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Visa Problems result in International Graduate Entrepreneurs shunning the UK

A new study has revealed that the UK is being shun by international graduate entrepreneurs as a business destination because of “impossible visa restrictions”. The study was written in partnership with The Entrepreneurs Network thinktank. It appears amid growing concerns that international students are choosing to study in the US or Australia.

27-11-2014 by Times Higher Education

The National Union of Students conducted a poll which found that although 42 per cent of the 1,600 international graduate students wanted to set up a business after graduation, only 33 per cent wanted to start one in the UK.

According to the report, titled 'Made in the UK: Unlocking the Door to International Entrepreneurs', published on November 27, almost one-third also thought that the processes in place for international students to work once they have finished studying in the UK was worse than other countries.

The report was written in partnership with The Entrepreneurs Network thinktank. It appears amid growing concerns that international students are choosing to study in the US or Australia. Following the abolition in 2012 of the post-study work visa, which allowed graduates to work for two years, opportunities for graduate employment in the UK have become more limited. 

A new visa – the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa – was established in April 2012.  This new visa was meant to allow business-minded graduates to remain in the UK after their studies ended. Yet only 119 such visas were granted in the scheme’s first year.

According to the study, only 2 per of the poll's respondents who said they intend to start a business following graduation actually applied for the UK Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa. Nearly two-thirds stated  that they didn’t consider applying for it.

Shreya Paudel, international students’ officer at the NUS said: “It’s once again saddening to see more research which shows that many international students feel unwelcome in the UK as a result of the government’s hostile and overzealous policies.”

Paudel called for the introduction of a one-year post-study work visa.  He said that the UK “should be celebrating international graduates with entrepreneurial spirit who want to contribute to this country”.

He added: “Instead, many graduates are put off from starting businesses here because of impossible visa restrictions that place them in Catch-22 situations.” 

“It’s absolutely ludicrous to shut out a whole group of people who want to contribute to this country’s economy just to meet a political agenda.” 

The report comes on the day it emerged that net migration to the UK hit 260,000 in the year to June.  This was way off the government’s target, which would have seen it reduced to the “tens of thousands” by May 2015.

The director of The Entrepreneurs Network, Phillip Slater, said that the report shows that the UK visa system “isn’t supporting the entrepreneurial ambitions of international graduates”.

He said: “In its current form, the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa isn’t fit for purpose.” 

“We are training some of the world’s best and brightest young people at our world-class universities, only to push them to set up their businesses overseas.