On 15 June, the Home Office issued a new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules. The Home Office also confirmed that the changes will come into force on 6 July 2018.
Amongst other changes, the Home Office has expanded the list of countries whose nationals will be able to benefit from a streamlined application process when applying for Tier 4 student visas. Applicants from countries on this list are required to provide a reduced level of documentation under the differentiation arrangements. The countries on this list are seen as “low-risk” and in order to be treated as a low-risk applicant the prospective student must make their application either in the country of their nationality, the country where they are living, or in the UK. The new countries on the list are Bahrain, Cambodia, China, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kuwait, the Maldives, Mexico, Serbia, Thailand, and Macau, joining countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and others. Nationals of Oman will be omitted from the list after 6 July.
All students from the countries under the differentiation arrangements will still need to meet all the requirements under the Immigration Rules for Tier 4 applications and UK Visas and Immigration reserves the right to request the full range of documentary evidence in full and will indeed do so for a random sample of applications. However, the differentiation arrangements mean that the applicants will not be required to provide evidence of finances, academic qualifications, English language certificate (SELT) and evidence of academic progression. They will, however, be required to confirm that they meet the requirements on the application form and that they hold the documentary evidence in the required format.
India’s exclusion has been notable, given that the list will soon include China, Thailand and Indonesia. Indian students will continue to face rigorous checks and documentary requirements. They have been excluded due to fears of “non-compliance”, meaning they are judged to be at risk of disappearing after entering the UK on student visas, although the Home Office has not published any statistics to support this claim. India has repeatedly raised with the UK the issue of visas for students and professionals and the country’s exclusion from the differentiation agreement has caused outrage in the Indian media.
The Times has commented that India’s exclusion had to be seen in the context of the recent heightened tensions following India’s decision not to sign a memorandum of understanding on the return of illegal migrants demanded by Britain during a visit to the UK in April by Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister. Lord Karan Bilimoria, head of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, described the move as an “insult” to India and an example of the UK’s “economically illiterate and hostile attitude to immigration”. The decision to exclude Indian nationals may also disrupt the Government’s attempts to build trade links with countries outside the EU following Brexit.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We welcome Indian students who want to come to the UK to study at our world-leading educational institutions. We issue more visas to students from India than any other country except China and the USA”.
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