As I entered the UK in the year 2000 under paragraph 57 of the immigration rules (as they were then in force), I could not resist writing about the changes to the immigration rules with respect to students. In the old days students had to leave the UK after completing their studies. The PBS removed this requirement from the rules and students made, myself included, the most of their new rights in the UK.
Now the government has imposed unprecedented new restrictions on the rights of students who are a massive source of revenue for the UK. But the home secretary and prime minister have been unequivocal in their rejection and condemnation of the current immigration rules for students. While there is a lot of abuse of the rules for students, one would have to disagree in the deliberately strident manner in which the Conservatives have sought to implement their changes to the student route under the immigration rules. In fact most lawyers would rightly point out that the latest amendments to the rules will inevitably result in legal challenges against the government.
For the home department “tougher entrance criteria” and “limits on work entitlements”, compounded with “the closure of the post-study work route” remained the hallmarks of the changes to the student visa system.
The changes are subsequent to a major public consultation which sought to reform Tier 4 of the PBS after a Home Office review claimed that there was widespread abuse in the student visa system. According to the UKBA “a sample of Tier 4 students studying at private institutions revealed that 26 per cent of them could not be accounted for” (my emphasis).
Therefore, off on a new bender, the Home Office has tried to take the bull by the horns. The main changes to the rules are that:
- From April 2012, institutions wanting to sponsor students will need to obtain an Highly Trusted sponsor licence, Moreover, sponsoring institutions will need to become accredited by a statutory education inspection body by the end of 2012.
- Students coming to study at degree level will need to speak English at an upper intermediate level B2 CEFR rather than the present B1 lower intermediate requirement.
- The UKBA will be entitled to refuse entry to students who can’t speak English and need an interpreter.
- Only students at universities and publicly funded further education colleges will be allowed work rights and all other students will be excluded from working (legally at least).
- Only postgraduate students enrolled in universities or government sponsored students will be allowed to bring their dependants.
- The UKBA will limit the total time which can be spent on a student visa to 3 years “at lower levels (as it is now)”, however, visas will be granted for “5 years at higher levels”. Presently, foreigners are quite free to study as long as they wish.
- The Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) visa, a “bridge visa” which allowed students 2 years to find a job following the successful completion of their course will be deleted from the rules in April 2012.
- Only graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer under Tier 2 of the points-based system will be able to stay to work.
- The government has promised the development of an updated entrepreneur visa for “bright and innovative students” (“only the best and the brightest”) who posses business ideas and acumen and want to expand upon these in the UK.
Mrs Theresa May has taken great pains to advocate her points with respect to making the rules accessible to “genuine” students. In the ten plus years which I have spent in the UK, I can say that the home secretary might be right about abuse to the system; but not every genuine student is treated as such by the British authorities and while bogus students have had a free hand in the UK, many a genuine student has been removed because of minor mistakes here and there in leave to remain applications.
But the real question for Mrs May is whether, in the long run, it was right to for the UK to lure people to study here and then to go on to dash their hopes by disallowing them the right to work and finance their studies? And is it right to split people’s families by mandating the exclusion of dependants? It seems that the promise of the ‘best and the brightest’ is something pledged only to the richest.
The government’s plutocratic policy agenda is well minded to take on board that the rich elites in the developing world are much happier in their corrupt and lawless home countries.
The government should also realise that globalisation has meant that mostly relatively poorer immigrants who want to escape from an inexorably corrupt environment are likely to come to the UK to study and work in order to build a career here so that they can escape the oppression at home.
The UKBA policy summary espousing the changes is available here.