New Immigration rules for students

The changes relate to students: what have so far been known as the Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (children) routes will now be Student Visa (for adult applicants) and Child Student Visa (for applicants aged below 16 years old).

In terms of timeline, the changes will take effect on 5 October 2020 at 09 am. Applicants made before then will be considered in line with the Rules in force at the time.

What is new for students?

  • Brexit did happen, and we are coming to the end of the transition period. This means that the rules will apply to EEA nationals. EEA nationals applying in-country will only be able to make an application from 1 January 2021. For those applying for Entry Clearance, visas will only be granted to start on 1 January 2021. EEA nationals also apparently need to use the form which other applicants only use in-country, even if applying out of country. This should all be clearer once the forms are out.
  • The list of countries with “different (i.e. easier) documentary requirements” is expanded to include EEA countries and Switzerland
  • Importantly, in addition to the usual validity requirements such as having to submit a passport and enrol biometrics, some requirements which used to be eligibility requirements are now validity requirements. In particular:
    • The applicant must provide a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies reference number that was issued to them before the date of application.
    • If applying in-country, the applicant cannot be here on certain routes or on immigration bail
    • An applicant who needs consent from a government or international sponsorship agency must have that at the date of application

The reason why this is important to note is because an application which is rejected as invalid rather than refused may interrupt the applicant’s section 3C leave, and therefore make them an overstayer.

  • In terms of switching, the rules are better. While previously only those already on Tier 4 leave (and only sponsored by some institutions) and Tier 2 leave could applying in-country, now everyone will be able to except those in the UK as visitors, short-term students, parents of a child student, season workers, domestic workers in a private household or those outside of the Immigration Rules.
  • One can apply for Entry Clearance up to 6 months before the start of the course (as opposed to 3 months). For in-country, the timeframe is still 3 months.
  • The eight-year time limit on studying courses at postgraduate level has been removed (the five-year limit for degree level courses is still there)

Changes to English language requirement

  • An applicant will meet the English language requirement if they have a GCSE, A level, or Scottish Highers in English in the UK which they obtained while under 18
  • The list of English countries is expanded to include Malta and Ireland

Changes to financial requirement

  • There is more flexibility as to where the funds can be held. While the rules as they are now indicate funds must be in cash, it will now be more about whether they can be immediately withdrawn. So funds can be in pension and investments accounts, for example, as long as the funds can be accessed immediately. Shares, bonds, credit cards won’t work
  • Financial institutions where the funds are held must use electronic record keeping
  • Students who are applying for permission to stay in the UK and have already been living in the UK with permission for 12 months or more on the date of application won’t need to meet the financial requirement
  • Students applying for leave as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer or to study on a recognised Foundation Programme also won’t need to meet the financial requirement

Changes to ATAS requirement

  • There is now a list of countries whose nationals are exempt from the ATAS requirement. They are the usual suspects: EEA countries, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US

On a final note, short-term students still need to refer to the current Immigration Rules since they are not included in new immigration rules for students, and the above new rules do not apply to them.

Posted on Sep 10, 2020.

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