Changes to the Immigration Rules

08 December 2017

The Home Office have released changes to the Immigration Rules which affect students making a Tier 4 application and those coming to the UK as a ‘short-term student’. These changes will take effect on 11 January 2018 and will affect an application made on or after that date.  If you are preparing to make an application and submit this on or before 10 January 2018, your application will be decided according to the current Immigration Rules.  

Here is a summary of the most relevant changes for international students:

Changes to Tier 4

  • There will be an option for students to study part-time courses in the UK if the course leads to a qualification at RQF level 7 or SCQF 11 and above, and if the sponsor is a Higher Education Institution (HEI).  Students studying such part-time courses will not be permitted to work in the UK (this includes on a work placement), will not be entitled to bring family members as Tier 4 dependants, will not be able to apply to extend their Tier 4 visa from within the UK and will not be eligible to switch into other immigration categories permitting work after completing the course.
  • Students who need to make a Tier 4 application to undertake a study abroad programme or an assessed work placement, or who need to extend their visa having completed a study abroad programme or work placement as part of their course, will be exempt from having to meet any requirement about academic progress. 

Changes for ‘Short-term students’

  • The minimum age to apply as a short-term student will be reduced from 18 to 16.  This means that students aged 16 and over will be eligible to come to the UK for the longer period of 11 months in order to study an English language course.
  • Short-term students are currently required to leave the UK at the end of their course or at the end of the 6-month period of immigration permission, whichever is sooner.  This will change to allow short-term students to stay for up to 30 days after the course has ended.
  • It has been made clearer that students will be able to undertake courses concurrently and consecutively as long as all courses can be completed within the 6-month validity period of the visa.
  • A student who is enrolled on a course abroad in medicine, veterinary medicine and science, or dentistry which is equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK, will be able to undertake electives relevant to their course of study as a short-term student if they are accepted by a UK higher education institution and these electives are unpaid and involve no treatment of patients. 

Changes to post-study work options

  • Tier 4 students (excluding those studying a PhD) who are switching to Tier 2 (General) currently need to have completed and passed their course. This will change so that students can make their application for Tier 2 as soon as the course has been completed. If the final degree certificate or academic transcript is not yet available, evidence can be submitted stating the date the course was completed, having sat all exams and presented all academic papers.

Other changes

  • Electronic visas for applications made outside of the UK will be introduced and trialled initially with specific groups.  This means that when an entry clearance application is granted, the immigration permission will usually be endorsed in the passport, but in some cases it will be granted electronically.

The Home Office guidance documents that are published to help students and institutions interpret the Rules in more detail have not yet been updated to reflect these changes.  We expect these to be released when the changes to the Immigration Rules take effect from 11 January 2018.  The information and advice published on the UKCISA website will therefore be updated when the changes take effect and the guidance has been released.