Home Office to open new UK student Tier 4 visa route early

Comments by Sanwar Ali:

The main benefit for visa applicants under the new Tier 4 visa student route is the ability to apply under the new post-study work visa.  This will enable international students to live and work in the UK after their studies for two years in most cases, and for PhD students for up to three years.

However, whatever the Government does to encourage students to come to the UK, there are a number of issues that will dampen demand.  The coronavirus COVID-19 situation will mean reduced demand for Tier 4 visas because people are less willing to travel, and less willing to pay high visa fees and tuition fees due to the worsening economic situation.  On top of all this EU students will need visas and need to pay high tuition fees from next year further dampening demand.  The University and College Union actually have a "we are international" campaign to help EU nationals.

How bad will the economic situation become in the UK?  We do not know.  Will it be that easy for Tier 4 visa students to find jobs after they finish their course in the UK and come under the post-study work visa?

According to a press release posted on the official UK government website, the Home Office will open a new, international student visa route early. The Student route and Child Student route will officially open on 5 October 2020, in an effort to ‘attract the best and brightest international students from across the globe,’ according to the press release.

The new route, which was outlined in Parliament on 10 September 2020 as part of new immigration rules, ‘will play a key part in the government’s aim of unleashing the UK’s potential’ as the country prepares for life after leaving the EU.

The government press release states that international students benefit the UK academically, economically and financially. The release acknowledged that, due to the coronavirus, many international students have taken the decision to defer their courses until the spring semester in 2021.

Tier 4 visa students to benefit from new streamlined process

The Home Office said that by opening the new student visa route early, it will mean that international students can benefit from the new streamlined process, while giving sponsors time to adapt following their autumn intake.

It’s understood that each route will treat students equally, with international students, including those arriving from Europe following completion of the transition period, using the same, simplified route once it opens for applications.

The press release said: “This will ensure that the UK’s world-leading education sector can continue to welcome talented and high potential students to our globally renowned universities, further education and English language colleges, and independent schools.”

Claims of unleashing the UK’s full potential after Brexit

Kevin Foster, the UK Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, said: “Now we have left the EU, we are free to unleash this country’s full potential and implement the changes we need to restore trust in the UK immigration system and attract talent to drive our economy forward.”

“Launching the Student route early sends a clear message to the world we want the best and brightest to come to the UK to study at our globally renowned education institutions,” Foster added.

Under the Student route, there will be no cap on the number of international students that can enter the UK. The government is hoping to boost the number of international students that choose to study at British universities every year to 600,000 by 2030 – a target that was outlined in the government’s International Education Strategy, published in March 2019.

UK Global leader in higher education

Tim Bradshaw, the Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said: “The UK is a global leader in higher education, research and innovation.

“As we look to the UK’s future place in the world, we want to protect our hard-won status and the opportunities it provides to help with the economic recovery of towns and cities across Britain - as well as finding solutions to the wider challenges that face our society.

“We welcome these changes to the UK immigration rules, which will help to ensure the UK remains an internationally attractive place for the best and brightest students to study. We will continue to work with the government to ensure our visa system remains flexible and responsive to developing issues, such as those emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor at Cardiff University, Colin Riordan, described the announcement as ‘important for demonstrating that the UK is open and welcoming.’

He said: “Given the continuing uncertainties arising from the global pandemic, it’s even more important that the UK is seen as open and welcoming so we can retain our hard-won status as a global leader in higher education, research and innovation.

“That’s why these changes are welcome. The new arrangements will send a clear message that we have the support of our government to welcome talented students from across the world to come and study with us.”

Improving the Tier 4 student visa route

The press release claims that the new Student route is an improvement on the previous Tier 4 visa program, because it streamlines the process for visa applicants and their sponsors. It’s said that the route will create a ‘clear pathway for students,’ while ensuring that Britain remains competitive in a changing global education market.

The new route requires applicants to achieve 70 points to be granted a visa for UK entry. International students will be awarded points if… they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and can support themselves financially while studying in the UK.

New post-study work visa route

The press release said: “We also want to ensure we retain the brightest and the best students to continue to contribute to the UK post-study, which is why we are launching the Graduate route in the summer of 2021.

“This additional new route will allow those who have completed a degree at a UK Higher Education provider with a track record of compliance to stay in the UK for two years (three years for PhD graduates) and work at any skill level, and to switch into work routes if they find a suitable job.”

The government is reportedly on track to launch its new points-based, post-Brexit immigration system on 1 January 2021, which it says will ‘attract talent and take back control by treating people from every part of the world equally and giving us control of our borders.’

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