Hyslop calls for Westminster to extend visas for Chinese teachers


Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, has called for “common sense” changes to immigration rules.

These changes would allow Chinese teachers, working within a work experience programme under the Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) scheme, to have their visas extended from 12 to 24 months.

In a letter to the Prime Minister – who is due to visit China in December – Ms Hyslop said extending the work experience visa represented the best value for the public purse and would benefit schools and learners alike.

The Cabinet Secretary’s calls come after the Home Secretary, in response to an appeal by the Scottish Government, reversed a decision to refuse applications for extensions of leave by five Chinese teachers working at the University of Strathclyde.

The University hosts one of four established Confucius Institutes in Scotland, with agreement to establish a fifth being reached during the First Minister’s recent visit to China. Ms Hyslop said this decision, made at the discretion of the Home Secretary, should now be formalised with a permanent policy change.

The current rules are having an impact on all Confucius Institutes in Scotland, and indeed across the UK, which are facing issues with this one-year restriction and the difficulties it causes in securing and retaining staff.

Ms Hyslop said:

“While I am pleased that the Home Office acted in response to our calls in the case of the Chinese teachers at Strathclyde, we need a permanent and common sense policy change so that this situation is not repeated.

“The Scottish Government shares David Cameron’s objective of building stronger links with China and, ahead of his visit next month, he should act to ensure that we have a firm basis for the Tianjin teacher scheme going forward.

“We are working hard to strengthen Scotland’s position as an attractive place for Chinese investors and an exporter of high quality goods for that market. We’ve had great success in recent years, with overall Scottish exports to China increasing by 88 per cent between 2007 and 2012, including a remarkable upturn in whisky and salmon exports to China over the same period.

“The Tianjin teachers offer invaluable support to the learning experience of Scottish school pupils across 17 council areas at a time when we are working hard to promote Scotland’s educational links with China. For this reason it is imperative that the UK Government remove the nonsensical obstacles being placed by the Home Office in the way of these teachers returning to Scotland’s Confucius classrooms.”