International Students Myth 1: International students are immigrants

As politicians discuss how visa laws are affecting international students, Assistant Editor Nicole Froio investigates 5 common misconceptions about international students and visa laws in a 5 post series.

Changes to visa laws in 2011 have raised increasing concerns that the UK is becoming inhospitable to students from all over the world. Most recently, a University of Sheffield report revealed international students pumped £120 million into the economy of the city.

The report says that 8.9% of Sheffield students continue to boost the economy of Yorkshire and Humberside after graduating by contributing their skills and labour to the region.

But debates surrounding the subject have been widely based on misleading numbers and inflated statistics. Here are just 5 – and the facts behind them.

Myth 1: International students are immigrants

im·mi·grant [im-i-gruhnt] noun a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence.

Did you know that most international students leave the UK by the end of their course? Did you know Erasmus students (an international programme where students study part of their course in another country) only stay in the country for between 6 months and a year? Did you know most scholarships from abroad dictate students must come back to their home countries?

According to a UK Border Agency report: 

“The student route is a temporary migration route, with students expected to leave on completion of their studies.”

By definition, international students are not permanent residents of the UK. But international students are still included in net immigration figures.

Technically, students aren’t immigrants, but educational transients, making the number of actual immigrants seem much larger than it really is.

The number of immigrants has decreased because fewer foreigners are coming to study in the UK, but the number of foreign permanent residents in the UK remains roughly the same.

Tomorrow: the myth of the cost of international students. Nicole Froio blogs at and tweets at @nicolefroio.

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3 Responses to International Students Myth 1: International students are immigrants

  1. JannetJ says:

    I used to be an international student in the UK, it was a common topic among my classmates how they felt a bit “less welcome” because of policies on migration, we were constantly being threatened of deportation. Never the less, my visa gave me 2 extra months after my course finished so I was even able to do some travelling before leaving, so I returned home feeling very satisfied.

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