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Education Immigration e-briefing - Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings

08-01-2018

The Home Office has released its latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration rules. Whilst the statement contains no major upheavals ahead of Brexit, there are several noteworthy and potentially useful proposed changes concerning Tier 4 students.

Part time study

Tier 4 students will be able to study part-time courses at certain levels. Currently, all Tier 4 sponsor licence holders must satisfy the Home Office that the courses they offer to international students are full-time at degree level or a course involving a minimum of 15 hours a week of classroom-based study for those below degree level. This change will allow greater flexibility for Tier 4 students and allow institutions to offer a greater variety of courses. However, Tier 4 students studying part-time will not be able to work, bring dependants or extend their visa in-country.

Academic progression

Currently, Tier 4 students who want to complete a work placement or a study abroad programme, which was not envisaged on their original CAS, must return home to make an application for a new visa. They are unable to demonstrate academic progression, not having completed the course they were assigned the original visa for, and therefore cannot apply in-country. Finding a suitable time to return home to make a further visa application is often difficult and expensive for students. It will come as a relief to many, therefore, that the Home Office have proposed amending the academic progression rules to allow for such a situation. Students will now be able to apply for leave to remain from within the UK to complete a work placement or study abroad programme, or to complete their course, after having finished the placement.

Tier 4 to Tier 2 switches

Currently, non-PhD students cannot apply to switch to a Tier 2 visa within the UK until they have received their final results. This is often very frustrating for students who will not receive their final results until after their current leave has expired, resulting in the additional time and expense of applying for a Tier 2 visa from their home country. Greater flexibility is proposed, in enabling students to apply to switch to Tier 2 after their studies have completed.

Short term study (‘STS’)

In an effort to ‘provide greater clarity and bring the route in line with other short-term visas categories’ students studying under the STS route will be allowed to remain in the UK for up to 30 days at the end of their study, or a total length of stay of 6 months, whichever is shorter. This may make the STS route more attractive to students and allow institutions to utilise the route more.

Electronic entry clearance

The way institutions undertake right to study checks may be affected by the introduction of entry clearances issued in an electronic format. Whilst Immigration Officers will be able to check this upon the migrants arrival in the UK, it is unclear how institutions will be able to check a student’s right to study, where the BRP has yet to be issued, without access to the Home Office database. This will initially be trialled with specified groups so may not affect the Tier 4 category immediately.

Conclusion

The Home Office changes are positive to both Tier 4 students and sponsor licence holders. It is anticipated that the proposals should come into force on 11 January 2018 and presumably the Tier 4 sponsor guidance will be updated to relect the changes.

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