21 May 2015 #Immigration
A report published this week by London First and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) claims to quantify, for the first time, the positive effect of London’s 67,000 non-EU international students. As well as analysing the financial contribution that these students currently make to the economy, the report also contains suggestions for future Governments about how to maximise their beneficial impact both during and after study.
Working while studying
Students from outside the European Economic Area (“EEA”) who are studying in the UK will generally have a Tier 4 (General) student visa. This allows them to work up to 20 hours a week during term time and full-time during holidays. The results of a survey by London First and PwC of current students and university alumni indicates that around 24% of international students worked while studying. The majority worked in the ‘education and cultural activities’, ‘hospitality, hotels, catering and other services’ and ‘retail and related services’ sectors. They worked, on average, 11 hours per week during term time and 15 hours per week during holidays and earned an average of £7.80 per hour.
25% of international students questioned as part of the survey said that, at the start of their studies, they intended to remain in the UK after graduating, yet only 12% actually remained in the UK when their studies came to an end. The vast majority said that they found it difficult to secure work in the UK after completing their studies. The report calls for future Governments to “create an environment where British-educated overseas talent is valued as an asset rather than treated as a liability” and suggests that the Government should make it easier for international students to work in the UK after graduation.
Currently, students on a Tier 4 (General) student visa can apply to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa inside the UK, which enables them to work in the UK for up to 6 years and apply for settlement. Their prospective employer is not required to meet the usual ‘resident labour market test’ - their job does not have to be advertised for 28 days before they can be sponsored.
These special provisions simplify the process for both employers and applicants who wish to continue working in the UK after study. However, students applying to switch to a Tier 2 (General) visa will still need to have an offer of a sufficiently ‘skilled’ job and be sponsored by a licensed sponsor. The job must also pay £20,800 or more, and must meet the minimum appropriate salary rates set out in the UKVI Standard Occupational Classification Codes – a potentially high bar given that the report by London First and PwC found that the average international student earns a salary of £19,000 per-annum after graduation.
Opportunities for employers
The report identifies numerous economic benefits that non-EEA international students bring to the UK, including the contribution they can make to the labour market. UK businesses can employ students with Tier 4 (General) visas, and can take advantage of a high number of skilled non-EEA graduates who can be employed after study on a Tier 2 (General) visa.
At Clarkslegal we’ll give you the tools your business needs to navigate the visa application process. We can help you to obtain a sponsor licence, where necessary, and support you and your employees to switch from a student Tier 4 (General) visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa. Get in touch with our immigration team for more information.