Scotland politics

Call for overseas graduate work visa for Scotland

Image caption The post-study work visa was closed in 2012

Students from outside Europe should be given special permission to stay and work in Scotland after their studies have finished, according to a report.

The Scottish government's Post-Study Work group said the work visa, which was abolished by the UK government in 2012, should be reintroduced.

A Home Office spokesman said the system had been open to "widespread abuse".

But the Post-Study Work group said there was "overwhelming" support for its re-introduction in Scotland.

The post-study work visa had allowed non-EU graduates to remain in the UK for two years.

Under the current rules, students from outside the EU are allowed to stay in Britain for four months at the end of their courses and if they get graduate jobs they can switch from student visas to work visas.

Graduate jobs

In December, Home Secretary Theresa May gave her backing to a plan that would require all foreign students to leave the country at the end of their courses.

Mrs May believes the current rules are being abused, with many students staying in the country illegally after their studies.

The plan put forward by the Conservatives would require anyone whose student visa expires to leave the country and re-apply if they want to continue their studies or take up graduate jobs.

But Scottish Europe and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf said the Post-Study Work group report showed there was a "clear indication that business and education in Scotland are equally keen to see the reintroduction of post-study work visas."

He added: "Immigration policy is currently too heavily influenced by the priorities of the south east of England, based on the values of the current UK government and driven by a desire to reduce the numbers of incoming migrants which does not recognise Scotland's needs and does not serve our economic or societal interests.

"Scotland's needs are different to those in the rest of the UK. Scotland has a large, established migrant community and the Scottish government welcomes the contribution new Scots are making to our economy and society."

Negative impact

Mr Yousaf said the post-study work visa would help Scotland attract and retain "world-class talent to fill vacancies which cannot be filled by resident workers".

He said the report made clear the negative impact on education institutions, communities and the economy since the scheme was closed in 2012.

The minister said: "We welcome the Smith Commission's view that the UK and Scottish governments should work together to explore a potential new post-study work scheme for Scotland and will make every effort to work with the UK government to ensure that such a route is re-established in Scotland."

A Home Office spokesman said: "The student immigration system we inherited was open to widespread abuse.

"In its place, we are building an immigration system that works in the national interest by attracting the brightest and the best to study and work in top universities and good jobs, not allowing bogus colleges to cheat the rules and letting graduates remain to drive pizza delivery vehicles.

"In fact, we are seeing record numbers of applications to our universities with figures up by almost 18% under this government - and our elite Russell Group institutions are leading the way, showing a 30% rise since this government came to power.

"Britain remains the second most popular destination in the world for international students behind only the US, and has seen significant growth from key countries including China and Malaysia."