Britain will offer work visas to graduates of the world’s top universities as part of an expansion of its post-Brexit immigration system designed to attract the “best and brightest” workers.
Since leaving the European Union, Britain has ended the priority given to EU citizens and introduced a points-based immigration system that ranks applicants on everything from their qualifications and language skills to the type of employment offered to them.
But the country has faced a tight labor market for several years – made worse by Brexit and COVID-19 – and companies in the manufacturing, logistics and food sectors have urged the government to ease the rules for entry-level jobs.
Under the program announced on Monday, graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees from the top 50 overseas universities can apply for a two-year work visa and will be allowed to bring family members with them. Those who receive a doctorate can apply for a three-year visa.
Successful applicants will then be able to switch to longer-term work visas, the government said.
Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, said this would allow Britain to develop as an international hub for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
“We want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today – that’s why I’m calling on students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to forge their careers here,” Sunak said.
Under the new program, applicants must have graduated no later than five years prior to the application date.
Eligible universities must appear in the top 50 rankings of at least two of the following rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Academic Ranking of World Universities, and Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings.
The most recent list of eligible universities from 2021, published online by the UK government, includes more than two dozen US universities, as well as institutions in Canada, Japan, Germany, China, Singapore, in France and Sweden.
The government has said applicants must pass a security and crime check and be able to speak, read, listen and write English at an intermediate level.