Writing to UK home secretary, Priti Patel, Migrant Voice said it is urging the government to allow students graduating this year to have the option to remain in the country to help “reboot the economy”.

“We were disappointed to hear that this visa route would not be implemented until 2021”

The re-introduction of the route was announced in 2019 for students graduating from degree courses in the summer of 2021 or after.

“Following last year’s announcement, the attractiveness of the UK as a study destination will no doubt have been enhanced once again,” Migrant Voice executive director Nazek Ramadan wrote.

“However, we were disappointed to hear that this visa route would not be implemented until 2021, especially given that this is not a new immigration route, but only the reinstatement of a route that existed until eight years ago.”

The organisation asked why the reinstatement of a previously existing route is “taking so long to implement”.

The delay is “deeply unfair to students graduating in the UK during 2020”, and the Covid-19 crisis has added an extra urgent need, Migrant Voice contended.

“[International students] have had a particularly raw deal during the pandemic, and many want to stay in the UK after graduating and contribute to rebooting the economy,” it said.

“The graduate route would be the ideal means for them to do so, but by delaying its implementation, the UK is missing out on those valuable contributions.”

The letter was sent the same week as Migrant Voice is hosting an International Students Week.

“Now that an international pandemic has occurred it is time for the government to show support for its class of 2020 international students,” said international student Abagail Catania.

“Allowing the class of 2020 to obtain this visa will not only make up for the time in enforced isolation or forced back to home countries, but also continue to benefit the UK economy.”

The UK insists that it “takes time to develop a new immigration route and ensure the framework is in place for it to successfully operate”, and the indicates that the route is to help recruit additional students to the UK.

The route was “announced in September 2019 to ensure that universities and stakeholders could promote the route when attracting prospective students”, according to the government.

“It will enable students to decide where to study,” it said.

In June, the government announced that degree-seeking students will be eligible for the route if they are in the country by April 2021.

“Will you consider bringing forward the introduction of this route, so that students in the UK who have contributed during this crisis… can benefit from the opportunity to remain in the UK and continue contributing?” the Migrant Voice letter added.

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