NEW Edinburgh East SNP MP Tommy Sheppard is spearheading calls for a change in the rules so international students can stay on and work here for a limited period after they graduate.
Post-study work visas, which allowed non-EU students to remain in the UK for two years after finishing their studies, were scrapped under new immigration controls brought in by the Westminster coalition government in 2012.
But universities have warned the decision is deterring talented students from coming to the UK and businesses complain they are missing out on skilled workers.
Earlier this year there was cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament for calls to reinstate the visas.
Mr Sheppard plans to press the UK government for a rethink. He highlighted the problem in his maiden speech in the Commons last week, saying he hoped a “replacement mechanism” could be found.
Edinburgh University principal Sir Timothy O’Shea contacted him to back his plea.
Mr Sheppard said the scrapping of the visas was part of a crackdown on bogus colleges, but genuine international students were affected by it too.
He said: “A lot of these people stay on and work in the university where they were studying, in labs or as lecturers.”
It is argued the visas helped attract top international talent, brought a valuable income stream to universities and allowed graduates to carry on contributing to Scotland after their studies ended.
The Scottish Government has argued immigration policy is driven by a desire to reduce numbers and does not take account of Scotland’s needs.
Mr Sheppard said scrapping the visas because of concerns about abuse of the system was “taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
He added: “If people have a visa allowing them to work here for two years, I don’t see why it should be included in the immigration figures anyway because it’s temporary. We are going to press the government to see if it will come forward with something.”
A review published earlier this year recommended the UK government reintroduced post-study work visas.
The report highlighted examples of countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, where post-study work visas had been shown to have positive benefits for students, business, education and its providers, as well as the wider economy.
Edinburgh University said it backed the call for reinstatement.
A spokesman said: “The university operates in a highly competitive international marketplace and the current visa system is hindering our ability to attract the best and the brightest to Scotland.”