Only two weeks left to take part in the Student Immigration System public consultation which will help shape the future of international student visa rules in the UK for the next few years.
The British government has clearly stated that it ‘intends to reduce annual net migration to the UK to sustainable levels, in the tens of thousands a year’, and that it ‘expects the student route to make its contribution towards reducing net migration’.
Ministers believe that ‘students now represent the largest proportion of net migration from outside Europe’, although some experts argue that students are not migrants at all. Nevertheless, the government wants to introduce measure to restrict the number of students entering the country and ensuring that the number of international students coming to the UK is ‘broadly in balance with the number leaving’.
The government’s policy aim is to ensure that ‘only genuine students who are committed to their academic study come to the UK’, and with a ‘presumption that upon completion they will leave promptly’.
The consultation documents states:
‘We need to ensure that the student route is clearly delineated as a temporary route, with the expectation that students should return home on completion of their course.
‘In order to prevent students from staying in the UK indefinitely without making academic progress, we propose that if a student wishes to continue to continue to pursue further study in the UK, their sponsor will need to provide written confirmation that the new course is at a higher level than the one they’ve just completed.’
‘We also wish to consider whether students wishing to extend their studies should be required to return home to apply overseas for a new visa, in order to mark the fact that their initial stay has expired and that they leave the UK in line with their original intention, prior to a new permission to enter. In general we wish to challenge the perception that once a student visa has been obtained, an extended stay in the UK will be permitted.’
The public consultation sets out ‘government proposals for achieving this aim’ and invites stakeholders to participate in the debate and add their views.
You can respond online to the consultation at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/student-consult-online which will take around 30 minutes to read and complete.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) said:
‘The purpose of the consultation is to seek your views on how the new system for international students should operate in future. These changes seek to ensure that our high-quality institutions remain able to attract genuine students from overseas, while bearing down on abuse.
‘The online consultation questions are grouped under the following broad aims we expect our reforms to achieve.’
The aims the UKBA want to achieve are:
• Raising the level of courses students can study. Only Highly Trusted Sponsors will be able to offer courses to adult students at National Qualification Levels 3, 4 and 5.
• Introducing tougher entry criteria for students other than child students.
• Ensuring students return overseas after their course.
• Limiting the entitlements to work and sponsor dependants.
• Simpler procedures for checking low-risk applications.
• Stricter accreditation procedures for education providers in the private sector.
Among the more detailed proposals are plans to restrict below degree level courses (Level 6) only to government and Highly Trusted Colleges and possibly stop overseas students coming in to study level 3 courses altogether.
Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa
More worrying for higher education providers and universities, many of which depend on international students to subsidise resident students, are plans to abolish the Tier 1 post study work visa.
The document states:
‘The student route is a temporary migration route, with students expected to leave on completion of their studies. We are concerned that the Post Study Work route confuses this concept. This route enables international graduate students to move from study to work in the UK.
‘We therefore propose to close the Tier 1 Post Study Work route. We also invite views on any necessary transitional arrangements.’
You can respond online to the consultation at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/student-consult-online