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Tories Vs International Students - 5 Practical Changes to Visa Applications

How can the Conservative return to power in the UK affect international students? Get an insight with BrainGain Magazine.
BY Skendha Singh |   19-05-2015
The return of the Conservatives to power in Westminster has been received with apprehension by several quarters – workers, disabled people, anti-nuclear groups and immigrants, to name a few, not to mention international students.

Already the government, under PM David Cameron, has in place rules and regulations which have made the UK a less desirable higher education destination. The major one being clamping down on the post study work route option. Until 2012, international students had the option of staying on in the UK after completing their studies, as they looked for a job or another course. In 2012, this duration was restricted to four months. The impact of such reactionary measures in the highly competitive education market was quickly felt. Canada and Australia, which had liberalised immigration policies, emerged as more attractive higher education destinations.

In the UK, the number of international students dropped by approximately 5000 between 2011-12 and 2012-13. The population of Indian students alone decreased by 25%, according to the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency.

This was because, for one, the removal of post-study work option significantly impacts the perceived Return on Investment, a major contributing factor in a student’s decision to study abroad. A student who travels to a foreign country for studies wants to be able to avail career opportunities there as well. Again, a visa process which requires students to jump through hoops doesn’t necessarily make the applicant feel welcome in the new country.

It is quite possible that the Conservatives, under David Cameron, are willing to overlook all the benefits that a diverse student community brings to a country. Economic support, cultural diversity, expansive pool of skilled labour will perhaps all be compromised for the sake of political will.

In more practical terms, here is a look at the changes in the visa application system affected by the Tories so far. Just to add a few more hoops to the ones that you had already prepared yourself to jump through!

  1. Visa Fees Increase: Applicants will now pay 322 GBP. The increased fees are applicable from April 2015. You will pay the same amount for each dependant who travels with you.
     
  2. English Language Tests: No more TOEFL, in case you had a preference or a certificate at the ready. UK institutions will now ask for secure English language test providers’ certificates only.That means the IELTS.
     
  3. Health Surcharge: The re-elected Prime Minister’s first speech post election focused on filling the funding gap of the National Health Service. International students are expected to contribute by way of the health surcharge. If you are outside the European Economic Area, and intend to stay in the UK for more than six months, you will need to pay 150 GBP, per year as a student. If you have any dependants, they will also pay the same amount.

    The fees needs to be paid before you submit your visa application.
     
  4. TB Test: You need to be tested for tuberculosis if you belong to certain countries. While not a brand new measure, it came into full force last year. Yet another box to tick on the application.
     
  5. Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs): You don’t have to apply for these separately. (Praise Heaven!) However, unlike earlier when the vignette on your visa was all you needed, you will now get a 30 days ticket. After reaching the UK, you will be required to collect your BRP from a Post Office in the UK within ten days. On failing to do so without good reason, you can be penalized.  Your visa can even be cancelled.

While the new government wants to limit the number of immigrants to 100,000, including the international student population, there has been an outcry by those who see this as unwise. One of the most vociferous parties has been the SNP, which is the largest party in Scotland, and is keen to re-open the post-study work option.

Keep reading BrainGain magazine as we follow the latest trends in international education, and international student affairs in the UK.

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