The Statement does not give rise to any surprises and is sparse on the details, however it is useful for colleges to be prepared for the changes to come. This article summarises the main changes, but please be aware that the final details are still pending.
Maximum time limit for time spent at degree level confirmed
For Tier 4 visas granted after 6 April 2012 there will be a general limit of 5 years for time allowed spent studying on a Tier 4 visa at degree level or above. There are several exceptions proposed including for those studying at universities on a 4 or 5 year Bachelor's degree, a PhD or other longer courses, including Architecture; Medicine; Dentistry; Veterinary; Law and studying Music at a Conservatoire.
This change will create a general maximum period of 8 years during which international students are allowed to remain in the UK studying on a Tier 4 (General) visa, when combined with the current 3-year limit for time allowed spend studying below Bachelor's degree level.
Increase in funds required for Tier 4 (General) applications
The following changes have been proposed for visa applications post 6 April 2012:
New level of funds required
Tier 4 ( General) - established presence in UK
Inner London : £1,000 x 2 months
Outer London : £800 x 2 months
Tier 4 (General) - non-established presence in UK
Inner London : £1,000 per month x 9 months (max)
Outer London : £800 per month x 9 months (max)
The upper limit for money paid towards accommodation which can be offset against maintenance funds will be set at £1,000 (currently no limit).
The funds required for Tier 1, 2 and 5 visas will also increase.
Closure of Tier 1 Post-Study Work (PSW) route and alternatives for staying to work in the UK
The PSW category will close to new applicants on 5 April 2012. Any current Tier 4 students wishing to apply for this category of visa should submit their PSW application on or before 4 April 2012. Students who are unsure if they will be eligible for this category should begin investigating this straight away and take advice if necessary.
Once the PSW route has been closed, most students wishing to work in the UK after their studies will need to look to the Tier 2 (General) visa route, which the Government is currently reviewing with a view to introducing new provisions. This will be a significantly harder route than the PSW route and there will be strict requirements. In most cases, students will require a qualification at Bachelor's degree or above; a job offer from a licensed sponsor with a salary of at least £20,000 and a skilled job which is listed on the Government's Graduate List. Tier 2 applicants will be able to sponsor dependents.
Additionally, a new Tier 1 route, the Graduate Entrepreneurs scheme, will be opened to University students who have developed 'world class innovative ideas'. This scheme is designed to allow entrepreneurial students to develop their business ideas further in the UK. The UKBA envisage Universities choosing (and then monitoring) which lucky students can take up to the limited places (1,000 places for the first year).
Time allowed on work placements reduced
From 6 April 2012, international students applying to study:
will have the minimum work placement to study ratio reduced from 50:50 to 33:66. For other students, the work placement to study ratio will remain at 50:50 (there are various exceptions). This change will mainly affect students studying health and social care at colleges.
Interim limits for sponsors
Sponsors that have applied for HTS status and educational oversight but have not yet been assessed will be granted an additional interim limit on the number of Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) that they will be able to issue from 6 April 2012.
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