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Visas and Cultural Relations

January 28, 2011

I’ve commented before on the impact of US visa requirements on the experience of the US so it only seems fair to share this about UK visas.

For the last few years international students who come to the UK and successfully complete their studies have been eligible for Post-Study Work Visas (PSWV)  that allow them to work in the UK for two years.  During the election campaign last year the Conservatives promised to clamp down on immigration into the UK and now the PSWV is under review.  From the point of view of the average UK citizen this is completely invisible as an issue.  From the perspective of an Indian student contemplating coming to the UK this is a highly salient issue.  During my trip to India last week I was asked about the situation several times  but as it’s still out for consultation there wasn’t much I could say.  I was warned that the consequence of the uncertainty was a falling off of applications to UK universities and greater interest in going to other countries to study.

For readers of this blog the implications of this are pretty obvious.  Visa restrictions limit the ability of UK Universities to recruit international students.  International students are an important element of relationship building so restricting the number of students reduces UK soft power directly but also potentially indirectly by weakening the higher education sector.

We can also see differential attention at work.  Comments by the immigration minister Damian Green on the abuse of student visas were a one news cycle story in the UK but have taken on a life of their own among students contemplating coming the to the UK.  It may be that there are good reasons for a change in the visa regime but officials involved have to recognize the PD consequences and craft their decisions and communications with this in mind.

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