In an attempt to reduce abuse in the Tier 4 student visa immigration route, the UK Home Office is making far-reaching changes that will affect overseas students studying in the UK on Tier 4 student visas.
There are some significant rule changes relating to Tier 4 students in the August 2015 Statement of Changes (HC 297) recently issued by the Home Office.
With regard to working rights for students, it is now the case that ONLY students studying full-time (at degree level or above) at publicly-funded British universities will have the right to work 20 hours a week during term-time and full-time outside of term time. ALL other students will not have any rights to work whatsoever, unless there is a practical work element or work placement type element to their course of study.
Also, student dependants will also (from November 2015) have their right to work severely restricted so that they will ONLY be able to work in “skilled” jobs. Further detail in this regard will be forthcoming from Home Office shortly.
With further regard to working in the UK subsequent to the completion of studies, again ONLY students who have studied (at degree level or above) at publicly-funded British universities, and completed their courses, will be able to switch inside the UK from Tier 4 onto Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship. The Continuing exemption from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) will therefore also continue for these students.
All other students wishing to apply to move into Tier 2 or Tier 5 work immigration routes/categories are thus now required to do so from OUTSIDE the UK and thus will be subject to the RLMT.
Related to the continuing tightening up of the rules governing those Tier 4 students studying below degree level in the UK, the amount of time a student can spend studying in the UK at this level is being reduced from 3 to 2 years. In parallel, the way this time limit is calculated is also changing to the less favourable method of including in the time limit ALL the time granted on student visas at this level, rather than the old system of just counting the actual start/end durations/dates of courses for this purpose. In practice this will make it impossible to do more than one course in full at this further education/vocational, below degree level type standard . Furthermore, these types of students will have to leave the UK and apply from abroad if they wish to progress from below degree level study up to degree level (or above) type study, as can this no longer be done inside the UK.
The full length of visa approach just mentioned will also be taken concerning calculating the time limit permitted for students studying at degree level or above, which overall remains at 5 years, subject to certain exceptions (for example, for students progressing onto PhD study the limit extends to 8 years and there are other exceptions around this topic as well, further detail of which can be obtained from us on request).
There will also be a tightening up of the rules on academic progress and universities will be under greater scrutiny when awarding a Confirmation of Acceptance of Study (CAS) to a student to ensure that no abuse of the above-mentioned study time limits is permitted. There will also be the power to interview students to scrutinise their credibility and motivation to study.
One final important change to be aware of is that the maintenance/living costs amounts will be increased from November 2015. The “established presence” concession (whereby a continuing student only had to show a maximum of 2 months’ maintenance) is being scrapped so that ALL students will need to show the full amount of maintenance pertaining to their first year of studies. Up to a maximum of 9 months.
We therefore strongly recommend that anyone wishing to come to the UK to study be mindful of the above changes and contact us if you have any questions. These changes are far-reaching and will have significant impacts on both the numbers of people coming to study in the UK and in the longer term, on the numbers coming to work and/or settle in the UK as the pathway from study to work in the UK.
www.bic-immigration.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
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