Rishi Sunak appears to bow to cabinet pressure over graduate visa scheme

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has bowed to pressure from some of his senior cabinet colleagues over proposed changes to the graduate visa scheme.

Reports had suggested he planned on either shortening or scrapping the two-year period increasing students could stay in the country after completing their studies, as he faced pressure from the right of his party to lower record-high legal migration.

However, Sky News understands the period will remain in place after appeals from Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Home Secretary James Cleverly, who are all said to have raised concerns about the impact on universities and the economy if the rules were changed.

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There will be some additional measures announced by the government this week to coincide with the latest net migration figures being published, Sky News also understands.

They will include the tightening of restrictions on agents that market British degree courses overseas and subjecting some international students to mandatory English tests.

But Mr Sunak is still likely to face a backlash from former home secretary Suella Braverman, who today called for the whole graduate visa route to be scrapped, and ex-immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who has called it “a backdoor for foreign students to do low-wage work”.

A government source told Sky News the decision was “a sign of good government”, showing each secretary of state had reviewed the impact of policy plans and communicated them to the leader.

The home secretary ordered an emergency review of the graduate visa route in March to look at whether it was being abused and “driven more by a desire for immigration.”

However, in its report released last weekthe Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said it should remain in place as it was key to funding British universities and was “not undermining the quality and integrity” of higher education.

The government has announced a raft of new measures to try to curb legal migration since November, when the Office for National Statistics revealed net migration had hit 745,000 in 2022, including stopping students from bringing their dependents and increasing the salary someone has to earn to qualify for a visa.