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Tier 4 student visa changes come into effect

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The UK has implemented changes to the student immigration rules from 21 April 2011. There are now tougher Sponsorship and English language requirements for entry as a student. Also, fewer student's will have the right to work legally in the UK.

The changes follow a public consultation and were put into effect to "deliver a strong migration system which tackles immigration abuse, while allowing genuine students to study at genuine colleges."

Sponsorship (Accreditation)

Sponsors wishing to sponsor foreign students at theri college or University must have been accredited by either Ofsted or its "devolved equivalents", QAA, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, or the Schools Inspection Service. By April 2012, all sponsors must acheive "Highly Trusted Sponsor" status and be accredited by a relevant agency. Until then, there will be a limit on the number of sponsorships allowed by institutions who have not yet met the requirements.

English Language Requirements

Students must be proficient in English to level B2 in each of the four disciplines if they are studying at level 6 (undergraduate) and above. For Pathway and other lower courses, a level of B1 is required.

People trying to obtain a visa under the Tier 4 student route who are not attending an undergraduate program or above must provide a test certificate from an independent English language test provider as proof of their English language ability. A university can vouch for a student's English language ability if they are coming to study at degree level or above.

This requirement may be waived for "truly exceptional students".

Student funding requirements

Tier 4 visa applicants are now required to sign a declaration that they have enough funds to support their stay in the UK. Only banks statements from UK Border Agency-approved banks will be allowed.

"We shall refuse applications where the bank statements are from a bank which we cannot trust to verify the statements," the UK Border Agency has stated in their guidance.

Work rights

Students at universities will retain their right to work 20 hours per week and do work placements where the work/study ratio is 50/50. Students at publicly funded FE colleges will still be allowed to work 10 hours per week. Other students will have no work rights, and work placements will have to be at the 66:33 Study/Work ratio.


To be able to bring in dependents, a student must be a Government Sponsored student or enrolled in a post graduate course (NQF 7 and above) at a university. The course must be longer than 12 month's in duration. Dependants are allowed to work.

Tier 1 Post Study Work

The Tier 1 Post Study Work route will end April 2012. This route allows students to work in the UK for up to two years after graduation. During this time the student will have the opportunity to find permanent employment and apply for a Tier 2 visa.