United Kingdom: Further Guidance on Student Visa Changes

The UK Home Office has updated its guidance documents, providing further clarification on recent changes in immigration rules affecting the Tier 4 visa category for foreign students. Key changes include • An allowance for part-time study to be undertaken under the Tier 4 visa category; • A restriction on the requirement for students to prove sufficient funds to study in the United Kingdom; and • Reduced documentary requirements for students who have studied abroad or who require an extension to be able to work as part of their studies.

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Jan 18, 2018

The situation

The UK Home Office has updated its Guidance documents, providing further clarification on the recent changes in immigration rules affecting the Tier 4 (Student) visa category. Key changes, effective for all applications made on or after January 11, 2018, are listed below.

  • Part-time courses now available
    • New rule. Students are now allowed to study part-time courses with Tier 4 sponsors that are considered Higher Education Institutions (per the Tier 4 sponsor register).
    • Prior rule. Foreign students were previously only able to study full-time courses under Tier 4.
    • Impact. This change offers further options to foreign students studying in the United Kingdom, however anyone obtaining a Tier 4 visa to study part-time in the United Kingdom cannot:
      • extend their leave in the United Kingdom;
      • switch immigration categories from within the United Kingdom;
      • bring family members into the United Kingdom as a dependant under their visa; or
      • undertake any form of work (paid or unpaid and including work placements).
  • Restriction on proof of funds
    • New rule. Students must arrange sufficient funds to support their stay before filing a Tier 4 visa application. Funds made available after the application has been filed will not be taken into account.
    • Prior rule. The previous versions of the guidance were unclear on whether funds dated after the submission of the visa application could be considered.
    • Impact. The change removes the margin of discretion and makes the Tier 4 visa application process more uniform and predictable. 
    • Background. As before, the applicant must prove that funds of at least GBP 1,265 per month (studying in London), or GBP 1,015 per month (studying outside London), up to a maximum of nine months, are available for a consecutive 28-day period, with the closing balance being dated within 31 days prior to the visa application submission date.
  • Reduced documentation requirements for students studying abroad.
    • New rule. Foreign students who have studied outside the United Kingdom as part of a study abroad programme or who have applied for further work placement as part of their studies and require an extension no longer have to prove academic progression when applying to continue their studies in the United Kingdom. Instead, the educational institution must provide a simple declaration in the sponsorship certificate.
    • Prior rule. Eligible students were required to demonstrate that the course for which they applied was of a higher Regulated Qualifications Framework level than their previous course, meaning that the student was progressing through the academic levels.
    • Impact. This reduces the documentation burden on eligible foreign students and allows students to continue their studies in the United Kingdom following the completion of their study abroad programme.
  • Relaxed rules to regain sponsor status. Tier 4 sponsors can potentially lose their accreditation status due to issues such as an insufficient education standard or administrative error. As a result of losing their educational oversight, a sponsor’s status can be downgraded to Legacy status. Previously, overseas institutions had to wait for two years before they could apply to have their sponsorship status reinstated. Now, overseas educational institutions whose sponsor status was downgraded to Legacy can apply to have their sponsor status reinstated immediately after remedying the issue(s).
    • Impact. The change allows overseas education institutions to regain sponsorship status faster.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to tier4enquiries@fragomen.com.

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