What happens if Student visa rules are broken?

25 Jun 2024, 54 mins ago

In the run-up to the General Election, the UK Government has ramped up its focus on student visa abuse in a bid to ensure only genuine students come to the UK. What does that mean for prospective international students?

Travel after Brexit

Context: Immigration at the election.

According to pollster YouGov, immigration is the fourth most important issue to the British public. As a result, the two main political parties are both promising to lower overall levels of migration, which has brought specific attention to student visas and their alleged abuse by overseas students.

This political backdrop is somewhat juxtaposed with the precarious position of various higher educational institutions. MPs are set to investigate the growing concern regarding budget deficits at multiple English universities.

According to research on the Parliamentary website, the proportion of higher education providers with an annual overspend increased from 5% in 2015 to 32% in 2020. this, in turn, is pushing universities to increasingly rely on international students who pay higher fees to attempt to bridge the gap between expenditure and income.

New rules?

Keen to stress a distinction between ‘genuine’ and ‘non-genuine’ international students, the government has announced the following measures:

  • Mandating that universities sign up to a strict framework for agents who recruit international students;
  • Introducing strengthened compliance standards for institutions who recruit overseas students, by penalising them (including by potentially losing their sponsor licence) if they accept students who then fail to pass visa checks, enrol or complete their course;
  • Increasing financial maintenance requirements so that students will have to prove their financial self-sufficiency;
  • Reviewing English language assessments to try and standardise independent assessments; and
  • Restricting remote delivery of higher education courses.

This, of course, is also part of an overall announcement of measures designed to restrict and reduce net migration to the UK, with some in the government signalling that they may propose further restrictions, for example, scrapping the graduate visa route.

Are there any downsides?

Several university insiders, in addition to an array of businesses, have suggested these changes threaten their business models, risking jobs and revenue as a result. For example, the University and College Union (UCU) said that 297 job roles could be made redundant, in addition to an associated £24 million deficit due to a fall in the number of international students, stagnant domestic student recruitment and rising pension costs.

The Chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee (who also functions as the government’s independent adviser) warned that scrapping the graduate visa route would only have “small effects” on net migration, whereas the shrinking overseas student population would mean “many universities would need to shrink, and less research would be done”.

How could this affect you as an International Student?

In our view, the new rules are likely to shrink the number of spaces available for international students on various courses. As a result, competition will likely increase and the need to have experienced advisers who can guide you through the application process will be essential to securing a place on a course of your choice.

What happens if you break the rules?

Because your visa is linked to your educational institution, if you don’t enrol, fail to complete your studies, fail to demonstrate the relevant English language requirements, fail to demonstrate financial self-sufficiency or complete your course, you could face sanctions. For example, the student visa restricts working hours. In a new context where the student visa faces increased scrutiny, if you work too many hours, you could be removed from the UK and even barred from returning. As it pertains to demonstrating self-sufficiency, if you claim public funds, you will breach the terms of your immigration permission, encounter issues attempting to extend your immigration status in the UK and face a ban on returning to the UK for an extended period.

How Gherson can assist

Gherson’s Immigration Team are highly experienced in advising on UK visa matters. If you have any questions arising from this article, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice, or send us an e-mail. Don’t forget to follow us on XFacebookInstagram, or LinkedIn to stay-up-to-date on the latest developments.

The information in this article 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 do not 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.

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