As the U.K. continues to lurch towards leaving the European Union, various groups of migrants wait to see what their opportunities to stay in the country will be.
The new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sent mixed signals on migration policy post-Brexit, distracted perhaps by the larger issue of what kind of Brexit the country will end up with. But the minister directly responsible for immigration, Home Office secretary Priti Patel, has made it quite clear the priority is not about making migrants feel comfortable.
One group that are seeing some consideration, however, is international students. Announced on 11th September, a new immigration route will allow international students to remain in the country up to two years after graduation in order to find work. This is a big change from former Home Secretary (and also Boris Johnson’s direct predecessor as Prime Minister) Theresa May’s immigration regime which only allowed four months after graduation.
Home Secretary Patel said: “The new Graduate Route will mean talented international students, whether in science and maths or technology and engineering, can study in the U.K. and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers. It demonstrates our global outlook and will ensure that we continue to attract the best and brightest.”
The best and brightest are indeed a high priority for the U.K., particularly in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Research from STEM learning, which advises schools and universities on STEM education, has shown the country is suffering serious skills shortages in those sectors, with hundreds of thousands of empty positions and the expectation of demand only growing.
The announcement of a more generous visa deal for graduate students is a show of the government’s priorities in Prime Minister Johnson’s vision of a post-Brexit “Global Britain”. It’s a Britain still attractive to those in prestige industries such as STEM and finance. But while the graduate student visa is a step welcomed by many as useful, there are also plenty of other less prestigious sectors reliant on foreign workers whose statuses are unclear.