Changes to the UK student visa system

Tough new rules and enforcement action to stop abuse of the student visa system mean that over 450 education providers will no longer be able to sponsor new international students.

In total these colleges could have brought more than 11,000 students into the UK to study each year.
New UK Border Agency regulations have significantly raised the standards education providers must meet before they can bring international students to the UK. So far, over 400 colleges have lost their right to recruit international students after they failed to sign up for the new inspection system. As well as cutting abuse, the new standards will help ensure that genuine international students receive the highest quality education.

In addition, a targeted UK Border Agency investigation into more than 100 colleges has led to 51 having their licences to recruit international students revoked. The investigation followed a spike in applications from South Asia just before the English language requirement rules were tightened. More than 4,500 of these applications to study have been refused or withdrawn as a result.

One college advertised classes even though the website said it was shut for maintenance, while another could not even produce a list of students enrolled or a timetable of classes. On inspection, others could not produce any records of student attendance, or evidence of checking student qualifications.

Immigration Minister, Damian Green said:

‘Widespread abuse of the student visa system has gone on for too long and the changes we have made are beginning to bite.

‘Too many institutions were offering international students an immigration service rather than an education and too many students have come to the UK with the aim of getting work and bringing over family members. Only first-class education providers should be given licences to sponsor international students.

‘We have curbed the opportunities to work during study and bring in family members. We have also introduced new language requirements to ensure we only attract genuine students whose primary motivation is to study.’

As well as going through tough new inspections, colleges that want to keep bringing in international students must also meet new higher sponsorship standards to ensure they are fulfilling their immigration responsibilities. Those who do not meet these standards will be removed from the sponsorship register.

The UK Border Agency has also created a list of more than 2,000 banks and financial institutions who can no longer provide evidence to verify a student has sufficient funds for their course. If a bank is on the list, a student citing that institution will not be granted a visa.

Further measures to tighten the student regime are due in April. The post study work route, which has allowed graduates free labour market access, will be closed and students wishing to stay and work will need to apply under the skilled workers visa route . There will also be new time limits on student visas and tougher rules on work placements. In the mean time the UK Border Agency is continually monitoring the behaviour of all sponsors and will take action against any that are not complying with standards of education provision or immigration control.
The changes to the student route form part of the Government’s comprehensive package to overhaul the immigration system, taking action on families, settlement, those coming here to work, as well as students, in order to bring immigration levels back down to sustainable levels.

Source: UKBA