International students will be allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find a job, under new proposals announced by the Home Office.
The move reverses a decision made in 2012 by then-Home Secretary Theresa May that forced overseas students to leave four months after finishing a degree.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the change would see students “unlock their potential” and begin careers in the UK.
But campaign group Migration Watch called it a “retrograde” step.
The change will apply to international students in the UK – there were around 450,000 last year – who start courses at undergraduate level or above from next year onwards.
They must be studying at an institution with a track record in upholding immigration checks.
Under the proposals, there is no restriction on the kinds of jobs students would have to seek and no cap on numbers.
Chancellor Sajid Javid tweeted that the move was “about time”, adding that the government “should have reversed this silly policy years ago”.
Former universities minister Jo Johnson – who quit his brother’s government last week – tweeted that it was “success at last” after being involved in the cross-party campaign.