The United Kingdom on Wednesday loosened immigration rules for international students to let them stay in the country for two years after graduation to find a job, BBC reported. It will apply to students pursuing undergraduate degrees or above from the next academic year.

The new proposals reverse the 2012 decision of then Home Secretary Theresa May to get overseas students to leave the UK four months after finishing their degree.

The visa reforms of May had led to a major drop in the number of Indian students visiting the UK for a degree. Before the restrictions were put in place, Indian students used the two-year period to gain employment and recover some of the money spent studying in the country. However, there were allegations of the rules being abused by Indian students in fake colleges, which have since been closed, Hindustan Times reported.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said the move was “about time”, and added that the government “should have reversed this silly policy years ago”. “Britain should always be open to the best talent from across the world,” he tweeted.

Former Universities Minister Jo Johnson, who is also Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s brother, said a cross-party campaign to end the restrictions was a “success at last”. Jo Johnson, who stepped down from his position last week, commended his brother for showing “serious leadership on this issue”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new rules would ensure that talented international students study in the UK “and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers”, Yahoo Finance reported.

Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK, an organisation representing institutions of higher education in the country, also welcomed the decision, and said it would benefit the country’s economy and help it become once again a “first choice study destination”.

“Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26 billion [approximately Rs 2.3 lakh crore] in economic contributions, but for too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students,” Jarvis added.

British Chambers of Commerce’s Director of Policy Mike Spicer said his organisation had long called for the restoration of the two-year post-study work visa, and said the reversals were overdue.

“This visa allows British universities and companies to benefit from the talent and energy of some of the students they have work so hard to train,” Spicer added. “At a time of critical labour shortages, it’s right that the UK’s immigration system reflects economic reality and removes undue barriers to accessing skills.”

However, Alp Mehmet, the chairperson of Migration Watch UK, said the decision was an unwise step that would “likely lead to foreign graduates staying on to stack shelves”, BBC reported. “Our universities are attracting a record number of overseas students so there is no need to devalue a study visa by turning it into a backdoor route for working here,” he added.

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