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Boris Johnson changes Theresa May's controversial immigration policy

The new change to policy will allow international students more time to find work after graduating, while also providing more funding and promoting more diversity for UK universities

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Image Credit: Chatham House

Before Boris Johnson’s recent changes to the student visa, international students were only permitted to stay in the UK for four months after graduating. This has now been extended, allowing international students to stay in the UK for two years after graduating.

Critics disputed May’s original policy, arguing that it would act as a deterrent for international students coming to study in the UK, now that this has been changed there may be a rise in the number of international students wishing to study at British universities. This would both grant more funding for UK universities, as international student fees are higher than the fees for UK citizens, and give a boost to the UK’s economy. This was reinforced by Alistair Jarvis, the current chief executive of UK Universities, as he said:

“Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26 billion in economic contributions…”

Not only will the increased number of international students boost the UK’s economy, but it will also, in the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, open Britain up to “the brightest and best from across the globe”. The fact that this change to policy is happening around the crucial time of Brexit is evidence that the UK will still continue to be outward facing despite leaving the EU.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid, tweeted about the change to the policy:

                                                                                                                                                  IMAGE: @sajidjavid

Whilst in office as Home Secretary, Javid attempted to make changes to the visa but was blocked by the Prime Minister at the time, Theresa May.

The new visa will be available to international students starting higher education courses in 2020. There will be no cap on the number of students who can apply for the visa, nor will there be any limitations to types of courses available to study on the visa.

However, while this is clearly a brilliant step towards more diversity in UK universities and allows international students more time to secure work in the UK post-graduation, the fact that it is only available to students starting higher education from 2020 leaves the current 450,000 international students studying in the UK on the old visa, which only permits them four months to search for jobs after graduating.

Johnson’s change to the policy has also been criticised by people such as Alp Mehmet (former British diplomat, and current chair of Migration Watch UK), who said that Johnson’s change to the policy was ‘unwise’, he further stated that:

"Our universities are attracting a record number of overseas students, so there is no need to devalue a study visa by turning it into a backdoor route for working here.”

Regardless of the criticism, the move by Johnson is gaining more praise than disapproval; Boris Johnson’s brother, Jo Johnson, who recently resigned as MP out of disagreement with his Brother, showed his support of the new visa in this tweet:

                                                                                                                                           IMAGE: @JoJohnsonUK

Despite the chaos of Brexit negotiations, it seems as though this change to immigration
policy is a welcomed one across the political spectrum.

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