Is UK immigration policy smothering our future prosperity?

The UK actively encourages potential students from across the globe, often backed by the hope of employment here upon graduation. The reality, however, for those wishing to secure a longer-term future in the country is often somewhat more bleak.

A photograph of Jessica

Until recently UK Student Visas were relatively easy to secure with proof of a genuine course of study. Restrictions on this have been tightened as of late due to revelations of fake colleges, registration with police, and not claiming benefits.  Under the current guidelines, students are entitled to leave to remain in UK for the duration of further education course and some time afterwards (the exact length of time is dependent on the course). With the recent changes to student visa policy, many are struggling to secure eligibility to remain in the UK for employment after their visa runs out. In order to remain in the UK after the student visa expires, the individual must be salaried to at least £20,300 and be sponsored by their employer. “What I didn’t expect was the salary and sponsorship requirements necessary for my stay in the UK. I had thought that if I found a full time job and filled out the paperwork that I would have no trouble staying” (Jessica, United States). This is a story which rings true for huge numbers of graduates: “Whilst technically it is possible to get a good job and sponsored, the vast majority of internationals will be returning home once their student visa expires” (Kwame, Ghana). Employers must possess a licence to sponsor applicants, and be placed on the central register of sponsors. Consequently, it is much easier to employ those who are already eligible for work in the United Kingdom. “I got the impression there were not many opportunities, especially for internationals. Not only was it hard to find a job, but it was also hard to get a Work Visa to do that job. There has to be a combination of a large salary and a company with the credentials to support your Visa application” (Cassandra, United States) Failing the standard visa sponsorship by employers, some are turning to more drastic measures: “[resorting] to the only available alternative and married their significant others from the UK. For some, it was just

Photograph of Emma

speeding up the inevitable, but for others, it was the only way they had around the system” (Emma, United States) The system, then, must be questioned if graduates resort to such extreme measures to secure permission to remain in the country. The snowballing nature of globalisation means that it is increasingly easier to travel, study and work across the world. We are told that the possibilities for living and working abroad are huge. It is fed to us that these possibilities for each of us are equal. Some, however, are more equal than others. Whilst globalisation affords many of us a much more diverse range of experiences and options, these are not equally available to all. For Westerners, the situation is less dire, with Americans and Canadians as able to obtain visas on the basis of ancestry or other factors. Unfortunately, the story is much less positive for those from the Global South, especially those from Asia and Africa. These individuals have much less ‘global cultural capital’  than their Western counterparts, and as a result are often overlooked in the employment market. This is just one of the many effects of ‘negative globalisation’. Even those looking for part time work under a student visa are much more likely to succeed if they are from the West. “What you get, then, is a large number of highly intelligent, motivated and qualified individuals who are seeking work in the UK after their studies. The likelihood is that they will be unable to secure a visa to remain, even when there has been a hugely positive response to them in the job market, and they have no choice but to leave as residency status becomes the deciding factor” (Buyinza, Uganda) As it becomes increasingly apparent that employment in the UK is highly unlikely, potential students will seek opportunities to study elsewhere with the intention of staying to secure employment. Countries such as Canada – whose policy is much more accepting of post-study immigration, and even offers opportunities for permanent residency after graduation – will see an influx of students wishing to take advantage of employment opportunities in the West. It is likely that these will be the most talented and driven students, who could make a genuine and sustained positive impact on their host economy. At a societal level, such an approach to internationals will foster a climate of xenophobia. The assertion that the UK does not want to accept even the most talented and potentially lucrative individuals on the basis of their nationality alone will certainly prove hugely negative in the search for social cohesion. A relative lack of diversity and understanding could undermine government attempts to create a ‘big society’, empowering individuals and communities. Ultimately, the increasing restrictions upon those wishing to work in the UK after study will be highly detrimental to British society. It is likely, unfortunately, that these restrictions will only increase with time, magnifying the problem. While not seeking to debate as to the benefits or limitations of immigration outside of student visa policy. It seems clear that the problems with the extent of restrictions on employment after study in the UK as this will become increasingly problematic, both for the British economy, society and for its global perception.

Photo of Guest Contributor: Frances Cresswell
Guest Contributor: Frances Cresswell

Frances Cresswell is a recent MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice graduate. She is fascinated by issues around human rights, and social and criminal justice. She is looking to work within these areas in the charity sector. In her free time, she makes lingerie and blogs about rights and justice. Disclaimer:The opinions expressed by the guest writer/blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Link Up (UK) or any employee thereof. Link Up (UK) is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Guest writer/bloggers. This work is the opinion of the blogger. It is not the intention of Link Up (UK) to “malign any religion, ethnic group, minority, club, organization, company, or individual.

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