As part of the ongoing development of the UK immigration rules, changes have been made to the application process and eligibility criteria for UK student visas. The new rules apply to applications for UK student visas made on or after 3rd March 2010. Further changes to the rules are due to be implemented later in 2010 and it is likely that changes will continue to occur for the foreseeable future. It is, therefore, always important to check on the current requirements before submitting an application.
The changes to the rules affect both the applicants for student visas and the organisations providing the course of education they are to attend. Applicants who already held a student visa before the new rules came into effect, but who apply after 3rd March 2010 to extend their stay in the UK, will have to comply with the new rules.
Applications for Student Visas
Under the points-based immigration system applications for adult or child student visas are made under Tier 4. From 22nd February 2010 new forms and guidance notes were introduced for Tier 4 applications. Any application made on or after that date must be made using the new forms. In addition strict new rules apply regarding the photographs, and other biometric data, of the applicant which must be supplied together with the application.
Detailed guidance on the type of photographs which are acceptable is available from the UK Border Agency website.
Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies
From 22nd February 2010 all applications for student visas had to be supported by a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies from the organisation providing the course of education. Previously applicants had to provide a visa letter with their application. However, these are no longer valid and applications which are not accompanied by a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies will be rejected.
Any applicants who have already obtained a visa letter but have not yet submitted their visa application should ask the education body they will be studying with to supply the appropriate Confirmation of Acceptance. By providing the applicant with a Confirmation of Acceptance reference number, the education course provider confirms that the prospective student satisfies certain eligibility criteria.
Standard of English Language Skills Required
From 3rd March 2010 applicants for general student visas will have to satisfy certain English language skills requirements. The organisation at which the applicant intends to study will have to satisfy the UK Border Agency that the applicant has attained the standard required. In doing so the organisation will have to explain how they tested the applicant’s standard of English.
The standard of English language skills required by foreign nationals applying to study an English language course in the UK is level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). A similar standard of English language skills must also be demonstrated by anyone applying under the General Tier 4 Category to study on a course which is below degree level unless they are going to be taking a foundation degree course.
New Rules on Working During Term-Time
Under the new rules child students aged 16 or 17, and those adult students studying a course which leads to a qualification lower than a degree, will only be able to work for a maximum of 10 hours per week during term-time. This restriction does not apply to course-related work placements which satisfy the immigration requirements. Students on courses that lead to a degree, or to a higher qualification, or those who are on foundation degree courses may work 20 hours per week during term-time. Student visa holders in either category may work full-time during the holidays.
The Dependent Family Members of Student Visa Applicants
Under the new rules students planning to take a course lasting no more than six months may not bring their dependent family with them to the UK. Students on courses which are below degree level may bring their dependent family members with them to the UK but the family members will not be able to work while they are in the UK unless they qualify in their own right for a working visa.