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What is UK Graduate Route visa and how does it impact Indian students? EXPLAINED

Rishi Sunak's decision to curb migration by denouncing student graduate visas has earned criticism from international students, universities and his own parliament members. Here's how Sunak's latest action could impact Indian students.

Edited By: Nidhi Mittal @nidhi_mittal09 New Delhi Updated on: May 20, 2024 20:03 IST
Graduate Route Visa
Image Source : FREEPIK Graduate Route Visa

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest announcement to discontinue the graduate visa route as an effort to curb migration in the United Kingdom has invited strong criticism from fellow cabinet members and students worldwide. Sunak’s attempts to appeal to the conservatives have put pressure on the higher education system of the country, threatening the well-being of students, especially Indians. 

What is a Graduate Route visa?

The Graduate Route Visa was introduced by the British Government in July 2021. It allows foreign students to stay in the UK for at least two years after completing their undergraduate programme, postgraduation or other eligible courses. Whereas, for those with a PhD or other doctoral qualifications, it lasts for three years. The visa allows them to work, freelance, pursue higher education and return to the UK after travelling abroad. The visa also enabled students to successfully upgrade to a ‘skilled worker’ visa after the graduate route expires if the student has successfully secured employment.

Requirements for Graduate Route Visa 

At the time of application, the student must be in the United Kingdom and hold a Short Term Study Visa or General Student Visa (Tier 4). Additionally, the applicant's education provider must notify the UK Home Office of course completion.

Why is this visa important for Indians?

The Graduate Route Visa extends an individual's stay in the UK after completing their studies. This gives them opportunities to find jobs and earn well. Additionally, individuals can also try to obtain other visas (such as work visas) by finding a good sponsor or employer while in the UK on a graduate route visa. This visa scheme is particularly popular among Indians especially from Punjab as it also allows families to accompany the Graduate Route visa holder if certain criteria are met.

MAC Chair Professor explains how Sunak's move could impact Indian students 

MAC Chair Professor Brian Bell, who concluded the rapid review of the scheme earlier this week, has said that "our evidence suggests that it's the Indian students that will be most affected by any restriction on the Graduate Route". The influential committee which advises the UK government on migration found that Indians accounted for 89,200 visas between 2021 and 2023 or 42 per cent of the overall grants, and the visa was stated as the “overwhelming decision point” for their choice of a higher education destination.

“The uncertainty caused by the review has been chaotic. We urge the government to accept the MAC’s findings and ensure the Graduate Route remains a stable and permanent fixture in the UK’s immigration system," said Vignesh Karthik from the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK.

(With inputs from agencies)

Also Read: Sunak plans to scrap UK Graduate Route visa, universities say Indian students to be impacted most

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