UK visa rules spell tough for students

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UK visa rules spell tough for students

Over the years, the UK has offered Indian students the opportunity to gain an internationally-recognised degree from their institutions. But the student visa has been a hot topic over the past few months, with many controversial changes being proposed and discussed.

After months of concern, it now appears that the immigration rules bring good news for some, but further restrictions for many. On 22 March 2011, British Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced the following changes to be made to the student visa system.

The major changes to the immigration rules which affect students are:
nWork restrictions during term: Only students studying at a university will be able to work for 20 hours per week during term time. Students at publicly-funded colleges will be able to work 10 hours a week during term time. Both categories of students will be able to work full-time during the holidays. Students with visa applications to courses at privately-funded colleges, or language schools, will not be granted permission to work at any time during their studies.

*Dependants: From July 4, 2011, only postgraduate students enrolled in universities or government-sponsored students, on a course of at least 12 months duration, will be allowed to bring their dependants. These dependants will be able to work.

*Accreditation: From April 2012 onwards, institutions wanting to sponsor students will
*eed to obtain a Highly Trusted Sponsor licence. Moreover, sponsoring institutions will need to become accredited by a statutory education inspection body by the end of 2012.

During the transition period, there will be an interim limit on the numbers sponsored by those who do not meet the above criteria.

*English language requirement: Students studying at the degree level will need to speak English at an upper-intermediate level. A B2 grade will be given to those who meet the requirements of the upper-intermediate level, rather than the present B1 lower-intermediate requirement.

Students pursuing any course in the UK will need to provide a ‘Secure English Language Test’ certificate from an approved test provider. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) can refuse entry to students who can’t speak English and need an interpreter.

*Time duration of stay: The UKBA will limit the total time a student can spend on a student visa to three years at lower levels. However, visas will be granted for five years at higher levels. Currently, foreigners are quite free to study as long as they wish.

*Proof of student funding: The UKBA will produce a list of financial institutions that students cannot apply to if they wish to get funding. This will be decided on the basis of experience, where such institutions do not verify financial statements to the UKBA’s satisfaction in more than 50 per cent of a sample of cases.

For students from some countries this could have a significant impact and there may be difficulties with students being required to move their funds into a different financial institution. Where there are tight timescales, this will not always be possible.

*Post-study work plan: Tier 1 of the ‘Post-Study Work’ (PSW) visa will be closed from April 2012. The PSW route allows UK degree graduates to remain in the UK for a further two years after completing their studies to work. It is proposed that graduates who wish to stay in the UK after April 2012 will have to return to their home country to resend applications for Tier 2-level visas. Therefore, a graduate will need a graduate-level job offer from an employer with a Tier-2 licence who is willing to sponsor him or her.

However, the big changes to the student visa system continue to be tougher entrance criteria, limits on work entitlement compounded with the closure of the post study work visa. UK universities have welcomed these changes and have stated that “it was pleased that the government had responded to many of its concerns,” and that the changes “will allow British universities to remain at the forefront of international student recruitment.”

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