On 14th March 2013, The UK's immigration minister, Mark Harper, announced changes to the UK's Tier 4 student visa. He announced in the House of Commons that from 6 April 2013, all foreign PhD students with Tier 4 visas will be allowed to stay in the UK for a year after completing their course to work in a skilled occupation or to set up in business as an entrepreneur.
Mr Harper is a member of the UK's Coalition government which has taken steps to reduce immigration into the UK though he was not immigration minister when the government closed the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa route in 2012. The Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa allowed all foreign graduates of UK universities to stay in the UK to work for two years after graduation.
This change to the Tier 4 visa will be seen as a partial U-turn by the government, even though it applies only to PhD students. In a speech in November 2011 the mayor of London Boris Johnson criticised the UK government for closure of the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa route which he said had been 'crazy' and sent out the wrong message to international students who would go and study elsewhere.
Increase in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visasThe UK Border Agency, the UK's main immigration agency, also confirmed an increase in the number of Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas that can be granted each year from 1,000 to 2,000 on 14 March. Mrs May had announced the change in a major speech on immigration in 2012; Mr Harper's announcement confirms that the change is to be made on 6 April.
The 1,000 extra places will be allocated to MBA students only. Applicants will be able to apply from outside the UK for a Graduate Entrepreneur visa.
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