Consultation Published in respect of Student Immigration

8th December 2010

The UK Government has published a consultation in respect of the student immigration system. Up until now, the Government has concentrated on reforming the economic routes into the UK, including Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System (PBS). However, if the Government is to reach its aim of reducing net migration into the UK to the tens of thousands, it must address the non-economic migration routes, which account for 80% of migration into the UK and includes the student categories.

The Government’s consultation has set out a number of proposals for affected and interested stakeholders to comment on. The Consultation will run until 31 January 2011 and the proposals are as follows:

  • Closing the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) route.
  • Restricting student working rights so that students can only work on campus during the week and for any external employer at the weekends and during vacation periods.
  • Raising the ratio of study to work from 50:50 to 66:33 for all work placement courses, as a means to make courses less attractive to students using them as a way to gain access to the UK employment market.
  • Removing the right to work for all dependants of Tier 4 students, unless the dependant can qualify in his or her own right under Tiers 1 and 2 of the PBS.
  • Restricting those students who can be accompanied to the UK by dependants to only those who are studying for more than 12 months in the UK.
  • Imposing different requirements as regards demonstrating evidence of maintenance and previous qualifications for students of different nationalities. Those nationals who come from a country that is deemed by the UK Border Agency as being low risk in respect of forged documentation will have simpler procedures for demonstrating that they meet the requirements of Tier 4.
  • Tightening the accreditation regime for sponsors in the private sector. The Government will work more closely with other Government departments responsible for education across the UK to review the work of the currently approved accreditation bodies in relation to private further and higher educational establishments, as a means to establish what can be done on an institutional level to ensure the quality of education provision, and how this links up with meeting the Tier 4 sponsor duties.
  • Restricting Tier 4 to largely degree-level courses and child students. Only Highly Trusted Sponsors (a term introduced in April 2010 for those education service providers that have a proven track record of student retention and compliance) will be permitted to offer courses below degree level to adult students.
  • Maintaining the existing rules that lower level courses of less than six months are outside of the PBS and within the visitor immigration rules.
  • Advancing no further tightening the Tier 4 (Child) route, which allows for children aged between 4 and 15 to study at independent schools and those aged 16 or over to study at any licensed sponsor institutions.
  • Raising the Tier 4 (General) language bar to a competence level of B2, acting as a key indicator of fitness to complete a higher level course.
  • Introducing measures that will only allow a student wishing to extend their stay in the UK to undertake a different course the ability to do so if they can demonstrate clear academic progression to a higher level. The Government is also considering whether the student should return to country of origin, rather than make an in-country extension application.

Over the last 10 years, the number of people from outside the EEA and Switzerland given entry to the UK as students and their family members has increased by nearly 80%, from 272,000 in 1999 to 489,000 in 2009. In 2009, the student route (including dependants) accounted for approximately 76% of total net migration into the UK. As the Government moves to reduce net migration in all areas of immigration law and policy, it seems clear that its policy aim in this sphere is that only genuine students who are committed to their academic studies should come to the UK, with a presumption that upon completion of their studies, they will leave the UK promptly.

Whilst it is clear that, without a contribution from the student route, a reduction of net migration to the tens of thousands would be impossible, the affect these proposals will have on the many educational institutions that rely on international student candidates remains to be seen. The UK is currently the global destination of choice for the many thousands of higher education students who choose to study abroad each year – second only to the United States. The affect these proposals will have on the estimated £5billion annual contribution students make to the UK economy also remains to be seen.

Full details of the consultation can be found by clicking on the following link; Consultation

For further information please contact us at: Immigration@magrath.co.uk or on 020 7495 3003