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Following the UK Home Secretary’s consultation on the reform of the student immigration system last December, the government has today announced a crackdown on student visa abuse and the closure of the popular Tier 1 post study work visa next year.

Tier 4 sponsors were informed of a number of changes by the UK Border Agency and Home Secretary Theresa May made an announcement in Parliament this afternoon.

May plans to slash the number of student visas by up to 80,000 following a series of measures including: 

  • Limits on the number of hours student can work
  • Increased language requirements
  • Restrictions of dependants
  • Ending the post study work visa from April 2012

In a notice to sponsors the UK Border Agency outlined a number of changes: 

  • A limit on the overall time that can be spent on a student visa to three years at lower levels, as now, and five years at higher levels, with exceptions for students studying for professional qualifications or a PhD;
  • Only the very best international graduates being allowed to stay on and contribute to the UK economy.
  • Current arrangements for international students who graduate in the UK are seen as ‘overly generous’.  So government will ‘close the Post Study Work route from April 2012’.
  • Those graduating from a UK university with a recognised degree, PGCE, or PGDE will be able to switch into Tier 2.

The UKBA website has summarised the main changes: 

  • 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.

Keith Vaz, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, which advised the government not to close the post study work route, commented:

“Students are not migrants. They come from all over the world to study here, contributing to the economy both through payment of fees and wider spending. Whilst we are right to seek to eliminate bogus colleges and bogus students, we need to ensure that we continue to attract the brightest and the best.

“The Government’s policy ought to be evidence-based. Generating policy based on flawed evidence could cripple the UK education sector. In the case of international students this could mean a significant revenue and reputational loss to the UK. We strongly urge the Government to examine the data which it currently uses to extrapolate migration figures and recognise that for any genuine student the doors to Britain’s fine education institutions are always open.”

He added:

“If the door is shut they will simply study elsewhere.”

See also:

UK student visa restrictions announced by Home Secretary

Cross party MPs warn student visa proposals could ‘cripple’ sector, BBC reports

British universities will lose $1.6bn from student visa cut think tank warns

Government appears to be listening to education sector on student visa reforms

 Tier 4 Consultation ends as Damian Green promises clampdown on Student Visa abuse

Tier 4 student visa cuts will damage UK Universities, Ministers warned

Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa to be abolished

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