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UK Implements New Student Visa Rules

Significant changes to the UK student visa system have come into effect.To qualify for entry to study in the UK under the new system, students will be required to score 40 points. 30 points will be scored from having an unconditional offer of study from a licensed UK education provider while the remaining 10 will come from verifiable proof of funds to cover tuition and living costs.

In order to qualify for entry to study in the UK under the new system, students will be required to score 40 points. 30 points will be scored from having an unconditional offer of study from a licensed UK education provider while the remaining 10 will come from verifiable proof of funds to cover tuition and living costs.

The new system requires higher levels of English language proficiency than previously required.

And the guidelines prescribe stricter rules about the number of hours students can work: not more than 20 hours per week, during term-time.

Sam Murray, spokesperson for the UK Border Agency, South Asia spoke to Brain Gain’s Pooja Prakash about the new changes. Excerpts:

While the 'best and the brightest' always stand a good chance, will the average Indian student studying in non-English medium schools lose out?

 It is important and reasonable to expect that students are sufficiently proficient in English in order to follow their courses successfully and to make the most of the wider opportunities of studying and living in the UK. The English language requirements are set out clearly in the current Tier 4 guidance. Those wishing to study English language at a lower level than that permitted by Tier 4 may do so under the student visitor route.

Photo By: Aria Mehr, Flicker Creative Commons  
British Parliament

What are the student eligibility criteria for entry into the UK under the new system?

Student applicants need to pass a points-based assessment under Tier 4 - scoring 40 points – and meet the UK’s Immigration Rules in order to qualify for entry to study in the UK.

It is important that applicants read the current published Tier 4 guidance which is available on the UK Border Agency website: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk

In order to acquire 40 points, a student needs an unconditional offer of study from a licensed UK education provider (called a sponsor) and this will be evidenced by way of a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) – an electronic reference number that the student will receive from the sponsor which they need to write on the visa application form. This contains information about the student, the course and the documents submitted that led to an offer of study. It is important that the student knows the contents of the CAS. This gives the student 30 points.

The remaining 10 points come from showing enough money to cover the course fees and living costs (known as maintenance).The maintenance a student needs to show depends on where they want to study and the duration of the course.

It is very important to note that the UK Border Agency only accepts as evidence the documents stipulated in the Tier 4 guidance. Documents must be in the format specified and must be in the original (unless otherwise specified).

Now that the new changes are in place, what are your tips for visa applicants?

It is important to refer to the current Tier 4 published guidance when completing the visa application form. Complete the application fully and honestly.

Ensure that all the correct documents are submitted. It is not possible to submit additional documentation at a later stage. Please only submit the documentation specified in the Tier 4 guidance. Any other documentation will not be considered.

Please ensure that the CAS is valid (you cannot use the same CAS twice), ensure translations are provided if required and, if relying on funding from parents or guardians, do ensure that you include the correct evidence of your relationship (set out in the guidance).

Do not submit forged documentation or use deception. Your visa application will be refused and you will be prohibited from travelling to the UK for up to 10 years.

Do apply in good time. You may make a visa application up to 3 months in advance of your intended date of travel.  The UK Border Agency aims to process most student visa applications within 15 working days; however, at very busy times – such as August/September, it is advisable to allow for a longer waiting period.

You do not need an agent to make a visa application. If you wish to get additional help, please choose an agent carefully. Many agents are paid commission by UK sponsors they represent. If they charge the applicant an additional fee, this should be reasonable.

Ensure that your chosen sponsor is on the Tier 4 sponsors’ register at the time you make your application and again when you leave for the UK.

If you are required to hand over course fee deposits in advance to a UK sponsor, ensure you understand the terms and conditions attached to this transaction and when/how the deposits are refundable.

What are the basic premises on which the counsellor officer grants a visa? Can the candidates re-apply if they are denied a visa the first time?

Tier 4 of the points based system is objective and transparent. Applicants need to follow the published guidance closely and provide all the necessary evidence, in the format specified, to acquire 40 points. Applicants also need to meet the UK’s Immigration Rules.

If the applicant’s visa is refused and he/she thinks the visa officer has made an incorrect decision on the basis of the information you submitted (for example, miscalculated your maintenance) the applicant may ask for an Administrative Review (AR). An AR request notice will be included with the notification of refusal. This is a review of the original decision by a visa manager. Applicants cannot submit any new information with an AR – it is therefore very important that all the necessary documents are submitted with the original application.

An applicant may also make a fresh visa application, addressing the reasons for refusal in the earlier application.

Many feel that closing down the post-study work routewill deter foreigners from studying in the UK.  Some also feel that the UK work environment will lose out on a ‘diverse’ work culture in the long run.What are your thoughts?

 The post study work route allowed international graduates to remain in the UK for up to 2 years, whether or not they were able to find work. Research showed that many did not in fact find employment and others found only low-skilled employment not commensurate with their qualifications. When the post-study work route closes, there will still be provision for high-quality graduates, with graduate level job offers, to remain in the UK to work. We will also announce details of a new student entrepreneur category in due course.

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