Reports have been swirling in recent weeks of a further immigration crackdown in the UK. Immigration remains a hot political question in British politics. In the wake of the 23 June “Brexit” referendum on European Union membership, Prime Minister Theresa May has reinforced her government’s commitment to reduce net migration to the UK to 100,000 people per year, from current levels of roughly 330,000 annually.
Prime Minister May reportedly remains committed to tighter visa controls, and to the view that the country’s higher education institutions have become a route into the UK for economic migrants. The Home Office has claimed in the past that as many as one in five foreign students overstays their visas currently, and continues to live in Britain after the conclusion of their studies.
International student visa policy has been specifically targeted for further review as the British government reinforces its commitment to reduce net migration by more than two-thirds of current levels
Early speculation has it that among the options under consideration with respect to student visas are:
- constraints on how universities may market post-study work options in the UK;
- new measures to ensure that students do not overstay their visas and return to their home countries at the end of their studies; and
- tighter controls for students applying to attend lower-ranking institutions.
The actual scope and decisions arising from the review remain to be seen.
In a related development, a recent study estimates the economic impact of declining international enrolment at US$1.5 billion to date, and projects total losses in excess of US$10.5 billion by 2016/17.