London: Britain on Saturday eased immigration rules for a section of foreign students, including Indians, who wish to stay and work in the country, in a bid to attract the "brightest and the best" global talent. The Home Office has announced a series of reforms which came into force on Saturday to encourage the "brightest and the best to come to the UK".
Changes to the "Graduate Entrepreneur Programme" will allow up to 1,000 international graduates with masters degrees in business administration to stay on in Britain to work for 12 months after they finish their course. All graduate students who now complete a PhD will also be allowed to stay in Britain for a further year to find skilled work or set up as an entrepreneur.
"We are building an immigration system which works in the national interest, supporting the UK economy by continuing to attract the brightest and the best global talent, at the same time as protecting our public services and taking a robust approach against those who want to come to the UK simply to exploit our welfare system," immigration minister Mark Harper said in reference to the reforms.
The new rules follow ongoing criticism over tougher student visa norms putting off foreign students from applying to study in Britain. The number of students coming from India to study at UK universities registered a fall of nearly 23.5 per cent last year, including a 28 per cent drop at post-graduate level. It had led to calls to UK home secretary Theresa May to ease restrictions on the post-study work programme that had previously allowed them to stay on and work in the country for two years after their degree.
May had also been under increasing pressure from the business community in Britain, including Cabinet colleague and business secretary Vince Cable, over stringent visa norms for international entrepreneurs and professionals. As part of the new regulations, the Home Office also moved to scrap an English test for senior business executives who come on intra-company transfers and earn more than 152,100 pounds a year and want to extend their time in Britain.
Highly paid foreign skilled workers, who also earn more than 152,100 pounds, will be able to take up another job in Britain without having to wait 12 months between postings. The Home Office announcement also confirmed that the Conservative party led coalition government's cap on skilled workers with a job offer coming to Britain through Tier 2 of the points-based system would be permanently set at 20,700, which had been designed as annually renewable and was a major election plank for the Tories.
There has been a recent rise in anti-immigration rhetoric among all major political parties in the face of what is perceived as a growing threat from the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP). The last set of net migration figures for the UK published in February showed numbers down 84,000 or by one-third in 2011-12 compared with the previous year. The main source of the falls was attributed to a decline of more than 60 per cent in the number of overseas students coming to Britain to study at further education colleges and English language colleges.