Yesterday, the Home Office laid down a Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules. These changes close the Tier 4 Student route and replace it with the ‘Child Student’ and ‘Student’ routes.
When will these new routes be introduced?
The changes are being introduced to give effect to the Government’s plan to create a global visa system which applies equally to all individuals coming to the UK to work or study, including EEA nationals. Tier 4 is the first route to be simplified and streamlined.
The new routes are expected to replace the current Tier 4 category and come into operation as of 5 October 2020. Therefore, students considering their options under the existing immigration rules may wish to ensure that they file their visa application before the new route is expected to be implemented.
Who will the new route apply to?
The Student and Child Student routes will apply to both EEA nationals (as of 1 January 2021) and non-EEA nationals.
European Economic Area (“EEA”) nationals are entitled to free movement until 1 January 2021 and therefore will not be eligible to apply for this route until 1 January 2021. However, EEA nationals seeking to travel before 31 December 2020, or those currently residing in the UK, may wish to take advantage of the current EU Settlement Scheme, which is open to all EEA nationals living in the UK before 31 December 2020 with a closing date of 30 June 2021.
What are the differences between the current Tier 4 route and the Student routes?
- EEA nationals will be incorporated into a global application system. EEA nationals will be required to meet the same requirements to study within the UK as non-EEA nationals and will need to apply under the Student rules;
- There are increased switching permissions within the study route and increased switching between routes within the Points Based Immigration System. Students will be able to apply for further permission from within the UK, provided they meet the Academic Progression requirement and the new course of study commences within 28 days of the expiry of the current leave;
- The eight-year time limit on studying courses at postgraduate level has been removed. There is no longer a limit on the time that an individual can spend studying postgraduate courses;
- Students at higher education providers with a track record of compliance will not routinely be required to provide evidence of academic qualifications used to obtain the offer of sponsorship;
- New Rules on English Language and Finance:
- Applicants will only be required to prove the required level of English Language once;
- The Majority English Language country list will also include Malta and Ireland;
- Applicants who have gained GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK can rely on this to prove their English Language;
- Maintenance – applicants will no longer be required to meet the maintenance requirement for an extension of their leave if they have been supporting themselves in the UK for more than one year;
- Applicants will be able to rely on electronic bank statements and they will be able to meet the maintenance requirements by relying on a wider range of accounts; and
- EEA nationals will be added to the list of those not required to provide documentation to show maintenance from the outset.
A student will be required to meet a minimum of 70 points in order to be awarded Student/Student Child status, i.e.
- Sponsorship – 50 points;
- Financial Requirement – 10 points;
- English Language – 10 points.
International students play a key part in the Government’s agenda to unleash the UK’s potential as we approach the end of the Transition Period. Students make important contributions economically, academically and financially. The Government recognises that as a result of coronavirus, some overseas students are choosing to defer their entry onto courses in the UK until the spring semester of 2021. The Government hopes that introducing these new routes now means that students will be able to benefit from the new streamlined process whilst still giving sponsors time to adapt after their autumn intake.
In addition to the above new route, a new Graduate route will be launched in summer 2021. This new route will allow those who have completed a degree at a UK Higher Education provider with a track-record of compliance to stay in the UK for two years (three years for PhD graduates) and work at any skill level, and to switch into work routes if they find a suitable job.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.
Consultant and trainee solicitor in our Corporate Team