Group publishes proposal for reintroduction.
Reintroducing a post study work route would benefit Scotland and a pragmatic solution can be found, a cross party steering group has found.
In a report published today, the Cross Party Steering Group on Post Study Work, which includes representatives from all major political parties, business and education, argue for a partnership approach to the visas.
The report sets out ten practical recommendations for the reintroduction of a post study route, covering who should qualify for the visas and the conditions they should meet.
The Scottish Government has been campaigning for a return of the visa, which allowed international students from outside the EU to remain in Scotland and work after graduation.
The call has been backed by businesses, colleges and universities, and support from every political party represented in the Scottish Parliament, all arguing that international graduates should have the opportunity to stay in Scotland after their studies to work and contribute to society.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf said:
"The report we are publishing today lays out a clear and practical path to allow talented graduates to remain in Scotland after graduation, and has been agreed by all political parties represented in the Scottish Parliament, as well as representatives from industry and academia.
"The group has representatives from throughout civic Scotland and has carefully considered the implications and benefits of the reintroduction of a post work study route.
"Our recommendations introduce a reasonable degree of flexibility, while maintaining rigorous checks and balances.
"Scotland's immigration needs are different to those of the rest of the UK and the return of the post study work visa would be an important economic lever of great benefit to Scotland. Allowing talented students to remain in Scotland after graduation will help us grow our working age population and support and strengthen our economy.
"The Scottish Government has been calling for the return of the post study visa over a period of years now and we have overwhelming support for this issue in Scotland, across all major political parties, industry and throughout academia.
"Despite this, the UK Government has failed to positively and meaningfully engage with us on this issue, to take Scotland's needs into account, and to deliver on the Smith Commission recommendation in this area.
"This report makes a clear case for return of the visas – and I hope the UK Government will consider its recommendations seriously.
"I have invited UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire to Scotland to hear from businesses, academic institutions and political representatives to hear the case on why a Post Study Work route is needed."
Maulin Buch, 28, from Mumbai, India, stayed in Scotland after completing his degree using a Post Study Work Visa, and is still employed here.
"I came to study a Masters degree in Strategic Marketing at Glasgow University in 2010, leaving my home in Mumbai, India, and everyone I knew and loved behind me. It was not an easy decision.
"At the end of my studies, I was granted leave to remain in Scotland for two years under a former post-study work visa scheme before it was abolished by the UK Government. I now work as a business development executive with responsibility for marketing at Retronix , an international electronic component alloy conversion and re-tinning company based in Coatbridge.
"When I was planning to study far away from home it was hugely important that I felt able to forecast what might happen after university. Studying overseas is a big and expensive decision for a foreign student, and we need to know before we invest in a country of study whether there are likely to be opportunities to develop our skills further and find work in that country when our studies are complete. Otherwise it becomes difficult to justify the cost and effort.
"Studying far away from home is not an easy or inexpensive decision. Along with Glasgow University's international reputation, the post-study work visa scheme that used to be in place in Scotland, was a significant part of my decision to come here. While at university I met students from Bangladesh, China and Sri Lanka – and many of them cited the post-study work visa as an important part of their decision too.
"I understand that it's necessary for any country to have controlled migration, but the decision to abolish the post-study work visa was ill-thought-through. As the declining numbers of students from India show, fewer people like me are choosing to come here. The decision to remove the post-study work visa is harming healthy migration, and I support the calls for its reintroduction – which would benefit the Scottish economy, business and education sectors and Scotland's international reputation overall.
"Thankfully, my experience in Scotland has been an extremely positive one. I have been here for four years now and Scotland and I have been good to each other. I have contributed to the economy through the payment of my course fees, and have paid tax from day one of employment. As a non-EU national, I am not eligible for any form of welfare, housing or job-seeking benefits. Simply by living and working in Scotland, I contribute to the economy every day, and I expect that over my four years of calling Scotland home, my contribution has not been insignificant.
"Moreover – and perhaps most importantly - I have had the pleasure of meeting the most lovely and welcoming people ever. I have made many friends here and do not for a moment feel homesick or uninvited. Scotland and its people make me feel right at home."
The ten recommendations made in the report are:
- A flexible post study work route would benefit Scotland. A pragmatic solution can be found through partnership working between the UK Government, the Scottish Government and Scottish stakeholders.
- People who have completed an HNC, HND, degree or post-graduate qualification at a Scottish institution should be eligible for a post study work visa.
- During the course of the post study work visa people should transition onto a job at the same level as their qualification. However, the visa should also provide flexibility to take up other job opportunities in the transitional phase.
- Post study work visas should last at least two years.
- People on post study work visas should have some savings to tide them over in a crisis. But they should be able to spend these savings when they need to without losing their visa.
- A recognised qualification following education at a Further or Higher Education Institution should suffice without additional sponsorship.
- Time spent in Scotland on a post study work visa should count towards being able to stay permanently in Scotland after five years.
- Partners and older children of people on post study work visas should be able to work in Scotland, if they want to, as per current immigration guidelines.
- People on post study work visas will already have excellent English language skills to have completed their qualification; no additional English language requirement would be needed.
- A new post study work visa should be formally evaluated. It should then be changed if the evaluation finds ways to improve it.
You can read the full report here: http://www.gov.scot/poststudyworksteeringgroupreport
The Cross Party Steering Group was established in June 2015 and is chaired by Humza Yousaf. Members are:
• Liz Smith MSP (Conservative)
• Liam McArthur MSP (Liberal Democrat)
• Claire Baker MSP (Labour)
• John Finnie MSP (on behalf of the Green Party)
• Institute of Directors (IoD)
• Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI)
• Colleges Scotland
• National Union of Students (NUS Scotland)
• Scottish Universities International Group (SUIG)
• Universities Scotland
• UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)
• Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC)
• Scottish Chambers of Commerce.