01 March 2012

Life changer

We [the UKBA] will introduce new provisions under Tier 2 (General) for graduates who would previously have been eligible under Tier 1(Post Study Work). Tier 2 (General) will be open to recent graduates with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, PhD, or a PGCE or PGDE, from a UK recognised or listed body. As per the normal Tier 2 requirements, applicants must have an offer of a skilled job from a licensed sponsor and be paid at least £20,000 or the minimum appropriate rate set out in the relevant Code of Practice. However, the employer will not have to complete a resident labour market test and the jobs will not be subject to the annual limit on Tier 2 numbers (i.e. the Certificates of Sponsorship will be in the Unrestricted category).
With one sentence, the UK Border Agency may have changed my family's life forever, opening up again my initial hope to stay in the UK as a researcher or lecturer. How? Until now, to get a working visa, you had to prove that you were the only qualified candidate in the EU/EEA for the job. Now, you don't have to, if you have a degree from a British University. You can work anywhere that can sponsor a visa, basically any university, and prove that you are the best candidate, not the only candidate.

What does this change for me? I still don't have a job from October, but it does mean that the path that people usually follow after a PhD (getting a research or teaching in the UK the 3–6 months after completion) is now a possibility, and I will not have to leave the country to be employed. Most of my professional contacts are in this country so I am much better positioned here to find something that I am uniquely qualified to do and will enjoy. It means that, for at least the next 9–12 months, I can think about my best option, not my only option. It means the chance of me working on the bid I am working on at Lancaster goes up exponentially because I will potentially have something fall back on if it doesn't work out. It means that the chances of staying in the UK in the short to medium term went from almost 0% to very, very likely. It takes a huge amount of pressure off of me. We don't have to move. I don't have to take whatever post is open to me in October.

Staying in the UK, at least for now, is the easiest thing for us. No uprooting the kids. All of my connections are here for now. We have all of our stuff here. Of course, the best job and no gap in funding are still key. But this does make my future plans much, much easier to navigate. I feel much less backed into a corner.

Now to find my dream job. Here, there, anywhere.

UPDATE: To be clear, although this is very good news for me, it's, for most people, not great news. I mean, better than there being no route to employment, but certainly much more restricted than before when you could apply to stay in the country for two years after your degree to work without any restriction. Compared to what I thought it was going to be, this is good news, but it is still very, very bad news for most of my colleagues.