Visas would meet ‘pent up demand’ of tech sector

A coalition of business, education and student representatives, including ScotlandIS, have called for the reintroduction of post-study work visas in Scotland.

The Post Study Work working group set up by the Scottish Government in August last year has published a report calling for the post study work visa to be reinstated, recommending how such a scheme would operate, and asking the UK and Scottish Governments to work together to secure its timely reintroduction.

The report demonstrates strong recognition from the business and education sectors that international students benefit Scotland’s economy, society and culture.

It outlines overwhelming support from both sectors for allowing international students at Scottish universities and colleges to remain in Scotland to work for a defined period of time on completion of their studies.

ScotlandIS said that reinstating post study work visas would give the software and IT industry access to additional skilled staff to meet the pent up demand the industry is currently facing.

The practicalities of the current UK visa system means the vast majority of international students have to leave Scotland after graduation.

To ensure Scottish businesses are able access more international talent, and Scotland reaps the full and broad benefits from this, the group’s report recommends that international students on higher education courses at Scotland’s colleges and universities should be able to apply for a new visa to remain in Scotland to work for two years after graduation.

The group has also recommended that time spent in Scotland under a post-study work visa should count towards the time required to qualify for permanent stay in the UK (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain).

The report highlights good examples of competitor countries offering post-study work visas for international students, including the United States, Canada and Australia, where post-study work visas have been shown to have positive benefits for students, business, education and providers, and the wider economy.

The group has called for the two governments to work together to achieve this and ensure the timely reintroduction of post-study work visas.

Professor Pete Downes, convener of Universities Scotland, which represents Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions, said: “The case to allow international students to work in Scotland after successfully completing their studies is overwhelming and the benefits Scotland would gain from this extend far beyond our universities to enrich our society, culture and economy.

“As it stands, the UK’s immigration policy is anti-competitive, it is a deterrent to highly-skilled students and staff and it is hurting our universities.

“There has long been cross-party support for a change in policy in Scotland which was reinforced by the Smith Commission’s report and the work of the group sets out a sensible proposal, with wide stakeholder buy-in, that would work for Scotland within the UK. We urge the UK and Scottish Governments to sit down together post-election and make this into policy.”