Next set of changes to student visa rules is announced

Next set of changes to student visa rules to come into force in 4th July, 2011

Work entitlements for students

From the 4th July, only those students at studying at higher education institutions (HEIs) and publicly funded further education colleges will be allowed to work.

What is a higher education institution (HEI)?

An HEI is a recognised body, or a body in receipt of public funding as an HEI from the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales or the Scottish Funding Council. This is essentially Recognised Bodies, University Colleges and small number of other institutions. Institutions, including further education colleges, which receive some public funding to deliver higher education courses do not fall within this definition of an HEI.

Recognised bodies are all those institutions or bodies, including universities, which have their own UK degree awarding powers.

How many hours can a student work?

Those studying at an HEI at degree level can work no more than 20 hours per week during term time and any hours during holidays.

Those studying at an HEI below degree level can work no more than 10 hours per week during term time and any hours during holidays.

Those studying at any academic level at a publicly funded further education college can work no more than 10 hours per week during term time and any hours during holidays.

All other students, i.e. those at privately funded colleges, are not permitted to work.

Dependants of students

Another major change to come into force on 4th July for students is the ability to bring their dependants with them to the UK.  Only those students studying at postgraduate level at HEIs on courses lasting more than 12 months, or more than 6 months for government-sponsored students studying at any level, will be permitted to bring dependants with them.

Those dependants already in the UK with leave in line are allowed to stay until the end of their leave.  Dependants with existing leave wishing to extend their stay will be able to do so subject to existing restrictions, provided they apply at the same time as the Tier 4 (General) Student applies to continue their studies, and within three months of the expiry of their existing leave.

Tier 4 sponsors will be required to vouch that the student is making genuine academic progress.

This will not prevent students undertaking courses at the same level where this will develop the breadth or depth of their learning, nor prevent those undertaking re-sits or transferring from one institution to another.

Students and their dependants will have to declare at the application stage that the maintenance funds are genuinely available to them.

A declaration will be added to the visa application form requiring students to declare they hold and will continue to hold the required maintenance funds to cover their course fees and living costs, and that these funds will remain available to them to support themselves in the UK while they study and to pay for their course.

It is not clear what difference this will make in practice.

A list of financial institutions which do not satisfactorily verify financial statements will be published on the UK Border Agency website.

No points will be awarded for maintenance where the specified documents show that the funds are held in a financial institution with which the UK Border Agency is unable to make satisfactory verification checks, i.e. those financial institutions where the UK Border Agency considers, on the basis of experience, do not verify financial statements to their satisfaction in more than 50% of a sample of cases.

A streamlined application process for ‘low-risk’ nationals applying to study with Highly Trusted Sponsors will be introduced.

Students of designated low-risk nationalities attending courses at Highly Trusted Sponsors will not routinely have to present the specified documents at the application stage in respect of their maintenance funds or educational qualifications, although they may be requested. These low risk countries are: Argentina, Australia, British National Overseas, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan (those who hold a passport issued by Taiwan that includes the number of the identification card issued by the competent authority in Taiwan), Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America.

The list of courses for which an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate will be required will be extended.

The changes to ATAS will mean that undergraduate courses, such as integrated Masters or other similar courses in the UK, with a postgraduate exit qualification will be subject to the same rules as those affecting postgraduate study in the UK.

Courses accredited by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) will be restricted to sponsors accorded platinum or gold status by the ACCA.

Students following “study abroad programmes” at overseas higher education institutions with bases in the UK will be treated in line with UK higher education institutions with respect to permission to work during their stay in the UK.

These institutions must obtain confirmation from UK NARIC of their overseas accreditation and that they offer degrees equivalent to UK degrees and they teach no more than half of a degree programme in the UK as a study abroad programme. These institutions will also be removed from the Tier 4 interim limit on the allocation of Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies provided they obtain Highly Trusted Sponsor Status.

Posted in English on Jun 15, 2011.