The same deadline extension applies to international students who started their courses remotely in January and February this year. This gives students an extra three months to get back to the UK; for many, this keeps their dream of seeking employment abroad alive.
Welcome news for Indian students
India was placed on the UK’s “red list” on April 23, which essentially banned anyone coming from India to enter the UK. Though student visa holders are exempted, many Indian students were forced to postpone plans in the face of rising health risks and quarantine costs. Returning students must fork out approximately 1,750 pounds for 10-day hotel quarantine upon arrival in the UK.
As one of the grassroots groups who have been campaigning for a post-study visa deadline extension, the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU) welcomed this decision with open arms. “We are delighted that the Home Office has accepted our request and know that this will significantly help many students who are unable to travel given the COVID-19 situation in India right now. Huge sigh of relief,” said NISAU UK chair Sanam Arora.
“As Indian students plan to travel back to the UK, we encourage them to connect with their universities; and follow the travel rules for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as applicable,” said Barbara Wickham, Director, British Council India. Universities UK International (UUKi) Director Vivienne Stern added, “Indian students planning to travel to the UK should also ensure to keep on top of the latest policies, both the UK and their home countries, regarding travel to the UK to ensure they are well prepared.”
Post-study visa key to international student retention
This time last year, former UK universities minister Jo Johnson urged the government to extend the validity of the post-study work visa to four years. He said this would “help Britain bear the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit” on the higher education sector. It is also hoped that a longer eligibility period might attract more Indian students.
The UK issued almost 50,000 Tier 4 student visas to Indian students in March 2020 — a 136% increase compared to the year before. Johnson believes the number of Indian students in the UK could double by 2024.
“For many years, the top three destinations for international students have been the US, the UK and Australia. But recently, global student mobility has begun to shift. The UK’s market share declined in 17 out of the world’s 21 top sending countries between 2010 and 2017,” he expressed then. He emphasised that the UK’s post-study visa offering is a major factor in its appeal as a global education hub.
Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) figures showed that there had been a notable increase of 38,580 Indian students over five years — 2015-16 to 2019-20 — at UK universities. There were 55,465 Indian students at UK higher education institutions in 2019-20. According to the UK Home Office, there has been a 13% increase in the number of student visas granted to Indian nationals this year.