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Home Secretary asks Migration Advisory Committee to carry out review of Graduate visa route


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Three months after first announcing it, the Home Secretary has officially asked the Migration Advisory Committee to carry out a review of the Graduate immigration route. The letter from the Home Secretary to the Chair of the committee said that the review may cover the following areas:

  1. Any evidence of abuse of the route including the route not being fit for purpose.
  2. Who is using the route and from what universities they graduated.
  3. Demographics and trends for students accessing a study visa and subsequently accessing the UK labour market by means of the Graduate route.
  4. What individuals do during and after their time on the graduate route and whether students who progress to the Graduate route are contributing to the economy.
  5. Analysis of whether the Graduate route is undermining the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system, including understanding how the Graduate route is or is not, effectively controlling for the quality of international students, such that it is genuinely supporting the UK to attract and retain the brightest and the best, contributing to economic growth and benefitting British higher education and soft power – in the context of the Government’s wider International Education Strategy.

As we have said previously, the government’s definition of abuse here appears to be people “making an application in line with the immigration rules”.

The committee was also directed to include Sir Steve Smith, the Government’s International Education Champion in their work. The committee has been asked to report by 14 May 2024.

The Chair of the committee has responded to the Home Secretary stating that because of the short timescale provided they will be unable to conduct a call for evidence. The Chair commented that it had taken the government longer to commission them than they have been given to actually carry out the review. Given the short timescale, the Chair asked for the following from the Home Secretary:

  • Home Office data of all those on the Graduate Route since its inception to current date, linked to their confirmation of acceptance of studies;
  • Home Office data of all those on the Graduate Route, linked to any visas moved onto after that point (such as Skilled Worker Route) since its inception to current date. Visa information should include employment information where relevant;
  • Home Office visa data linked to HMRC records, for all financial years available with an agreement for us to conduct independent analysis of this data and publish without Ministerial clearance. This is the only source that will provide a comprehensive picture on whether those on the Graduate Route are in work and if so what types of roles they are doing, needed to assess the economic impacts of the route. Without this we will be unable to respond to some of the questions set out in the commissioning letter.

The Chair asked for the above by 26 March and said that any delays in receiving it will delay publication of the report.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.