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New Tier 4 student visa rules will come into force ‘within weeks’ in order to ‘cut abuse of the student visa route and ensure that only the brightest and the best students can stay and work in the UK’, Immigration Minister Damian Green announced today. 

Key features include:

  • Post Study Work Visa (PSW) to be replace 6 April
  • New Graduate Entrepreneur route
  • Only student who graduate from a university, and have a job offer at a salary of at least £20,000 will be allowed to stay
  • entrepreneurs or small company directors with £50,000 to invest can stay
  • work placements restricted to one-third of the course for international students studying below degree level

International non-EU students are currently allowed work in the UK for 2 years after their studies have finished under the Tier 1 PSW (Post-study work) route. But from 6 April, a more ‘selective’ system will be implemented restricting the right to stay to international graduates who qualify under new rules.

Only those who ‘graduate from a university’, and have a skilled job offer with a minimum salary of £20,000 (or more in some cases) from a reputable employer accredited by the UK Border Agency, will be allowed to continue living and working in the UK.

The new rules are part of a radical shake-up of the student visa immigration system, announced in March 2011, which the government say will:

  • encourage growth – a new Graduate Entrepreneur route will open, with up to 1,000 places for students working on world-class innovative ideas who want to stay and develop them but do not meet the requirements of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route;
  • boost the economy – young entrepreneurs or small company directors will get the chance to stay on in the UK after their studies if they have £50,000 to invest in their business;
  • ensure that students can support themselves – for the first time since 2008, there will be an increase in the amount of money that students and working migrants (and their dependants) must prove they have to support themselves financially during their time in the UK; and
  • tackle abuse – restricting work placements to one-third of the course for international students who are studying below degree level will ensure that those coming to the UK are here to study, not to work (as was often the case in the past). Additionally, the time that can be spent studying at degree level will be restricted to a general limit of 5 years.

Damian Green said:

‘It is vital that we continue to attract the brightest and the best international students, but we have to be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay.

‘In the past, too many students have come to the UK to work rather than study, and this abuse must end. With the introduction of the Graduate Entrepreneur route and the restrictions on student work, we are reforming the system to deliver immigration to benefit Britain.’

For full details of the changes you can download a statement of intent from the Home Office website. Source: UK Border Agency.

The announcement did not directly spell out the fate of the many thousands of international students taking degree and post graduate level masters courses at private colleges, but does state that only those who ‘graduate from a university’ and have a job offer paying at least £20,000 would be allowed to stay.

The first round of implementation of changes to the Immigration Rules on international students, including interim measures, came into effect last year on 21 April 2011. Further changes took effect from 4 July 2011. The third set of changes will have effect from 6 April 2012. The relevant Immigration Rules will be laid on 15 March.

To further reduce net migration the Government is also preparing further changes to the Immigration Rules concerning employment related settlement; overseas domestic workers; and Tiers 2 and 5 of the points-based system. Separate announcements regarding these changes, which are also planned for April, will be made as soon as possible. Changes to the Family Route will also be announced in due course.

Earlier this month the Immigration Minister announced the introduction of a minimum earnings figure of £31,000 in order to qualify for permanent settlement or Indefinite Leave to Remain.

The changes do not affect EU students from Bulgaria and Romania exercising Treaty Rights to obtain Yellow Cards to study and work in the UK.

See also:

Overseas students and workers can qualify for a tax refund

Immigration and visa fees to rise again

How will the new ‘minimum salary for residency’ proposals affect you?

Settlement in UK to be linked to a minimum salary of £31,000 says Immigration Minister

New fees for immigration and asylum appeals

UK Immigration crackdown on Tier 4 students sees 70% fall in applications to private colleges

Can family dependants of Tier 4 Students work while studying in the UK?

Free service launched to help overseas students study at UK Universities

Employment restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians extended until end of 2013

7 tips for completing a Yellow Card BR1 application to work and study in the UK

Yellow or Blue Card Refused – Appeal or Reapply?

Immigration Rules for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals

Tier 4 student visa laws ‘harm universities’ says former Education Minister

UK University applicants drops 8.7% but non-EU students increase, UCAS figures reveal

Britain will limit settlement to ‘brightest and best’ migrants under new plans

If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: or visit 

Overseas students and workers can qualify for a tax refund

You could qualify for a tax refund if you are an overseas student, work permit holder, Tier 1, Yellow or Blue Card holder – in fact any visa type – even if you are no longer legal!

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