The United Kingdom became the first country to legally and constitutionally leave the European Union at the end of January 2021, commencing an 11-month transition period to negotiate a deal before December 2020. Days before the end of this period, a deal was struck with a new agreement that came to force beginning this year.
Beginning January 1, the UK left the EU Single Market and Customs Union, all bloc policies and multilateral agreements stopping the free movement of goods, people, services and making them two separate market entities.
As the UK continues to remain a popular destination for overseas education among Indian students, The Indian Express talked to Dattatraya Kadikar, an immigration expert and founder of HSMP Services UK, on how Brexit will affect education and work opportunities for Indians aspiring to go to the country.
Experts from the interview:
How has the likelihood of getting student visas / work visas changed after Brexit?
This is a very important question for students and skilled workers from India. However, Brexit and the UK’s new Immigration Rules will present more opportunities for UK students and work visas for Indians.
The new post Brexit Immigration Rules include important changes. The Graduate Route (similar to the old post-study work visa) will now allow two years unsponsored stay in the UK after completing a bachelor’s or three years after completing a Phd. This time will allow students to gain international experience and career prospects and ensure a smooth transition to skilled worker visas in the UK.
The work visa route, which replaced Tier 2 General Visa, will also offer better opportunities to IT, Healthcare, Legal and R&D professionals from India. There will be better opportunities as the salary thresholds are lowered and the annual cap is removed.
Will Brexit impact the student fees for international students?
As of now, we do not think there will be any increases in fees for international students. The UK has opted out of the Erasmus Programme with the EU for student exchange but has announced a new £100 million fund to help UK students study overseas.
Has Brexit impacted the popularity of the UK as a study destination for Indian students? Consequently, has it increased the demand to study in other popular destinations like Canada or the United States?
Students from India will have better opportunities for studies in the UK and the country continues to be a very attractive destination for international students too. If you look at the statistics, around 250,000 to 300,000 students come to the UK every year, from all over the world, for higher education. As per the Government statistics, during the year ending March 2020, a total of 257,000 international students arrived in the UK for formal study. This compares well to 2018, when a total of 2.9 million visas were granted, out of which 8% i.e. 232,000 were for long-term studies.
I am not sure if Brexit has impacted the students’ choice to go to other countries instead of the UK. However, announcing the Graduate Route will definitely have a positive impact on increasing the footfall of international students in 2021.
Has Brexit created more job opportunities for Indians going to the UK, and in what sectors?
The free movement with the EU has ended so the workers from the EU cannot walk in to work in the UK, they will need to have the same sponsorship and visas as required by skilled workers from India.
Till the UK was part of the EU, anyone could come to the UK and start working as they did not need to meet the minimum salary levels of knowledge of the English language.
After Brexit, all the EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals are now in the same position as other non-EEA nationals. This means they do not have the right to free movement and they will need to get the visa, pay the visa fees and other immigration surcharges in the same way as applicants from India.This puts Indian workers on the same level of UK immigration with EU citizens.
How is Brexit likely to impact Indians already working in the UK?
Brexit will not have any adverse impact on Indians already working in the UK. However, there is one change in the UK immigration rules that will offer the exciting possibility of settling permanently in the UK.
Thousands of Indian workers, who are in the UK under Tier 2 Intra-company transfer could not switch to Tier 2 General or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain i.e. Permanent Settlement, can now switch to skilled worker visa and settle permanently.
Many British employers do not offer jobs to international students, despite them having a work permit. Any particular reasons behind this?
In the pre-Brexit era, British employers were reluctant to be on the Sponsor Register which meant added duties of immigration compliance. Having said that most UK employers have set recruitment processes involving 5-6 steps for skilled jobs and so long as students work hard to pass this process, they get good employment opportunities.
I would like to clarify the legal requirements here. The British employers must sponsor the skilled workers and monitor them so if the employee does not report for work, the employer is responsible to inform the Home Office and cancel the Certificate of Sponsorship. The civil penalties are very high in case of default.
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On the other hand, International students can work a fixed number of hours during term time and full-time work is allowed during the off-term time and they do not need any separate work permit from the employers. If one wants to gain entry and work in the UK, one must understand the recruitment system, work ethics and different steps involved to succeed.
Will Brexit in any way impact economic opportunities for Indian job seekers in the rest of Europe?
Brexit has opened up opportunities not only for Indian students and skilled workforce but also for Indian businesses. In the same way, there will be better opportunities for Indian students and workers in EU and EEA countries.
Do you think it will take more time to fully understand the impact of this transition on Indian students/ professionals in the UK?
On the contrary, the UK Government has demonstrated an urgency to implement the changes by launching a new student route in October 2020 and a skilled worker route from 1 December 2020 , ahead of the announced date of January 1, 2021, to ensure that the Home Office, employers, and education providers hit the ground running.