The UK Border Agency has announced a “strict new system to crack down on bogus colleges and fraudulent applications from foreign students”.
The “new” system is in fact the final tier of the Points Based System, which has finally arrived after years of almost monthly announcements of the latest ‘crackdown’ on immigration.
Tier 4, of the five-tier points system, starts today, despite the fact that the full electronic system (CAS) will not be ready until September.
The Home Office claim that the new system set up to accredit educational providers has so far screened out almost a quarter of applications from independent schools, colleges and universities.
Institutions must register with the UK Border Agency before they are allowed to ‘sponsor’ or recruit international students under Tier 4.
Currently, international colleges are approved and had to appear on the DIUS register. Providers were also approved and accredited by the various awarding bodies such as OCR and City and Guilds. The Government wanted a more robust system to prevent abuse.
Over 2,100 universities, independent schools and colleges have applied to sponsor international students and have been assessed or visited by UK Border Agency officers as part of the vetting process.
The UK Border Agency said that around 460 institutions that “don’t make the grade have been rejected”, but have not mentioned that hundreds more have been awaiting accreditation for over six months before they can even apply to go on the sponsors register.
The Government acknowledge that international students play a major part in the UK’s cultural and economic wealth and help make the UK’s education sector one of the best in the world.
“Last year tuition fees from international students totalled £2.5 billion – the Tier 4 rules ensure that institutions who benefit from having international students on their books take responsibility for ensuring students arriving from outside Europe comply with the conditions of their leave to be in the UK.”
Prospective students must prove they have a place at a licensed institution, that they can financially support themselves, and provide their fingerprints to the UK Border Agency.
The Government wants to ensure that Tier 4 benefits talented, legitimate students making the most of Britain’s world-leading educational institutions.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, currently the subject of a Parliamentary investigation into her expenses claims, said:
“These new measures make sure people who come here to study – and the people who teach them – play by the rules.
“This new tier of the points based system allows us to know exactly who is coming to the UK to study and crack down on bogus colleges.
“I have made it clear that I will not tolerate either the fraudulent applicants trying to abuse Britain’s immigration rules, or the dodgy colleges that facilitate them. However Britain will always welcome legitimate students who are coming here to receive a first-rate education.”
Professor Mary Ritter, Pro Rector, International Affairs, at Imperial College London said:
“International students play a big part in making Imperial the dynamic and exciting place it is, and we feel very fortunate that so many motivated, highly talented people from around the world want to pursue their studies here.
“It’s vital that, while taking appropriate border control measures, we don’t make it difficult for these students to come to the UK. For that reason we are very pleased that the Government has decided to extend the maximum length of the Tier 4 visa from the planned four years to cover the complete duration of a student’s course. This will be particularly helpful for medical students.
“We also welcome moves to make the system simpler for institutions and students.”
Following consultation between the UK Border Agency and educational institutions, it has been agreed that students must show they have the money to support themselves for nine months – this is lower than the 12 months originally proposed.
There has been little information published on transitional arrangements for visa applicants under current rules. Thousands of student visa VAF applications are backed up in the pipeline at major embassy visa sections.
How will the new rules affect you?
If want to study at an accredited college in the UK and have the funds to support yourself, it should be easier to obtain a student visa under Tier 4. But the visa will be tied to the educational provider and there will be no right of appeal against a refusal.
See: http://www.immigrationmatters.co.uk/points-based-tier-4-starts-31-march.html for more information on the points system for students.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: