24 Oct 2016, 25 mins ago

New immigration rules aimed at reducing the number of students coming to the UK are already having an effect on thousands of Canadian students

The government’s plans to tackle annual net migration to the UK have extended to the sphere of international students currently studying or seeking to study and work in the UK. These new rules, effective in November 2015, will target international students by restricting their right to work in the UK during study and their ability to stay in the UK following the completion of their course of study.

These new measures, set to come into force in November 2015, are already affecting thousands of Canadian students CBC News has reported. The report stated that Canada has the highest number of students studying in the UK, second only to the US, with more than 6,000 Canadian students currently enrolled at higher education institutions. As a result these new rules will directly impact not only their ability to stay in the UK following the completion of their course of study, but also their decision to come to the UK in the first place.

The report detailed the case of a Canadian law student who has spent two years studying law at ‘City University’ in London, and who, as a result of the new immigration rules, will no longer be able to stay in the UK to work following the completion of her studies.

The intention behind this change in rules by the Home Office is to reduce net-migration to the UK and to curb student visa fraud. However not only is the proportion of students found to be fraudulently obtaining student visas a very small one, these measures will disproportionately affect the thousands of students, such as those in Canada, who have saved and spent thousands of pounds to receive an English education.

The report details how following the completion of their higher education in the UK, ‘instead of looking for jobs after graduation as [they] had hoped’, Canadian students ‘will be forced to go elsewhere’. Top Student Affairs executives and other student officers warned in the report of the detrimental nature of these new rules to both the UK economy and particularly the education sector who will lose valuable resources as a result.

The following are the most up to date changes to the student immigration rules:

Prohibition on work for further education college students

Under the new rules international students studying at a public or community college will be prohibited from work while studying. Previously such students would have been allowed to work up to 10 hours a week, a lifeline for many students who can use this to contribute towards the mounting cost of education, particularly for international students, along with the ever-increasing cost of living and the new NHS charge for hospital treatment. Without the ability to work, some international students are likely to be deterred from studying in the UK, and many will no longer be able to afford to continue their studies here.

Extending a study visa for further education college students

The ability for students at further education colleges to extend their study visas has changed. Students will not have to leave the country before applying for an extended study visa, whereas previously students could remain in the UK during this process. Again this increases the costs to students, particularly those who might not be able to afford to leave the country during the application process and then return again.

Restriction on switching for further education college students

The new rules will further restrict students by prohibiting them from switching courses without express permission from the university.

Restrictions on extending studies for university students

University students wanting to extend their general visas face tougher restrictions. They must be moving up a level on the National Qualifications Framework and can only extend their studies on the same level if the proposed course is linked to the previous one, or if it supports their careers aspirations. This will be determined by the university.

Elimination of ‘established presence’ for university students

Finally the new rules eliminate the concept of ‘established presence’ whereby a university student could extend their study visas if they could demonstrate that they had sufficient means to cover two months of education and the necessary living expenses. Under the new rules students will need to demonstrate up to nine months of savings in the bank to be able to qualify for a visa extension, something which many students will struggle to be able to demonstrate.

Taken as a whole these new rules make it more difficult for students to come to the UK, to study and to remain in the UK to study or work. As a consequence this will have a marked effect not only on the economy to which such students make a big impression, but it will also put strains on the UK education institutions who benefit hugely from international student fees such as those from Canada. It seems therefore that the effect that these new rules will have on the intended area of reducing student visa fraud will be hugely outweighed by their disproportionate effect on the students themselves and the educational institutions that house them.