Changes To Student Visa System

23rd March 2011

The Home Secretary has announced a number of changes in respect of the student visa system.

The changes are designed to re-focus the student route as a temporary one, available to the brightest and best students. The emphasis under the new system will be to ensure that students come for a limited period, to study rather than work, and to make a positive contribution while they are here.

Tier 1 (Post Study Work)

The Tier 1 (Post Study Work) route which allowed students two years to seek employment after their course ended has now been closed. Only those graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer with a certificate of sponsorship under Tier 2 of the points based system, will be able to stay to work.

Those foreign nationals residing in the UK on an existing Tier 1 Post Study Work status will be permitted to remain on their current visa. Under the changes to be implemented from 6 April, they will be able to switch into Tier 2 status as long as the full Tier 2 criteria is met. Post study workers who have been employed by a licensed employer for a period of six months, and who are to remain in the same role, will be able to switch into Tier 2 without the employer having to show resident labour market testing.

Highly Trusted Sponsors

From April 2012 all educational institutions wanting to sponsor students will have to be classed as a “highly trusted sponsor” and become accredited by statutory education inspection bodies by the end of 2012.

Those coming to study at degree level will have to speak a higher level of English than is presently the case.

Work Rights

Students at Universities and publicly funded further education colleges will retain current work rights but all other students will have no right to work. Students in higher education are permitted to work twenty hours a week during term time and full time during vacations.

Dependent Family Members

Only post graduate students at Universities and government sponsored students will be permitted to bring family members with them. At the moment all students on longer courses are able to bring dependent family members.

Time Limits

The overall time that can be spent on a student visa will be limited to three years at lower level and five years at higher levels. There is currently no limit for study at or above degree level.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May added: “my aim is not to stop genuine students coming here – it is to eliminate abuse within the system. Our stricter accreditation process will see only first class education providers given licenses to sponsor students”.

“I am delighted to announce that alongside our stricter rules, we will ensure that innovative student entrepreneurs who are creating wealth are able to stay in the UK to pursue their ideas”.

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