UK proposals for new foreign student points based system

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New proposals have been released concerning the United Kingdom's Tier 4 points based system for foreign students. Details have also been announced on what universities need to do in order to recruit students from overseas.

All colleges and universities who wish to enroll foreign students at their institution of higher learning must have a license to do so under the Tier 4 system -- part of the UK's new five-tier points based system. Tier 4 for students is expected go live at the start of 2009.

In addition to being sponsored by an educational institution licensed by the UK Border Agency, overseas students will be required to prove that they have enough funds to support themselves and any family members that they bring with them to Britain.

Foreign students will also be required to provide fingerprints and carry ID cards.

In announcing the new rules, UK Immigration Minister Liam Byrne put a tough face to Britain's new stance on immigration.

"All those who come to Britain must play by the rules. It is right that foreign students wanting to take advantage of our world-class universities and colleges must meet strict criteria," Byrne said.

"By locking people to one identity with ID cards, alongside a tough new sponsorship system, we will know exactly who is coming here to study and crack down on bogus colleges," he added.

Tier 4 visas will only be granted to students who meet a minimum level of qualification for higher education (such as a high school diploma) and can show a proven track-record of previous study.

Foreign students taking courses longer than 12 months will be required to show that they possess sufficient funds to pay for their first year of student fees, plus an additional sum of £9,600 to support their first year of living expenses.

Each year, international students contribute £2.5 billion to the UK economy in tuition fees alone and £8.5 billion overall, according to the UK Border Agency.

After successfully studying in the UK under Tier 4, students wishing to stay on in the UK should consider the Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) scheme, which allows them to work in Britain for an additional two years without a sponsor.

Alternatively, non-European Union students can apply under Tier 1 (General), the replacement to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). The Tier 1 (General) scheme has the benefit of a longer visa validity of three years, which also counts towards settlement, unlike Tier 1 (Post-Study Work).