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Sunak Government Plans to End Graduate Visa Route, Impact on Indian Students Could Be Significant: A Potential Election Issue?

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Sunak Government Plans to End Graduate Visa Route, Impact on Indian Students Could Be Significant: A Potential Election Issue?

Migration Advisory Committee’s Proposal

The UK government’s Migration Advisory Committee has proposed ending the Graduate Visa route, a move that is expected to have significant implications for Indian students. This issue may become a critical topic in the UK’s general elections set for January 2025.

Impact on Indian Students

The plan to close the Graduate Visa route is set to affect approximately 91,000 Indian students annually. Currently, about 130,000 Indian students benefit from this visa, which allows them to stay in the UK post-graduation. The proposed change would reduce this number to just 39,000, creating a substantial barrier for Indian students seeking to enter the UK through this route.

Significance in Upcoming Elections

Introduced in 2021, the Graduate Visa route permits Indian and other international students to remain in the UK and work for two years after completing their master’s degrees. This potential policy change is poised to be a key issue in the January 2025 general elections in the UK.

Reaction from the Opposition

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has criticized the government’s plan, suggesting it could be detrimental in an election year. The decision is likely to upset the 2.5 million Indian voters in the UK. The current visa provisions allow students to strengthen their immigration status, as the two-year stay facilitates their transition to skilled worker categories.

Predominant Fields of Study

Around 80% of Indian students in the UK are enrolled in fields such as medicine, engineering, and law. The extended stay post-study allows these students to secure skilled worker salaries. Home Secretary James Cleverly noted that the visa is often used by students as a pathway to permanent immigration.

Economic Impact

The closure of the Graduate Visa route could have broader economic repercussions. Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan highlighted that the UK might lose out on approximately £20 billion in annual fees. Sally Mapstone, Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, emphasized that Indian students significantly contribute to medical and engineering sectors in the UK. In 2021, 87,045 Indian students went to the UK, increasing to 139,700 in 2022, with 130,000 students arriving in 2023.

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Overview of the Graduate Route Visa

The Graduate Route Visa, introduced by then Home Secretary Priti Patel in July 2021, allows international students who complete their undergraduate or postgraduate studies in the UK to stay and work, or look for work, for up to two years (three years for PhD graduates). Of the 176,000 Graduate Route Visas issued, 42% have gone to Indian nationals. Any changes to this visa category will significantly affect Indian students.

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