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U.K. Reinstates Two-Year Work Visas For International Students

International students who graduate from UK universities or business schools with a bachelors or a master’s degree — which of course includes MBAs and business-related MAs — will now be allowed to stay in the country for two years after graduation to look for work, the government has announced.

Under the current visa regime, overseas students are only allowed to stay for four months. The new policy marks a return to the situation as it stood until 2012, when the government cut the visa time-limit in order to reduce the number of immigrants in the country. This reversal should make UK business schools even more attractive to overseas students, and ease some of their worries arising from Brexit.

Sajid Javid, the current chancellor, recently told the Financial Times: “It makes no sense to send some of the brightest and most enterprising people in the world straight home after their time here.”


The new policy is welcome news for schools given the barrage of recent headlines about Brexit chaos and uncertainty over the UK’s links with its biggest trading partner, which might be expected to make students think twice about a UK education. 

Despite the Brexit confusion, business schools have so far remained bullish about the impact of Brexit, insisting to Poets and Quants that it has not impacted application numbers. London Business School even says that it had a record number of second-round applications for its full-time MBA this year.

It is understandable that well-known and highly regarded schools such as LBS, The University of Oxford’s Said Business School and Cambridge Judge Business School remain confident that their globally recognised brands mean they can continue to attract talented international students.


However, the UK is home to dozens of smaller schools which in private are nervous that the “Trump Effect”, which has led to a decrease in international students applying to US schools because they do not feel welcome, might be replicated in Brexit Britain. This new visa policy should ease some of the pressure on these schools by reassuring students that they are welcome, and that they will be given a reasonable amount of time to move into the workforce on completion of their degrees. 

Professor David Allen, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of the University of Exeter Business School said, “We welcome this news of a change in student visa policy. We know from our discussions with international candidates that the prospects for work after graduation is a factor when deciding where to study.

“This is especially true of stronger candidates who tend to consider programs in a range of countries, many with more generous post-study visa arrangements. This change in the UK’s student visa rules will allow the University of Exeter Business School and other UK institutions to compete on a more level playing field.”


The Chartered Association of Business Schools, which represents the interests of over 120 UK business schools and other providers of business education, said in a statement, “We’re delighted by government plans to re-introduce the two-year post-study visa for international students. We have pushed for this change for five years. International business students contribute £5.6bn to the UK annually and are a positive part of our schools and universities.”

The new policy chimes with the UK’s pro-Brexit government, which has said that it wants to reduce unskilled immigration but open the doors to the “brightest and best”. It aims to increase the number of international students in UK universities from 460,000 to 600,000 over the coming decade. 

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.