Tier 4 Changes – July, August and November 2015 changes in details

Following the election of a small majority Conservative government, immigration and reducing the net migration figures remains at the forefront of the government’s agenda with the Prime Minister chairing the immigration taskforce himself. While the government continues the rhetoric that there is no cap on student numbers, the impact of the proposed changes will undoubtedly reduce the number of international students wanting to study at UK institutions with the further education sector particularly affected.

In their latest Statement of Changes, which were put before Parliament on Monday 13 July the following amendments to the Immigration Rules have been announced:

FROM 14 JULY 2015

  • Changes have been made to allow a Tier 4 visa to be issued in line with a student’s intended date of travel. This change to the date from which entry clearance can commence was introduced to help ensure a smooth roll-out of Biometric Residence Permits for overseas Tier 4 applicants.

FROM 3 AUGUST 2015

  • The rules around academic progression for Tier 4 (General) students will be tightened so that only those sponsored by a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a university will be permitted to start a new course at the same academic level as their previous course. This is also only possible if the course they wish to study is linked to their previous course or the sponsor confirms that the course supports the student’s career aspirations. Students may be interviewed and sanctions will be imposed on sponsors who get this wrong.
  • Further education providers will no longer be able to sponsor students who wish to study a course at the same level as their previous course.
  • The time limit for calculating time spent in the UK whether above or below degree level will now include the full length of the leave the student has previously been granted (as opposed to the course duration). For example, students are currently able to exclude the four months’ extra time they are granted at the end of their degree course but this will no longer be possible.
  • In respect of the Tier 4 Child category, those who wish to study a foundation course to prepare for entry to higher education will be prevented from doing so under this route. In addition, Tier 4 Child students will no longer be able to undertake a further course at a lower level. The rules will be clarified to specify that only independent schools can sponsor students under this route.
  • Tier 4 migrants’ conditions of study are being changed to prevent them from studying at academies or schools maintained by a local authority.
  • An administrative review application will be treated as withdrawn if migrants lodge a fresh entry clearance/leave to remain application.
  • Work rights for Tier 4 students at publicly funded colleges will be removed.

FROM 12 NOVEMBER 2015

  • Tier 4 (General) students at further education colleges will be unable to extend their stay from within the UK unless they will be studying at an embedded college which has been recognised by UKVI as having a direct link to a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a university.
  • Tier 4 (General) students at further education colleges will be unable to switch into any economic route such as Tier 2 from within the UK unless they are studying at an embedded college which has been recognised by UKVI as having a direct link to a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a university. However, those studying at such an embedded college will not be able to switch into Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) category.
  • The time limit on study below degree level will be reduced from three to two years.
  • The maintenance requirement for Tier 4 students will increase, along with the maximum amount paid for accommodation which can be offset against the maintenance requirement, to bring them in line with 2015 rates. The geographic area in which Tier 4 students have to demonstrate a higher level of funds will also be expanded.
  • The rule around established presence which allows students applying to extend their leave within the UK to show only two months’ maintenance will be removed. All students will therefore need to show that they have sufficient funds to support themselves throughout the duration of their remaining study or for up to nine months.

Other proposed changes for autumn:

  • Tier 4 dependants will only be able to undertake work at skilled level.

In summary, the UK government is expecting international students to either:

  • Enter the UK as a Tier 4 Child studying at an independent school and progress onto a university or a UKVI recognised embedded college; or
  • Enter the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student to study either at a UKVI recognised embedded college or a University.

International students who opt to study at a further education college can do so but will not be able to extend or switch their stay while in the UK.

There is no clear evidence indicating why the government felt it necessary to introduce such damaging changes. UKVI issues sponsor licenses and it is UKVI’s role to monitor licence holders and take action when necessary. The changes cut off a whole sector of further education whose students progress onto universities. This is seen by the sector as causing long-term harm to the UK as an international student destination.

These changes coupled with the maintenance changes means the UK’s international education system will only be available to the brightest, the best and the richest.

Thousands of foreign students at publicly funded colleges are to lose the right to work.

The immigration minister, James Brokenshire, announced on Monday that from next month students from outside the European Union who come to study at publicly funded further education colleges will lose the right to work for up to 10 hours a week.

The “new crackdown on visa fraud”, as the Home Office describes it, is aimed at ensuring that student visas are used for study and “not as a backdoor to the country’s job market”.

Further measures will be introduced this autumn, including:

  • Reducing the length of further education visas from three years to two.
  • Preventing college students from applying to stay on in Britain and work when they finish their course, unless they leave the country first.
  • Preventing further education students from extending their studies in Britain unless they are registered at an institution with a formal link to a university.

The number of foreign students at British further education colleges has slumped in recent years from a peak of more than 110,000 in 2011 to 18,297 in the last 12 months.

The fall is partly a result of a squeeze by the home secretary, Theresa May, in an attempt to reduce annual net migration to below 100,000.

Ministers say the fall is also a result of a drive to reduce visa fraud and close down hundreds of privately funded “bogus” colleges.

The latest changes extend restrictions on non-EU students at privately funded colleges to those at publicly funded colleges. It is thought that there are about 5,000 non-EU students at publicly funded colleges, many of them studying for A-levels before applying to British universities.

Brokenshire said there had been signs of increased fraud at some publicly funded colleges and evidence of immigration advisers advertising college visas as a means to work in Britain.

“Immigration offenders want to sell illegal access to the UK jobs market, and there are plenty of people willing to buy,” he said. “Hardworking taxpayers who are helping to pay for publicly funded colleges expect them to be providing top-class education, not a backdoor to a British work visa.”

The Association of Colleges warned that the government measures risked seriously restricting Britain’s ability to attract international students.

“Preventing international FE students continuing to study in the UK after they have finished their studies will limit the progression of students from colleges to universities,” said its chief executive, Martin Doel .

“A-levels and international foundation year courses represent legitimate study routes for international students with many going on to successfully complete degrees at top-ranking universities. In blocking the route from further education to university, the government will do long-term harm to the UK as an international student destination and this policy needs urgent reconsideration.”

He added that the colleges had stringent monitoring systems to check attendance and were keen to see any evidence that they were being used as a back door for bogus students.

Improved figures on Restricted CoS – Tier 2 for July

UK businesses wishing to sponsor and employ non-EU nationals in the UK will rejoice to hear that June’s dramatic refusal rate should be much reduced this month, with requests for restricted CoS which score 45 points or more and offer the prospective employee a salary of £32,000 being granted.

When compared to last month’s minimum salary requirement of £46,000, this is a considerable improvement for many of those wishing to sponsor migrant employees.

Last month, the migrant cap caused the rejection of countless restricted CoS requests by UK businesses last month. This document is essential to the hiring of non-EU staff in the UK and the high rejection rate caught many UK sponsor organisations off-guard as it was the first time that demand had outstripped supply since the inception of the Points-based System.

The situation, however, is far from being resolved. With the UK economy going from strength to strength, demand for overseas employees is constantly on the rise and showing no sign of slowing down.

To make matters worse, Home Secretary Theresa May has just announced plans which will throw yet more international graduates into the mix. This poses a stark challenge for the migrant cap which the Conservative government has vowed not to increase.

One thing, however, remains quite clear: the higher the salary stated on the restricted CoS, the higher the chances over the next few months of it being granted.

If your organisation has any concerns over your monthly allocation of restricted CoS, please contact City Legal Services  today.

Use ePassport gates for fast entry into the UK

Most people arriving in the UK can use ePassport gates to get through border control.

You can use ePassport gates if all of the following are true:

  • you’ve got the biometric symbol on the cover of your passport
  • you’re 18 or over
  • you’re a UK or EU citizen

How to use ePassport gates

  1. Open your passport to the photo page. Don’t forget to remove the passport from its cover.
  2. Hold the photo page down on the reader and try to keep it still.
  3. Look at the screen in front until it turns green, then walk through the gate.

Remember:

  • Remove sunglasses, hats and scarves. You might need to take your glasses off too.
  • Go through the gates one at a time.

Tier 4 Immigration Rule changes 13 July 2015

The government announced changes to the Immigration Rules on 13 July. Many of these affect Tier 4 of the points-based system.

The main changes will:

  • stop new students at publicly funded colleges from working, bringing them in line with those at private colleges (from August)
  • allow university students to study a new course at the same level but only where there’s a link to their previous course or the university confirms that this supports their career aspirations. There will be credibility interviews and sanctions against universities who abuse this rule (from August)
  • ban college students from extending their Tier 4 visas in the UK unless they are studying at an ‘embedded college’, one which has a formal, direct link to a university that is recognised by the Home Office. This will require them to leave and apply for a new visa from outside the UK if they wish to study another course (from November)
  • ban college students from being able to switch visas to Tiers 2 or 5 in the UK, and require them to apply from outside the UK (from November)
  • reduce the time limit for study at further education level from 3 years to 2 years. This brings the maximum period into line with the length of time British students generally spend in further education (from November)
  • stop Tier 4 dependants from taking a low or unskilled job, but allow them to take part-time or full-time skilled work (from the autumn)

These changes will help reduce immigration abuse ensuring the UK maintains a competitive offer and attracts the brightest and best international students. The UK continues to welcome genuine students to our world class universities.

David Cameron outlines crackdown on UK Tier 2 immigration

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced new plans to ‘significantly reduce’ immigration to the UK from outside of the European Union. Plans include raising the salary threshold for the Tier 2 (General) visa.

Migration Advisory Committee to consult on anti-immigration measures

Speaking during Prime Minister’s questions on June 10th, the prime minister announced that home secretary Theresa May will ask the Migration Advisory Committee – a semi-independent body set up to advise on immigration policy – to consider several new proposals in order to reduce net migration to under 100,000 annually; mentioned in the last two Conservative election manifestos, and repeated recently by the Prime Minister’s team.

Visa restrictions announced

EU rules on freedom of movement within the EU means that there is not much that the Government can do to reduce immigration from EU Countries. Therefore in an attempt to reduce immigration the Migration Advisory Committee will focus on immigration from outside of the European Economic Area. Proposals the committee will consider include:

  • Restricting the availability of work visas, such as the Tier 2 for skilled migrants, to only those who come under ‘skill shortages and specialists’.
  • Limiting the time ‘a sector can claim to have a skills shortage’ on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List
  • Introducing a ‘skills levy on businesses who recruit foreign workers’
  • Increasing the Tier 2 (General) visa salary threshold

 

Tier 2 visas targeted

The proposals announced focus on the Tier 2 general visa, which enables UK employers holding a Tier 2 sponsorship licence to employ skilled migrants from outside of the European Economic Area.

Current rules say that applicants for Tier 2 visas must normally have been offered a UK job which pays a minimum of £20,800 per year. It is proposed that this figure is increased. By how much we currently do not know. In any event this is only the minimum salary for the Tier 2 visa scheme. It is already the case that for most occupations on the Tier 2 occupation list the minimum salary requirement is much higher than this.

To come under the Tier 2 visa scheme you need to gain 70 points or more under the points test; You gain points for having a Certificate of Sponsorship from a UK employer, having sufficient savings, and for meeting the Tier 2 English language requirements.

Proposals condemned by experts

Speaking to BBC News, Migration Advisory Committee chairman David Metcalf predicted ‘unexpected side effects’ for the UK economy if the new proposals are implemented.

Katja Hall, director general of the Confederation of British Industry responded to the announcement, saying: “Limiting highly skilled workers from coming to the UK is not the answer.

“They bring their skills and ideas to this country, pay their taxes here and boost growth. We need to keep up-skilling our population, but at the same time as attracting the best and brightest global talent.”

UK Government must revise immigration policy to keep talented overseas arts students in the UK

 

Some of the most acclaimed individuals from the arts – spanning film, fashion, fine art, design, drama, dance and music – have studied in the UK. Not only that, but we have also allowed them to stay on and work after their studies, enriching the cultural life of the UK. However, this is at risk as a result of the UK government’s approach to immigration.

International students currently have to earn a minimum salary of £20,800 (considerably more in some professions) to qualify for a work visa after their studies. They must also be employed by a single employer. These requirements do not reflect the reality of the creative and cultural industries, and we support the former universities minister David Willetts and the all-party parliamentary group on migration, who both say that greater flexibility is needed.

Whatever the makeup of the next government, it must think again about the UK’s immigration policy. The rethink should begin with the removal of students from any immigration target set for the next parliament and an increase in opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK once they finish their degree. Otherwise, if we do not act, we risk losing a generation of talented individuals to our competitors.


 

Britain’s FinTech industry would suffer on tighter immigration controls

Britain’s financial technology industry could face a dearth of suitable employees to fill job positions if the next government tightens controls over immigration, says recruitment firm Morgan McKinley.

According to the Morgan McKinley London Employment Monitor, banks and financial services are the industries that are the most prolific in looking for suitable workers in tech. Morgan McKinley say that they usually buoy up hires from the international market.

“Immigration is becoming a theme in the UK elections and any regulatory tightening on immigration could have a negative effect on the burgeoning UK fintech sector and is a cause for concern to companies in the London,” said Hakan Enver, Operations Director, Morgan McKinley Financial Services. “Whilst there is much dialogue about the lack of roles available for home grown talent, the volume of opportunities doesn’t necessarily indicate that this is the case.

“With these regulatory demands and ever evolving change programmes, there is a continual need to source talent from international markets, simply because demand outweighs supply.”

Immigration is a hot topic for Britain’s biggest political parties as migrant inflows reached a “statistically significant” level last year.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 624,000 people immigrated to Britain,in the year ending September 2014. This is an increase on the 530,000 in the previous 12 months.

All political parties have said they’d try to more tightly control the number of migrants coming into the UK but the methods and measurements pledged, depend on the party.

Meanwhile, Morgan McKinley’s report showed that there was a 19% overall increase in professional services jobs in March, compared with the previous month.

However, only 1% of workers are looking to move. Over the last year, professionals seeking new roles decreased by 4%.

Morgan McKinley said that the recent CBI/PwC Financial Services Survey supports its own employment market assessment as there was a significant increase in optimism in the financial sector, with 59% of financial services firms saying they were more positive than three months ago.

“UK banks are reporting growing confidence, steep revenue growth and increasing profitability, despite an unexpected stagnation in business volumes. Banks are more positive about credit risk, as the value of non-performing loans are expected to remain low in the next quarter. Additionally, industry commentators do not expect interest rates to rise in the near future” said Kevin Burrowes, UK financial services leader at PwC.

Immigration Health Surcharge for Non EEA Applicants

You may need to pay a healthcare surcharge (called the ‘immigration health surcharge’) as part of your immigration application.

For visa applications made outside the UK, you’ll have to pay if:

  • you’re a national of a country outside the European Economic Area
  • you’re applying for a visa to work, study or join your family in the UK for more than 6 months (but you’re not applying to permanently remain in the UK)
  • you’ve applied and paid your visa fee on or after 6 April 2015

For immigration applications made from within the UK, you’ll have to pay if:

  • you’re a national of a country outside the EEA
  • you’re making an immigration application for any length of time (but you’re not applying to permanently remain in the UK)
  • you’ve applied and paid your application fee on or after 6 April 2015

When you’ll need an IHS reference number

You still need to use the service to get an immigration health surcharge (IHS) reference number but you won’t need to pay if:

  • you’re applying for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa (or you’re their dependant)
  • you’re a child under 18 who has been taken into care by a local authority
  • you’re a national of Australia or New Zealand
  • you’re the dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces
  • you’re the dependant of a member of another country’s forces who is exempt from immigration control
  • you’re a relevant civilian employee employed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) or the Australian Department of Defence in the UK (or you’re their dependant)

The service will tell you that you don’t have to pay anything and will give you your healthcare surcharge reference number for your application.

You’ll be able to use the National Health Service (NHS) even if you’re exempt from paying.

When you don’t have to pay or get an IHS reference number

You don’t need to get an IHS reference number or pay the healthcare surcharge if:

  • you’re applying for a visitor visa
  • you’re applying for indefinite leave to remain
  • you’re a diplomat or a member of a visiting armed forces and not subject to immigration control
  • you’re a family member of a European national with European Union treaty rights
  • you’re applying for a visa for the Isle of Man or Channel Islands
  • you’re a British Overseas Territory citizen resident in the Falkland Islands
  • you’re an asylum seeker or applying for humanitarian protection (or you’re their dependant)
  • you’ve been identified as a victim of human trafficking (or you’re their dependant)
  • the Home Office’s domestic violence concession applies to you (or you’re their dependant))
  • being made to leave the UK would be against your rights under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (or you’re their dependant)

You’ll be able to use the National Health Service (NHS) if you’re exempt from paying – except if you’re on a visitor visa (you’ll have to pay for care you get through the NHS at the point you use it).

You’ll have to pay:

  • £150 per year as a student
  • £200 per year for all other visa and immigration applications

If you have any dependants, they will usually need to pay the same amount as you.

The exact amount you have to pay depends on how much leave you’re granted. You can calculate how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

You’ll pay half of the yearly amount if your application includes part of a year that is less than 6 months.

You’ll pay for a whole year if you’re application includes part of a year that is more than 6 months.

Changes to visa process for applicants travelling from India to UK for more than 6 months

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From 15 April 2015 Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) for non-EEA nationals travelling to live in the UK for more than six months will begin to be issued to visa applicants in India. The changes will affect those applying to join family in the UK, as well as students and workers applying for a longer stay visa.

From this date, applicants will receive a 30 day sticker in their passport instead of a ‘vignette’ with the full grant of leave. The 30 day vignette will be dated from an applicant’s intended date of travel.

Applicants will be required to collect their BRP from a designated post office within ten days of arrival in the UK. The BRP card can then be used as proof of the right to work, study and access public services in the UK. The card will also need to be presented when travelling in and out of the UK, along with a valid travel document.

BRPs will be introduced globally throughout 2015, in line with European Council regulations.

Applicants will receive a letter, at the same time as they receive their visa, which provides detailed information about how to collect their BRP on arrival. See here for further information for overseas visa applicants.