British inventor Sir James Dyson has attacked Theresa May's plans to expel foreign students after graduating, warning that 'short-sighted' immigration policies will result in the UK losing out on top science and engineering talent.
The Home Secretary announced plans last month to tighten student visa regulations, forcing graduates to leave the country upon finishing their course.
However, writing in the Guardian, Dyson said that attempts to win votes by clamping down on immigration will harm the UK economy, encouraging the brightest foreign students to move abroad where their expertise will be used to create new technologies.
"Our borders must remain open to the world's best. Give them our knowledge, allow them to develop their own and permit them to apply it on our shores," he said.
"Their ideas and inventiveness will create technology to export around the world."
Currently students from outside the EU are allowed to stay in the UK for four months, switching to a work visa upon receiving a graduate job. This is already less time than other countries such as the US and Australia, which allow students 12 months to find a job.
"May's immigration plans simply force the nimble minds we nurture to return home and create competition overseas. Why would they return?" said Dyson.
Business leader Dyson has been a supporter of innovation in the UK for years, with his charitable foundation donating £8 million to create a technology hub at Cambridge University. However, he has also been critical of the government's focus on growth in software companies in London's Silicon Roundabout, rather than investing on hardware industries.
London feels 'threatened'
Dyson's comments come as a report commissioned by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and carried out by lobby group London First, claims that hostility towards immigration and the EU is threatening the capital's reputation as a leading business city.
The 'London 2036' report calls for easier access to post-study visas for potential entrepreneurs, and for more assistance for growing companies - such as those in London's Tech City - to hire staff by addressing technical skill gaps.
"London has an opportunity to establish itself as a global capital for technology, creativity and entrepreneurship, but to gain maximum economic benefit it needs to address the gaps in skills and funding that make it challenging for businesses to grow," the report said.
Johnson has previously submitted a plan to the Home Office for a London Visa that would make it easier for tech experts and fashion gurus around the world to get a job in the capital.
The new visa would allow talented developers and coders to get an official endorsement from Tech City that would enable them to bypass the visa application process currently in place.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.