UKVI briefs education attachés on student visa policy

International students enrolling at British universities this summer face a raft of new student visa rules, education attachés heard at a talk given by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Head of Sponsorship Bernard Evans.

Addressing members of the London Education and Research Network (LEARN) at the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission, Evans said UKVI was “reaching out” to attachés to explain the reasoning behind the new policy and how this would be implemented.

Evans said Britain welcomed the “brightest and best” students while clamping down on bogus colleges or “immigration factories” who had used their ‘Highly Trusted’ status as a marketing tool to exploit naive students.

Protecting students
Thus the ‘Highly trusted’ status has been replaced by ‘Tier 4 sponsor’ for which institutions have to pass a range of compliance tests.

In cases where sponsors lost their licenses, consuls appealed to UKVI to put measures in place to compensate students or fast-track them in enrolling at a different institution.

Evans urged education attaches to “partner with UKVI” to inform students of the risks of bogus schools and to do proper research into the schools to which they enrol.

New rules regarding English language tests for visa applications were in response to widespread fraud uncovered in 2014, said Evans. The Home Office only accepts ‘Secure’ English Language Tests (SELTs) from two providers (IELTS-SELT and Trinity College). Worries over capacity issues due to a shortage of test centres had been resolved, he added.

Also being rolled out is the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), which students have to collect at a Visa4UK Post Office branch within 10 days of their arrival. Attachés were sceptical whether selected branches could cope with the predicted high demand in September.

All students staying for more than six months now have to pay a health surcharge as part of the student visa application process. The levy is refundable if the visa is declined.

More visa restrictions planned
At the Embassy Education Conference, the Head of Home Office Student Migration Rebecca Bradford updated diplomats on new measures planned in the coming months.

From August, students at publicly funded colleges will no longer be entitled to work. From November, the time limit for Further Education study will be reduced from three to two years. Students will have to demonstrate academic progression and Tier 4 visas for college study will not be extended in the UK.

Landlord checks for students would be rolled out nationwide but student halls of residence would be exempted, Bradford said.