Work visas

VisitScotland’s plea to hold onto foreign graduates because of their important role in tourism (your report, 2 February) is to be applauded, but there are wider repercussions for Scottish businesses in general, as the number of overseas students from key overseas markets continues to fall.

Last year, a survey by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry revealed that more than three quarters of Scottish employers believed there was a critical lack of the skills needed for Scottish businesses to grow.

Similar results have been found in specific sectors such as engineering and computer software development.

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This has been a historic problem, which in the past was often solved by recruiting international students graduating from Scottish universities.

Graduates from UK universities were eligible for post-study work visas which allowed them to remain in the UK and work for up to two years following the end of their course.

Employers could recruit these graduates easily and universities were able to use the visa as a selling point to international students. Unfortunately, this route was closed in 2012 and never replaced.

Now, to recruit an international student, a business must hold a Home Office sponsor licence and commit to paying a minimum salary based on the Home Office guidance.

This is a tremendous commitment for small and medium-sized companies.

The modern day immigration system makes it difficult for small and medium-sized companies to hire skilled graduates and this is a barrier to growth.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Immigration has recently held an inquiry into the closure of the post-study work visa and the Smith Commission also recommended that consideration was given to finding an alternative visa route for graduates.

If Scottish businesses are to continue to grow and compete on an international level, it is essential that this issue is tackled sooner rather than later.

Stuart McWilliams

Morton Fraser LLP

St Vincent Street