The UK Government has been urged to reform visa rules for non-EU students in Scotland who wish to work in the UK after their studies.
A new report by the Scottish Affairs Committee shows that current rules are too restrictive and are preventing businesses from finding skilled workers.
Scotland faces different demographic challenges to the rest of the UK, with a much lower birth rate and significant skills gaps in the workforce. Sectors, such as health, energy and finance face particular problems in recruiting skilled graduate workers.
The Committee found that the closure of the Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) visa in 2012 seriously harmed Scotland by making it less competitive in the global education market.
Unlike other nations, Scotland doesn’t offer prospective students greater employment opportunities after graduation.
The report also confirmed that closing the Tier 1 visa prevented Scotland from making use of a pool of skilled workers, educated in Scotland, who could help mitigate Scotland’s demographic challenges. Since the Post-Study Work visa was closed in 2012 the number of non-EU students remaining in the UK after graduating has fallen by 80%.
Non-EU students have a very short time to find a job after graduation but the minimum salary thresholds are too high to make the current visa arrangements suitable for Scotland, the Committee was told.
The costly and complex sponsorship requirements currently in place are putting off businesses.
The Committee asked the UK Government to consider extending the length of student visa to allow a longer period after graduation for students to find work.
It has also recommended reforming sponsorship rules to make it easier for businesses to employee non-EU graduates.
Committee chair Pete Wishart said: “We currently have a situation where people come to Scotland from around the world to spend three or four years here being educated and becoming settled in our society. Then we raise unnecessary barriers to allowing these talented individuals stay and contribute to our economy.
“The Scottish government, education sector and business sectors have all indicated that they want to see changes to this situation. There has been an almost universal call for reform and the UK government must give assurance that it will take this into account and give proper consideration to reforms.”