Tier 1 Post-Study Work visa is dead - or is it?
02 July 2019
Over the last few years there has been a significant tightening of the UK immigration rules. More onerous requirements have been introduced into the rules for family visas, points-based system visas and a few others.
And in some cases - Tier 1 General and Tier 1 Post-Study Work spring particularly to mind - visa schemes have been abolished altogether and not replaced with anything else.
It rather looked as though the Government was trying to limit immigration in every way it possibly could, on the basis of its view that there were too many migrants coming to the UK - not that these efforts have been notably successful, but that is a different story.
In any event, the closure of the Tier 1 Post-Study Work visa scheme in 2012 caused a bit of an upset. This was a visa that was granted for two years to students who had successfully graduated in the UK. It allowed them to search for work and to work if they could find it.
As the Home Office’s policy guidance explained: "This category provides a bridge to highly skilled or skilled work." But as it also explained: "Individuals with Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) leave will be expected to switch into another part of the points based system as soon as they are able to do so."
This latter item is what we might call "soft law". It is not a law, or even a rule: it is just an expectation.
But, according to the Home Office at the time, it was an expectation that was not being satisfied. They claimed that a lot of students were taking low-level jobs that did not reflect their academic background. The Post-Study Work visa was, they said, in many cases just being used by students as a way of staying in the UK for an extra couple of years, rather than to build a good career. And thus - and against the background of ever-tightening visa rules - it was abolished.
And because of this there are now relatively limited options for Tier 4 students who have successfully graduated. A switch to a Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa is legally possible but in many cases very difficult: often employers are looking for skilled and experienced employees rather than fresh graduates. The visa rules allow Tier 4 Students to stay on in the UK for a few months after completion of their course but that is all.
So it can often happen that a successful Tier 4 Student has to return home when their study visa expires. Some would no doubt like to stay on in the UK and make a career but they cannot find a route.
However, it may be that the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is sympathetic to students in this kind of situation, and it may also be that he perceives that the interests of the UK are not best served by these rules.
He is recently on record as saying: "If they’re coming here, studying in our great universities, if they want to work afterwards we should make it easier for them to stay and work, and not say, you’ve got to go back home, just for the sake of it. We need a more positive attitude to this."
And as he also puts it: "It makes no sense to send some of the brightest and most enterprising people in the world straight home after their time here."
This sounds very encouraging. But, you might ask, bearing in mind that he is the Home Secretary and thus the Boss of the Home Office, cannot he just change the law? Well, like most things in British politics it is a bit complicated. Senior ministers such as the Home Secretary have to have the Prime Minister on their side and Theresa May was notably very difficult about immigration.
However, we will very soon have a new Prime Minister who might well take a different view. So it may be that at some point in the future we will see a resurrection of something like the Tier 1 Post-Study Work visa.
There is - as previously identified by the Home Office - always the potential problem of students just taking on low-level jobs and not building a career. And this of course does not notably help the UK economy. To be fair, it is not always their fault; it is not always easy to find the right job. But perhaps a sophisticated visa scheme could ameliorate issues of this kind.
We shall have to wait to see what happens but, in the meantime, if you are looking to switch from student to worker you might want to seek good immigration advice. There are not as many options as previously and it has thus become a relatively difficult area but there are still a few.