Foreign students will be banned from working in the UK while they study and will be forced to leave the country as soon as they finish their course under tough new rules unveiled by Theresa May, the Home Secretary.
The move, which was confirmed by the Home Office this morning, is designed to crack down on visa fraud in the UK.
The new rules will only apply to non-EU students, who accounted for 121,000 immigrants last year. Only 51,000 of those foreign students left the UK, leaving a net influx of 70,000 and Mrs May pointed to these figures to defend her efforts for the stricter rules.
She hopes to stop immigrants using colleges as a "back door to a British visa" and has banned 870 "bogus colleges" from accepting foreign students.
The plans will be presented to MPs next week. If approved, students from outside the EU will have to leave the UK before applying for a work visa if they want to return to the country.
James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, said the rules would "stop immigration cheats abusing publicly-funded colleges".
"Immigration offenders want to sell illegal access to the UK jobs market - and there are plenty of people willing to buy," he said. "Hardworking taxpayers who are helping to pay for publicly-funded colleges expect them to be providing top-class education, not a back door to a British work visa.
"Our reforms, which include introducing English language testing, removing sponsorship rights from hundreds of bogus colleges, and restricting students' access to the jobs market, are all of our plan to control immigration for the benefit of Britain."
Academics have criticised Mrs May’s clampdown on foreign students staying in the UK and said it would starve Britain of both money and talent.
Professor Paul Webley, director of Soas university, said: “International students bring money and - if they stay - talent to the UK that the country would not otherwise attract. All British Universities, including SOAS, have good systems for ensuring compliance with the student visa system. From our experience, students who stay on after they finish their studies develop very strong links with the UK, and so have an understanding of and affinity for the UK that is of great long term benefit for the country.”
Meanwhile Mostafa Rafaai, NUS International Students Officer, said it was “the latest in a long line of attacks handed down to international students by the government”.
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