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£18,000 fees a year and only months to get a job before having to leave UK

Overseas social work students among those calling for 2021 immigration reform to be brought forward

graduate immigration route social work fees students
Ifeoma Chibeze is among those calling for immediate reform

Professional Social Work magazine - 5 November, 2019

Social work students from overseas are among those calling on the government to immediately introduce immigration reforms giving them more time to find work before having to leave the UK.

A new system will allow graduates to stay for two years to work or look for work after finishing study at degree level or above but it doesn’t come into effect until summer 2021.

The Graduate Immigration Route reverses tighter rules introduced by Theresa May in 2012 that only gave graduates months to stay unless securing employment allowing them a work visa.

Thousands have now signed a parliamentary petition calling on the government to bring the reform forward so it applies now.

Ifeoma Chibeze, a Masters student from Nigeria due to graduate from the University of Manchester next year, is concerned she won’t have enough time to secure employment. She said: “The pressure of finding a job, going through the recruitment process, getting someone to sponsor you and the visa application process is immense and a few months isn’t enough time.

“I think it is very unfair that we don’t have as much chance as everyone else who will have all the time they need. International fees are £18,000 a year and that is before anything else so we have contributed to the economy.

“I want to go into child and families social work and possibly focus on child protection where there is a shortage of social workers. I was hoping something would happen to bring the changes in earlier.”

The petition on the government website has so far attracted more than 30,000 signatures. Reaching 100,000 signatures will spark a debate in parliament.

The Home Office’s response to the petition, however, indicates it does not intent to change course. It said: “Those who graduate and whose leave expires before the route is introduced will not be eligible for the Graduate route.

“The vast majority of these students will have commenced their course prior to the announcement of the new route and therefore had no expectation of benefiting from such a route when they applied to study in the UK.”

Erin King, a lecturer in social work at the University of Manchester, said she sympathised with the frustration of students like Ifeoma graduating before the 2021 reform.

“She has made this huge commitment of becoming a social worker so she can practice here and there is a situation where we may lose a potential practitioner.

“It seems counter-productive when there is a shortage in the sector. I can understand why students like Ifeoma are raising this and saying what about us who are going to be qualified before 2021 who can fill a space in a social work team?”

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers