Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Something needs to be done to protect the UK Higher Education sector. Due to coronavirus COVID-19 there has been a huge decline in student numbers. The effects are likely to be felt for years. Dramatic action needs to be taken if the UK really wishes to encourage overseas students to come to the UK.
Perhaps we need to look at what has been done with the UK Tier 2 health and care visa and do something similar. There should be no immigration health surcharge for international students. There should be a simple and quick visa processing system. Also, the Government should consider reducing Tier 4 visa fees to make it cheaper for international students. Make the whole Tier 4 visa system a fast, cheap, simple streamlined system.
UK visa procedures for international students will be more flexible, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) department of the Home Office has announced. UKVI has been working with its visa services partner, VFS Global, to make applying for a visa easier amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s understood that the increased flexibility will allow international students to apply for a UK visa six months prior to travelling to Britain. Under previous rules, international students could not apply for a visa until closer to the the course start date.
The new flexibilities introduced by UKVI also include health measures throughout the visa process, ensuring a safer and more comfortable environment for all applicants, particularly international students entering the UK.
VFS Global plays key role in UK visa system
VFS Global were instrumental in introducing the protective measures across all UK Visa Application Centres (UKVACS), according to reports. All centres are now operating a mandatory appointment system, with all visitors screened for body temperature while being asked to comply with social distancing measures upon entry to an UKVAC.
VFS’ Regional Group Chief Operating Officer for South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and the Americas, Vinay Malhotra, said: “VFS is trying to ensure a safer visa process to students who will be applying for a visa to the UK for higher education.”
UKVI Regional Director for South and South East Asia, David Ratcliffe, said: “For those travellers, our message is clear: your safety is our highest priority. Throughout the visa application process and your travel to the UK, we are taking measures to ensure you are safe and secure.”
“In addition, the new Graduate Route is guaranteed to open next summer – meaning those students heading to the UK this autumn will be able to apply for 2 years additional post-study leave to kick start their career in the UK,” Mr Ratcliffe said.
Courses at UK Universities can be taken remotely
UKVI is allowing international students to take courses remotely, in their own country, which does not require a Tier 4 student visa. Only international students, whose courses are scheduled to take place in-person, require a visa. From 6 June 2020, several UKVACS around the world began to reopen to enable applications.
It has also been announced that 2021 undergraduates, Master’s degree graduates and PhD graduates will be eligible for the UK’s new post-study work visa route, which is set to launch next summer. This will apply to online students, too.
Undergraduates and Master’s degree students will be allowed to remain in the UK for a further two years after completion of their studies, while PhD students can stay for an additional three years.
According to UKVI data, nearly 18,500 Tier 4 student visas were issued in the year ending March 2020, split across students from the following nations:
- Bahrain – almost 1,000, 99 per cent of applications were approved
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – almost 9000, 98 per cent of applications were approved
- Kuwait – more than 4000, 99 per cent of applications were approved
- Oman – almost 2000, 99 per cent of applications were approved
- Qatar – almost 1,500, 99 per cent of applications were approved
- United Arab Emirates – more than 900, 98 per cent of applications were approved
The data also shows that 50,000 study visas were issued to Indian students in the same period, representing an increase of 136% compared to figures for 2019.
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