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UK: Student visa reforms to take effect in July

Ongoing developments in UK higher education (see England: Much anticipated higher education white paper is released in our June 2011 edition) also extend to visa reform affecting international students. These changes will have an impact on processes for seeking entry into the country; they also affect various entitlements available to students once admitted to the UK. The changes to the immigration rules affecting Tier 4 (the student tier of the points-based system) are due to go into effect on 4 July 2011. They represent one outcome of a public consultation process announced late last year (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2010), which also resulted in the release of a set of interim measures in March 2011.

The new rules aim to both stem immigration abuse and allow “genuine students to study at genuine colleges”. Among the specifics of the new regulations:

  • a new declaration on the visa form will be introduced, designed to ensure that maintenance funds are genuinely available to the student visa applicant;
  • work entitlements will be available only to those studying at higher education institutions (HEIs) and publicly funded further education colleges;
  • only those studying at the postgraduate level at (HEIs) on courses lasting at least twelve months, or government sponsored students on courses lasting at least six months, will be eligible to sponsor dependants;
  • education providers will be required to vouch that a new course represents “genuine academic progression” for a student seeking to extend his or her study period in the UK and
  • a streamlined visa application process will be made available for “low-risk nationals applying to attend courses with Highly Trusted Sponsors”.

The government has also published an impact assessment report for these changes, which attempts to quantify the effects of the policy package on both student volumes and in monetary terms. Ultimately, this report notes that the “estimated economic costs of these proposals appear significant”, but that achieving the national policy goals of reducing student visa abuse and curtailing migration over the next four years make it necessary to move forward in this direction.

UK Border Agency (student visa rules change announcement) UK Border Agency (student visa reform impact assessment)