Published on the 13th July 2015, the UK government have announced a number of sweeping policy changes to the Immigration Rules that will take effect over the course of the second half of 2015. The main focus of these changes fall upon the Tier 4 student visa category and affect employers, prospective applicants and current Tier 4 holders in the UK.
The aim of these changes is to reduce immigration abuse by limiting the ability for non-genuine students to hold leave in the UK under a student visa. However in achieving this aim, the legislation will also have adverse effects on student”s abilities to work whilst in education, extend their leave in the UK and support themselves financially. These effects would also extend to their employers and dependants.
Under the new legislation changes, Tier 4 students would be subject to the following:
Under the rules, those given leave to enter or remain to study at publicly funded further education colleges will no longer be allowed to undertake any work in the UK. Whilst before it was the case that these students could undertake up to 20 hours of paid work in conjunction with their studies, this will no longer be permitted. The legislation change affects both future applicants and those here on pre-existing Tier 4 visas, meaning students currently employed part time will no longer be allowed to continue in their existing jobs.
The policy changes will also affect Tier 4 dependants. Whilst the restrictions are not as comprehensive, they will still block dependants from taking low or unskilled jobs. Dependants will however be allowed to take part-time or full-time skilled work.
College students will also be unable to switch visas into the Tier 2 or 5 categories in the UK. Instead if a recently graduated student wishes to apply in either of these categories they will be required to return to their country of origin and make the application from there. There is an exception to this rule. A student will be allowed to switch if studying at an embedded college which has been recognised by UKVI as having a direct link to a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a university.
College students will also be unable to extend their stay under Tier 4 within the UK. Instead, students would need to travel back to their country of origin and prepare a fresh entry clearance application, rather than continuing to reside in the UK as has been the case in the past. The only exception will be in circumstances where foreign students are studying at an “embedded college”, one which has a formal, direct link to a university that is recognised by the Home Office.
University students will be allowed to extend their studies and switch into a new course at the same academic level. However this will only be in situations where the course in question is linked to the previous course and the university confirms that the course supports the student”s genuine career aspirations. If this is not the case, those who wish to extend their Tier 4 (General) leave must be moving up a level on the National Qualifications Framework Applicants. This is to ensure that students cannot repeatedly extend their leave to study unrelated courses to prolong their stay in the UK.
As a result, students will no longer be able to start courses in new areas of academia from within the UK and again would have to submit a fresh out of country application in order to begin a new course. However, those applying to complete a PhD or other doctoral qualification may continue to study at the same level.
The time limit for study at further education level will also be reduced from November, shortening the maximum limit from 3 years to 2 years. The government have shortened the maximum period in order to bring it into line with the average length of time British students would spend in further education.
The maintenance requirements for prospective students will also be changed under the recent update from November. Applicants under the Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) student visa categories will be subject to an increased maintenance requirement. The same maintenance requirements will cover all Tier 4 (General) students, regardless of whether they are already living in the UK, except doctorate extension scheme students.
For further information as to the full list of changes introduced to the recent update to the Immigration Rules and how it may affect your proposed or current grant of leave in the UK, please contact us.