Categories: News
Subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates...

The UK Border Agency implemented major changes this week to Tier 4 of the points-based system affecting non-EU students applying for and renewing student visas.

The statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was announced by the Home Secretary in a statement to Parliament on 22 March.

The UK Border Agency said:

‘The aim of the revised Rules is to deliver a strong migration system which tackles immigration abuse, while allowing genuine students to study at genuine colleges.’

Details of the changes were outlined in a news story on 22 March. You can also find a summary of the new student policy under ‘Related documents’ on the right side of this page.

New versions of our policy guidance documents for Tier 4 migrants and sponsors were published last month and come into effect today. You can find these in the Studying in the UK and Sponsoring migrants sections of this website.


The Government will ‘phase in changes to the rules in order to give providers and students time to plan accordingly’. 

Changes include a ban on all work for students applying for visas to study at private colleges from this ’summer 2011′, a shake-up of accreditation bodies and the right to refuse entry to students who fail to demonstrate a competent level of English upon arrival at UK ports.

During a ‘transitional period’ beginning 21 April 2011, those sponsors who do not meet the new requirements as regards educational accreditation and Highly Trusted Sponsor status will be subject to a limit on their allocation of Confirmations of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) until such time as they meet those new requirements. 

In summary the measures and timetable are as follows: 

Changes from 21 April 2011 

New sponsors not already on the Tier 4 register will have to meet the new educational accreditation criteria in order to be issued a Tier 4 licence. 

Existing sponsors will be subject to an interim limit on the number of students they can sponsor unless they: 

  • hold Highly Trusted Sponsor status; and
  • meet the new accreditation criteria.

Existing sponsors that do not already meet the new accreditation criteria will be required to apply to the relevant inspection body by a date to be announced, in order to be able to continue to sponsor new students, subject to the interim limit, during the transitional period.  

B rated sponsors will not be able to assign CAS to new students (only to those seeking to complete a course). 

A sponsor who is not subject to the interim limit may sponsor, using his own CAS allocation, students studying at a sponsor who is subject to the interim limit, but must take full responsibility for them (e.g. higher education institutions1 could sponsor students at Pathway providers). 

English Language 

The English language requirements for Tier 4 (General) students will be tightened as follows: 

A B1 Secure English Language Test (SELT) requirement for all courses at NQF 3-5 /QCF 3-5 / SCQF 6-8 (ending the current SELT exemptions on pre-sessionals /pathway /foundation degree courses). 

A B2 SELT requirement for courses at NQF 6 /QCF 6 / SQCF 9 and above, with an exception for higher education institutions who can make their own assessment. 

A student may be refused a visa or entry to the UK if he cannot speak English without assistance

The Government will clarify that a CAS may only be issued in respect of a single course, except where the student is attending a pre-sessional course of not more than three months’ duration and has an unconditional offer of a place at a higher education institution or at an independent school starting not more than one month after the end of the pre-sessional course. 

The full document is available on the UKBA website, however, as we have received a number of questions related to working hours allowed for students, we are outlining the Government’s intention below. 


For students sponsored by and studying directly with higher education institutions, we will retain the current level of permission to work at 20 hours per week part-time during term-time for students undertaking courses at degree level or above and 10 hours per week part-time during term time for students undertaking courses below degree level.

All students studying directly with higher education institutions will be able to work full-time during vacations. 

For students sponsored by publicly-funded colleges of further education the Government will also retain the current level of permission to work at 10 hours per week part-time during term-time and full-time during vacations. 

From summer 2011 students who are applying for entry clearance or leave to remain and who are not sponsored by a higher education institutions – University or publicly-funded further education college – will not be granted permission to work at any time during their studies.

However, the ‘Summary of the new student policy document’ published 21 April 2011, states the following; 


Work during term and work placements

Students at Recognised Bodies (universities) will retain their right to work 20 hours a week part-time and to do work placements where the study : work ratio is 50:50.

Students at publicly funded FE colleges will continue to be able to work 10 hours a week part-time.

Other students will have no right to work part-time and work placements will have to be 66:33 in favour of study : work. 

In a further statement on 22 March the UK Border Agency said: 

‘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. 

‘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.’ 

But Paragraphs 273 and 274 (covering the area of working whilst studying in the UK) of the revised policy guidance for Tier 4 migrants (Tier 4 of the Points Based System – Policy Guidance updated 21 April 2011) from 21 April 2011, clearly differs and makes no reference to the earlier (STUDENT VISAS STATEMENT OF INTENT AND TRANSITIONAL MEASURES) document, which to be fair was not ‘definitive': 

Can a student work whilst in the UK? 

273.  Where a Tier 4 (General) student is following a course of degree level study or above, or a foundation degree course, the following work is allowed: 

  • part-time during term-time, which is no more than 20 hours a week; •
  • full-time during vacations; •
  • on a work placement as part of the course;•
  • as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised Foundation Programme;•
  • as a student union sabbatical officer for up to two years. 

274.  Where a Tier 4 (General) student is following a course of study below degree level, that is not a foundation degree course, the following work is allowed: 

  • part-time during term-time, which is no more than 10 hours a week;•
  • full-time during vacations;•
  • on a work placement as part of a course;•
  • as a student union sabbatical officer for up to two years. 

Part 6A of the Immigration Rules appear to mirror the wording in the official guidance: 

245ZW. Period and conditions of grant 

(c)  Entry clearance will be granted subject to the following conditions: 

(i) no recourse to public funds,

(ii) registration with the police, if this is required by paragraph 326 of these Rules,

(iii) no employment except: 

(1) employment during term time of no more than 20 hours per week where the student is following a
course of degree level study or a foundation degree course,

(2) employment during term time of no more than 10 hours per week where the student is following a
course of study below degree level study (excluding a foundation degree course),

(3) employment (of any duration) during vacations,

(4) employment as part of a course-related work placement which forms an assessed part of the applicant’s course and provided that any period that the applicant spends on that placement does not exceed half of the total length of the course undertaken in the UK except where it is a United Kingdom statutory requirement that the placement should exceed half the total length of the course.

(5) employment as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer, for up to 2 years, provided the post is elective and is at the institution which is the applicant’s Sponsor.

(6) employment as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised Foundation Programme.

There now exists a raft of Immigration Rules for non-EU students, which differ according to when their visas were granted and what type of student visa they hold.

For instance, there are still some students hold the old pre-Tier 4 student visa and the guidance for Tier 4 visa students in the UK and wishing to change education provider vary before and after October 2009.

The government have made a number of changes to the Rules related to student visas and Tier 4 sponsors, with private colleges being gradually squeezed out in favour of government funded colleges and universities.

The latest Immigration Rules will ‘radically alter the balance between private and government providers’, with UK Universities seeing a ‘major boost in non-EU student admissions’, say free placement service provider UK University Services (UKUS).

See also: 

Student visa changes now Law after being laid before Parliament today

UK student visa restrictions announced by Home Secretary

Post Study Work Visa to be abolished April 2012 as part of student visa clampdown

University has Tier 4 licence suspended

Free service launched to help overseas students study at UK Universities

If you would like more information on the studying at a UK University or college email joanna or call 0208 905 1822.

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

Still confused?

Bison UK are offering free advice to student visa holders on the new Tier 4 changes and renewal options.

Spread the Word, like or share this page, your friends will also love it. Thanks...

Contact Info

 Regus House, Fairbourne Drive, Atterbury Lakes, Milton Keynes. MK10 9RG
Skype: Immigration Matters
FAX: +44 (0) 870 429 2701 - 24 hour service

Google Maps

RSS Announcements on GOV.UK