New UK Tier 4 Student Visa Rules in detail

UK immigration recently announced full details of the UK student visa changes under Tier 4 of the points based system. The intention of the changes is to make it more difficult for bogus students from outside Europe to gain entry to the UK. This follows a review of the Tier 4 visa system in November 2009.

The new UK Tier 4 Student Visa requirements include the following:

  • You will need to have English ability just below GCSE in a foreign language to gain entry to the UK on a student visa. This will cover those who wish to study English in the UK and those who wish to study at below degree level.

  • You will only be able to gain entry to A level or equivalent courses if the college or school is included in a list of "most trusted institutions".

  • If you are a student studying below first degree level or on a foundation degree course you will only be able to work 10 hours during term time instead of the previous 20 hours during term time.

  • You will not be able to bring in dependants if the duration of the course is less than six months.

  • If you are studying studying a course lower than foundation or undergraduate degree level your dependents will not be allowed to work in the UK.

Alan Johnson had the following to say:

'The points-based system was introduced to provide a rigorous system to manage legitimate access to the UK to work and study, with the ability to respond to changing circumstances.

'We want foreign students to come here to study, not to work illegally, and today we have set out necessary steps which will maintain the robustness of the system we introduced last year. I make no apologies for that.'

In addition, other Tier 4 student visa requirements include:

  • You will not be able to study below degree level if the course includes a work placement unless the course is being provided by a university, college or training provider with the status of 'highly trusted sponsor';

  • If you wish to study in the UK below foundation degree level or wish to study English you will need to demonstrate your English language ability by passing an approved secure test.

  • It will be more difficult to become a 'highly trusted sponsors' of foreign students. However, it is expected that all publicly funded universities and colleges will count as highly trusted. UK immigration says that they will bring in a rapid and rigorous system to make sure that private training colleges also qualify for this status as soon as possible.

The UK Government also mentioned in their announcement that they recognise that "...genuine international students bring - economically, academically and socially - to the country as a whole, as well as to the universities and colleges in which they study...." Since March 2009 all foreign students are required to be sponsored by a college licensed by the UK Border Agency. They also need to show that they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the UK. The number of institutions able to sponsor students has gone down from over 4,000 to about 2,000 now.

Pat McFadden, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, said:

'Genuine international students are welcome in the UK. They make a significant contribution to the academic and cultural life of the universities and colleges where they study, and bring over £5.3bn to our economy each year. But where there is abuse it undermines the position of genuine students as much as anyone else.

'It is important that we protect the reputation and quality of our institutions by ensuring only legitimate students are able to benefit from the courses they offer. This is why we will work closely with the sector to implement the recommendations of this review.'

Alan Johnson also had the following to say:

'We have already made fundamental changes to the immigration system to control migration in a way that is firm, and has a positive impact on our work force and economy.

'From 2011 we will put the mechanisms in place that will ensure that people who are allowed to become citizens have earned their right to stay here.

'We will do this using a points test, giving us the ability to take clear, enforceable decisions about who should be allowed to stay permanently, with the flexibility to raise or lower the threshold for citizenship, depending on the current interests of the country and economy.'

There has recently been discussion in the UK that the UK immigration system is now too restrictive. This may not be in the best long term interests of the UK. Immigration to the UK has in the past led to significant economic growth in the UK.