New Delhi: It has been reported that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering stringent restrictions on the post-study visa scheme, a development that could have a substantial effect on Indian students studying in the UK. Currently, this scheme permits international graduates—many of whom are from India—to stay and work in the UK for a maximum of two years following the completion of their degree. The intended modifications are a part of an attempt to lower skyrocketing legal immigration rates. However, a report by the newspaper “The Observer” claims that there is strong opposition to this move even within Sunak’s own cabinet.

Since the Graduate Route program’s launch in 2021, Indian students have benefited the most. There has been a revolt within the Cabinet over the possible cancellation of this plan, with multiple ministers being against it.

Downing Street is reportedly considering “further restricting or even ending” the route, despite the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) assertion that the scheme should be maintained since it was not being abused. Given that 42% of all visa grants between 2021 and 2023 went to Indian students, this choice may have a big effect on them.

Sunak Faces Revolt Over Graduate Route Visa Own Cabinet

Leading the opposition in the Cabinet are Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. They, along with university and business leaders, have warned that reducing the post-study offer will make the UK less appealing to international students including Indians.

“University education is one of our most successful exports. Attracting international students boosts local economies, and losing competitiveness jeopardizes support for undergraduate teaching and innovation, according to John Foster, Chief Policy and Campaigns Officer for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

“With the MAC finding that the Graduate Visa is achieving the government’s own policy objectives and is not being abused, it’s time to put its future beyond doubt and end this period of damaging speculation,” he stated. Universities UK (UUK), the leading representative body for UK universities, has also urged the government to end the “toxic” uncertainty created by its decision to review the visa route.

“We hope and expect that the government now listens to the advice they have been given and provides categorical reassurance that the Graduate visa is here to stay,” Vivienne Stern, chief executive of UUK, said. According to MAC Chair Professor Brian Bell, who completed the rapid review of the scheme earlier this week, “our evidence suggests that it’s the Indian students that will be most affected by any restriction on the Graduate Route”.

Indians Account For 42% Of Overall Visa Grants

The influential committee that advises the UK government on migration discovered that Indians accounted for 89,200 visas between 2021 and 2023, or 42% of total grants, with the visa cited as the “overwhelming decision point” in their choice of a higher education destination.

“The uncertainty created by the review has been chaotic. We urge the government to accept the MAC’s findings and keep the Graduate Route as a stable and permanent fixture in the UK’s immigration system,” said Vignesh Karthik of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union ( NISAU UK.

In a general election year expected in the coming months, the Sunak-led government sees reducing high legal and illegal migration figures as a priority, and with the most recent set of quarterly immigration statistics due next week, further restrictions are on the way.