Currently, students are only allowed to stay for four months after they finish their degree.
The new rules will apply to those who start an undergraduate level or above course from next year in any subject at “a trusted UK university or higher education provider which has a proven track record in upholding immigration checks”.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement:
The important contribution international students make to our country and universities is both cultural and economic. Their presence benefits Britain. Our universities thrive on being open global institutions. Introducing the graduate route ensures our prestigious higher education sector will continue to attract the best talent from around the world to global Britain.
Under the new graduate route, students at any skill level will be able to look for work. They could then switch to a skilled work visa if they found a job that met the requirements. There is no restriction on the kinds of jobs students would have to seek and no cap on numbers.
How many international students are there in the UK?
There are about 450,000 international students a year studying in Britain. Of these, almost two-thirds are from outside the EU, so will require a student visa to be in the country. Between about 170,000 and 185,000 of these students graduate each year.
In 2018, 6,300 individuals moved from student visas to skilled work visas, meaning they have officially been offered a job paying at least GBP 20,800 in the first year. A further 450 were granted "high-value migrant" visas, which are normally reserved for those with particular expertise in a field or those who have a set sum of money to invest in the country. In addition, almost 40,000 student visas are extended each year, implying that a large number of graduates are continuing studies in the UK.
Finance Minister Sajid Javid welcomed the announcement about the post-study work visa on Twitter:
About time. Should have reversed this silly policy years ago. Britain should always be open to the best talent from across the world.
The move, however, was not greeted by everyone. Migration Watch, which campaigns for less immigration, said it was a “retrograde step” which would lead to foreign students staying in Britain to carry out low-skilled jobs. It said:
The government only seems to come up with ideas for how to increase immigration.