May announces student visa extension crackdown

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The Home Office has announced a series of changes to the Tier 4 visa for students, including new rules that affect applicants’ eligibility to work.

Business secretary Sajid Javid: “People coming to Britain to study should be studying, nothing more."
Business secretary Sajid Javid: “People coming to Britain to study should be studying, nothing more.”

As of August, new students at publicly funded colleges will not be allowed to work, bringing the rules into line with those for private colleges. There are also changes for the dependants of those on Tier 4 visas. From autumn they will no longer be able to work in low-skilled or unskilled jobs. They will, however, be allowed to engage in part-time or full-time skilled work.

New restrictions will also be placed on those looking to change from a Tier 4 visa to either a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa. They will no longer be able to do so from within the UK and will need to leave the country to apply from abroad.

Students will no longer be able to extend their Tier 4 visas in the UK, either. The only exception will be for students studying at an ’embedded college’, one with a formal link to a university recognised by the Home Office. If they wish to apply for another course, they will need to do so from outside the UK.

New rules will also prevent Tier 4 university students from switching to a new course unless there’s a link to their previous course, or the university can confirm that the course supports their career aspirations. The government says that there will be credibility interviews and sanctions for universities who abuse this rule when it comes into force in August.

Finally, Tier 4 applicants will only be given leave to spend two years in further education, reduced from the current allowance of three years, to bring the period into line with a typical British student’s education.

The changes have been described as harsh by political opponents and student advocates alike. Introduced at short notice, the changes have caught some students by surprise and many online resources are yet to be brought up to date with the changes. Anyone applying for a Tier 4 student visa or a Tier 4 student visa extension is therefore advised to take direct personal advice from an accredited, qualified source.

The new restrictions to the Tier 4 Visa should come as no surprise. Previously in a speech from UK business secretary, Sajid Javid, on July 10 he said that the UK visa system will not be loosened for international students, despite experts saying that doing so would improve Britain’s slowing productivity. In fact the opposite is now happening. It is becoming more difficult for Tier 4 visa students to study in the UK.

The latest changes to the Tier 4 Visa announced on 13 July 2015 will now add even more restrictions on international students from outside the European Union. However, it will be students at publicly funded education colleges that will be affected the most. The changes for University students studying in the UK will not be so significant. Most of the changes will take place in August and November this year.

While launching the Conservative government’s plan to boost productivity, Mr Javid said “We’ve got to break the link” between studying in Britain and being able to stay in the UK on a permanent basis.

Addressing an audience in Birmingham Mr Javid said: “We don’t want a system where studying becomes a motive to settle in Britain and that’s their only motive. People coming to Britain to study should be studying, nothing more.”

It is already the case that in most cases Tier 4 visa graduates needs to apply for a Tier 2 General Visa to stay in the UK after graduation. However the Conservative Government are making things even more difficult still for Tier 4 students wishing to stay in the UK. Javid who supports these changes was criticised for his views on immigration by a spokesman at the Institute of Directors (IoD), who said that it would be detrimental to the UK’s economy.

Head of employment and skills policy at the IoD, Seamus Nevin, said: “Mr Javid’s proposals to remove international students following their graduation is misguided and would harm the country’s education system, economy and global influence.”

He added: “While other countries are welcoming foreign students, Britain is continuously making it more difficult and expensive for them to come here and settle. These proposals would simply have them removed once their studies are complete.”

It was recently announced that non-EU students attending publicly funded further education colleges would be banned from working while they studied. James Brokenshire, the UK’s immigration minister, made the announcement with the ban coming into effect from 3 August 2015.

The move to ban some students from working is part of a ‘new crackdown on visa fraud’ says UK immigration. They said: “We want to make sure that UK student visas are used as intended, for study, not as a route into the country’s job market.”

Other restrictions that the Home Office will be introducing from 12 November 2015 are as follows:

  • A reduced maximum period of stay for Tier 4 visa students in further education; cut from three years to two
  • Students at further education colleges prevented from applying to remain in the country to work under the tier 2 visa category upon completion of their studies, unless they leave the UK first.
  • Further education students prevented from extending their studies in the UK, unless they’re registered with an educational institution that has a formal link to a university

The Association of Colleges has warned the government that tighter UK immigration measures represent a massive risk to Britain’s ability to attract overseas students. They said: “Stopping foreign further education students from continuing to study in the UK once their initial studies are complete will limit the progression of students from colleges to universities.”

Conservative ministers have insisted that the move to restrict the terms of the Tier 4 Extension Visa represents a crackdown on ‘back door’ and ‘bogus’ applications. Inevitably, it will make the process of application for those genuinely seeking to study and work in the UK more difficult to negotiate.