Home Secretary Alan Johnson has announced changes to student visas that will mean that students will need to have better English; Also, those on shorter courses will only be allowed to work a smaller number of hours in the UK. It is interesting to note that only a week ago UKBA announced a temporary ban on student visa applications from Northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The new requirements since 7 February 2009 are as follows:
- If you are from outside the EU you will need to speak English to a level just below GCSE standard, instead of beginner level English at present
- If you are a student taking a course below degree level you will only be allowed to work for 10 hours a week, instead of the 20 hours presently allowed
- If you are on a short course of under six months you will not be allowed to bring dependants into the UK.
- If you are on a course below degree level your dependants will not be allowed to work
- Visas for courses below degree level with a work placement will only be granted if the institution that you attend is on a new register, the Highly Trusted Sponsors List.
The Home Secretary said that 30% of migrants to the UK gain entry on a student visa. A number of these students take courses at a lower level than degree level. There were 240,000 student visas issued by the UK in 2008/09. A review of the system had been ordered in November 2009. This is despite the fact that the new Tier 4 student visa points based system was only introduced last year.
The UK Government has stated that tougher rules have been brought in to stop people abusing the student visa system to remain illegally in the UK. It should be noted that the UK has benefitted enormously from overseas students. Overseas students provide a substantial income to colleges and Universities. Especially during times of economic growth students and their dependents provide a useful source of new employees.
The opposition party the Conservatives had said that the student visa system had been the "biggest hole in border controls".
The Home Secretary had the following to say on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show:
"By 2011, we will have the most sophisticated system in the world to check people not just coming into the country but to check they have left as well," he said.
"If you are coming here for a course that is under six months you cannot bring your dependents"
"We are the second most popular location for people going into higher education," he said.
"We have to be careful that we are not damaging a major part of the UK economy, between £5bn and £8bn."
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas on the BBC's Politics Show said that 200 bogus colleges had been closed. He had the following to say:
"Students have foreign national identity cards. We have the e-Border counting in and counting out."
"The latest proposals are a response to the moves by people who are trying to get round the system."