Re-introduce the post-study work visa, or we’ll all suffer

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Illustration: Dillon yeh

There has been a concerted effort recently from Scottish political parties to see the reintroduction of the post-study work visa which was abolished by the UK government in 2012. This plan for a reintroduction forms part of wider group of changes being sought by the Smith commission as part of wider devolution of powers to the Scottish government following the fraught independence referendum of 2014, and the key part is that under current visa laws international students can only stay in the country for four months after graduating, rather than the two years it had been previously.

Let us not forget also that four months was a number reached through not inconsiderable consternation and debate; Theresa May, Lizard Queen of Westminster, had wanted to scrap any grace period whatsoever. Perhaps the most astonishing  thing is that she had this particular error in judgement blocked by none other than our own stoic and just advocate of student rights: Gideon “have you ever seen him blink?” Osborne. Rumour has it that shortly afterwards pigs were seen sprouting wings in Gloucestershire and the devil ice skated to work.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has been an outspoken supporter of the reintroduction of post-study visas, describing her anger and disappointment that there were no plans from the UK’s government to reintroduce this visa and it is little wonder that the problems of these visas are being most loudly criticised north of the border.

Post-study immigration is a key part of the Scottish economy especially in swiftly expanding sectors such as technology and IT (indeed thank god something is expanding in Britain other than national debt and cases of bigotry). These sectors have already been hit by skill shortages; latest estimates stand at there being the need for 10,000 new workers to sustain its current growth. That’s more people than study in total at St Andrews, which is (as we are constantly reminded by the university itself) ‘the best university in Scotland’. Surely it could only benefit the economy of Scotland to allow international graduates to stay in the country and contribute to it.

25 per cent of job vacancies are the result of ‘skill shortages’, up  from 15 per cent in 2011, before the visa changes. In a jobs market about as easy to navigate as the Bermuda triangle in a thunderstorm and with only one wing perhaps these apparently open places could be filled. It must be a relatively popular route for people; after all Scotland is the home of square sausages, thistles and gingers, who wouldn’t want to stay here? It’s even sunny for five days every year. It’s not just individual sectors which are crying out for help, the small and medium sized businesses (which constitute 99 per cent of Scottish businesses) can often not afford the sponsorship scheme which can enable students to stay longer than the stated four months, probably being the main reason behind why 85 per cent of employers backed calls for a return to our collective senses.

Illustration: Dillon yeh
Illustration: Dillon yeh

Hilariously, should gallows humour be to your fancy, it was recently decided that this particular cart simply wasn’t going downhill fast enough, so it got the kick it needed by adding the intention to change the Tier-2 visa salary cut-off point to £35,000 instead of £20,000, as well as the introduction of an immigration skills charge. This charge doesn’t seem to mean anything but is instead a cunningly created extra charge meaning that the amount of money which a small business would have to spend on an employee who has studied perhaps half an hour away, contributed to the local economy for four years, fits the vacancy for a skilled job which they presumably were given on merit but just HAPPENED to be born outside of the EU is just under £40,000, which is not sustainable for a small business or as a starting salary for somebody only just joining a company. Yet it is these companies which have the vacancies which need filling.

It is not just in Scotland that the visa should be reintroduced. That should be across the entirety of the United Kingdom. But the problem is that the idea of the post-study work visa seems to be getting lumped into the wider immigration shitshow and as such is being treated in some corners as tantamount to actually pissing on Winston Churchill’s grave. Seriously, look at the comment sections on any story about this visa. My favourite was NODROG1234 who told us ‘British culture is disappearing fast, because we Brits are ignored, we feel like second class citizens in our own country. This has brought us to the stage that we just don’t care anymore. Never in my livetime [sic] have I witnessed such a malaise in my once great country. The only happy one [sic] are the immigrants and illegals who know they can make a fortune out of the british [sic], this included wiping out all culture’, presumably then going on to shout at the nearest American or Australian banker for being a horrid immigrant who paid about £80,000 into the system to study and stay in NODROG1234’s ‘once great’ country, all the while paying taxes, supporting businesses around them and generally contributing to society. The selfish, thieving bastard.

I will not, because it is like repeatedly mashing your head into a brick wall (like wot we should have bilt round Dover [sic]), when one wades into the mire of the wider immigration problems, but this visa is a completely different situation. Silicon Valley was built around using the universities of Stanford, CalTech and Berkley and their standout international students alongside the standout ‘homegrown’ students to create the biggest hub of technology to be found anywhere, a hub which has given America a huge boost economically.

There is no problem with utilizing minds which you have spent man hours moulding to your benefit  by giving them jobs and careers in the United Kingdom. But this can only be done if you give them the opportunity to stay on. It is wider than this also, and considerably closer to home for us than it is for people at other universities.

At a university as proudly international as our own, these changes to the work visa will probably be affecting many of the people you know currently. Almost all of us have friends who hail from shores different to our own, and a restriction of time on them trying to find a job in the United Kingdom makes it feel as though international students are not properly welcome in the country, or are simply being used as cash cows to help fund our universities.

Our own Rector Catherine Stihler MEP said that ‘if these students have fears about having their new lives taken away they may choose not to come in the first place. We cannot allow this to happen’, something which would affect our own university more than almost any other, standing currently at 38 per cent. It is part of the unique culture at this establishment than you can start your night drinking Ouzo with a Cypriot and end it sobbing into a Dervish bought for you by a kindly passing Japanese. Part of this brilliant diversity which makes the fabric of our university is in danger of being unravelled.

This is not something which should only matter to you if you are an international student planning on staying in the UK, it matters to us all. This is not a problem of ‘Britain is full’. This is simply a question of choice. Any person who has spent four years pouring their time, effort and money into their studies here should be afforded the option of being able to stay and make the most of what we can offer, and help make Britain a better place. God knows we need all the help we can get. The opportunity presents itself best once studies have finished. Four months is not enough time for most of us to get a job once we leave university, so why should there be greater rush and pressure on international students?

There is a problem, but it is not international students filling the skilled jobs vacancies. The problem is that we now almost seem to be making an effort to drive away the very intelligent, knowledgeable and skilled people which we are creating here, and with whom we share our streets.

4 COMMENTS

  1. While I agree with most of this article, the £35,000 salary requirement discussed is necessary to qualify for ‘indefinite leave to remain’ which may be awarded after 5 years of work. It’s ridiculous that they put monetary limits far above the UK national average salary in order for people to stay in the country, BUT this is by no means “starting salary for somebody only just joining a company,” but someone who has already had a job in the UK for 5 years.

    I want to make that clear for international students now looking for grad jobs that the £35k is nothing for them to worry about at the moment. Please fix this info in your article.

    • You are right – International Student – but the UK is actually considering raising the salary threshold to £30k (not £35k which, as you’ve pointed out, pertains to Settlement). Some indications suggest these new rules suggested by the Migration Advisory Council might come in place as soon as April 2016, but I strongly doubt it.

  2. The UK’s immigration policy is essentially designed, intentionally, to stop the majority of people from coming in (outside of EU regulations). This should be obvious at this point. The requirements concerning work visas are effectively not meant to be for students, they are meant for international MBA’s to come in to work for top firms, or in extremely specific areas of labor shortage.

    For example, the way that the UK has designed their Tier-2 work visa system is that there are a limited number of visas distributed to UK firms. There is effectively a limited quota, and therefore companies will very rarely blow their limited of visa-providing recruitment opportunities on graduate schemes.

    Come to realize this, everybody- anyone outside the UK/EU who wants to stay in the UK, it’s a fools errand without extremely good networking / filial connections (no judgement towards those who do – use ’em if you got ’em). I know, because I applied to over 20 firms in the UK, and even after pulling off great interviews at jobs I was assuredly at least competitively qualified for, I didn’t get one offer. One gentleman at a finance firm (that you’ve probably heard of) to which I applied even said – explicitly – that my American citizenship is a huge handicap in the application process, and that I should look back home.

    As it turns out, it had less to do with my qualifications than I was suspecting at the time, as I was able to land a dream job in the US, with far better pay (approximately double the Tier-2 ‘minimum’ salary) and arguably with more prestige than at the two dozen firms I applied for in the UK. Luck of the draw? Maybe. Probably. Indubitably to a large extent. Luck is half the battle, sometimes more. Maybe by experience is atypical. But I’m pretty confident in saying that the UK immigration policy is established in such a way that it tells a clear message – that it doesn’t want people like me, with good grades in an employable degree from a solid university with high earning and value potential.

    Well, guess what then, fine, I don’t want to be part of the UK either anymore. The amusing result of it all is that I’m far better off going back home – and the UK is the one who really suffers as a result.

  3. I think Scotland governement have to force the UK government to reintroduced of psw. They want their immigration to take to Lower level that’s why they targeting the students . They are not able to do anything with European people’s. There are lots of European people’s came here who don’t have any type of skills and are only taking benefits atleast students are paying more tax and fees than the European students.

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