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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 November 2005, 17:28 GMT
Fresh Talent student plan hailed
Foreign students - generic
The scheme encourages foreign workers to live and work in Scotland
Almost 600 overseas students have successfully applied to stay in Scotland for a further two years since a new scheme was introduced in June.

Visa extensions were granted as part of the Scottish Executive's Fresh Talent initiative, which hopes to encourage skilled workers to settle in Scotland.

First Minister Jack McConnell said the figure was higher than he had expected.

The SNP said Fresh Talent was held back by "London's kick them out immigration agenda", which was wrong for Scotland.

The Working in Scotland scheme, open to non-European Union students, is a key part of the Fresh Talent initiative aimed at boosting Scotland's population and attracting qualified foreign workers.

The executive announced that in the first four months of the scheme, up to October, a total of 586 graduates had successfully applied for the two-year visa to work in Scotland.

We must build on this and continue to sell Scotland to the world as the place to be
Jack McConnell
First Minister

Officials said this meant over 10% of those overseas students eligible to apply for the visa had done so.

Mr McConnell said: "This is far higher than I anticipated for year one and shows us that the Fresh Talent plan can make a real and lasting difference.

"We must build on this and continue to sell Scotland to the world as the place to be. The message is clear - Scotland is a great place to live, to work and to study."

Mr McConnell said: "When it comes to attracting the world's brightest and best, Scotland's door is open."

A Scottish National Party spokesman said: "It is unfortunate that as Scotland opens the door, the British Home Office is looking for new ways to slam it shut."

The Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland scheme was agreed to by the Home Office, which has responsibility over UK immigration policy.

Students have one year from the time they complete their studies to apply and must intend to work in Scotland during the two years.

If they wish to transfer into standard work permit employment this must be in Scotland and at the end of the two years they must either leave the country or switch to a standard managed migration scheme.

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