10th February 2010

On 10 February 2010, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson laid a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules before Parliament.

This follows a review of the student immigration system announced by the Prime Minister on 12 November 2009.

UKBA confirms that the new regulations will come into force on the 3 March 2010. They will ensure that students studying below degree level have a limited ability to work in the UK and that their dependants will not be permitted to work in the UK at all.

The purpose of the new measures is to target abuse seen amongst adult students coming here to study below degree level in the further education and English language sectors.

There are no changes for students who come to the UK to study a foundation degree, courses at degree level or above.

The new measures for students include:

• halving the amount of time a student studying below first degree level (excluding a foundation degree course) will be able to work, to just 10 hours during term time (although they can work full time during vacation periods); 
• a ban on bringing in dependants for anyone studying a course of less than six months;
• a ban on dependants of anyone studying a course lower than foundation or undergraduate degree level from working;
• a good standard of English (equivalent of holding just below a GCSE in a foreign language) will be needed to come to the UK and study to improve English language competency further; 
• a good standard of English (again equivalent of holding just below a GCSE in a foreign language) will need to be demonstrated in order to study any other course below degree level.

In addition, the new measures will include:

• a ban on foreign students studying below degree level if the course includes a work placement – unless that course is being provided by a university, college or training provider which has the status of ‘highly trusted sponsor’; 
• a requirement for students to demonstrate their English language ability by passing an approved secure test – this will apply to all students studying below (foundation) degree level, including those coming to study English language; and;
• the introduction of tougher criteria for defining which course providers count as ‘highly trusted sponsors’ of foreign students.

The Home Secretary also confirmed that the government will implement plans to introduce a points test by 2011 for those who wish to earn British citizenship.

Under the proposed new Citizenship rules, anyone wishing to become a permanent resident will have to effectively earn their right to citizenship. The UKBA hopes that the effect of a points based test for citizenship will restrict the number of economic migrants granted citizenship – for example, the points criteria may limit citizenship to those who have the qualifications or skills that the economy needs, or who are living in parts of the country where there are specific skills shortages that they can fill. As in nearly all immigration applications, individuals wishing to become a permanent resident will also have to demonstrate that they can speak good English for their application to be successful.

Further details will be submitted to Parliament with respect to the point criteria for a citizenship application in due course.