Home Office figures show that far fewer students overstay their visas than previously thought. But shouldn't we be encouraging talented young people to remain in the UK?by Steve Bloomfield / August 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
Another of the myths spread by anti-immigration campaigners has been torn apart: international students are not overstaying their visas, as Theresa May claimed in 2015. In a speech to Conservative Party conference, the then Home Secretary said she didn’t care what “lobbyists” were saying. “The fact is,” she said, “too many students are not returning home as soon as their visas run out.”
The fact is, she was wrong. New figures released by the Home Office reveal that of the 181,024 students granted study visas, 176,407 of them—that’s 97.4 per cent—had left the UK by the time their visa had expired.
Given that the government had previously claimed as many as 100,000 international students had overstayed their visa this is something of a victory for those hoping for a fact-based debate on immigration. But we should be in no doubt: this is a disaster for British society and the country’s economy.
Those 176,407 people had come to Britain to study and improve their prospects. They are the highly-skilled, the best and the brightest. They chose Britain above America, Australia and a host of European Union nations with outstanding universities. Many of them will have put down roots here, made friends, perhaps found partners and become members of their local community. Why, then, once they have completed their studies, and acquired new skills, do we want them to leave? Rather than encouraging them to stay, we are desperate to show them the door.
Just think of what we’re losing. They are doctors who will now practice in Sydney, scientists who will now make new discoveries in Munich, entrepreneurs who will start-up in Amsterdam. They are tax-paying members of a local community who in 10 years’ time will be a school governor in Lyon not Liverpool, coach the under-13 netball team in Warsaw not Wigan, water the plants of a next-door neighbour in Baltimore not Birmingham.
The government’s eagerness for international graduates to leave is the natural conclusion to an immigration policy that sees students from overseas as something to be curtailed rather than encouraged. As the government cannot prevent workers from elsewhere in the EU coming to the UK, they have sought to crack down on other groups of migrants. International students have been targeted, much to the…