Government outlines overhaul of student visas
Tougher entrance criteria, limits on work entitlements and the closure of the post-study work route are among the changes to the student visa system announced today by Home Secretary Theresa May.
The announcement follows a major public consultation on reforming Tier 4 of the points-based system, after a Home Office review revealed widespread abuse. A sample of Tier 4 students studying at private institutions revealed that 26 per cent of them could not be accounted for.
The main changes are as follows:
- From April 2012, any institution wanting to sponsor students will need to be classed as a Highly Trusted sponsor, and will need to become accredited by a statutory education inspection body by the end of 2012. The current system does not require this, and has allowed too many poor-quality colleges to become sponsors.
- Students coming to study at degree level will need to speak English at an 'upper intermediate' (B2) level, rather than the current 'lower intermediate' (B1) requirement.
- UK Border Agency staff will be able to refuse entry to students who cannot speak English without an interpreter, and who therefore clearly do not meet the minimum standard.
- Students at universities and publicly funded further education colleges will retain their current work rights, but all other students will have no right to work. We will place restrictions on work placements in courses outside universities.
- Only postgraduate students at universities and government-sponsored students will be able to bring their dependants. At the moment, all students on longer courses can bring their dependants.
- We will limit the overall time that can be spent on a student visa to 3 years at lower levels (as it is now) and 5 years at higher levels. At present, there is no time limit for study at or above degree level.
- We will close the Tier 1 (Post-study work) route, which allows students 2 years to seek employment after their course ends. Only graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer under Tier 2 of the points-based system will be able to stay to work.
The government has also pledged to develop a new entrepreneur route for bright and innovative students who have a business idea and want to make it work in the UK.