The new Immigration Rules for students that will be applied under the new Points-Based Immigration System have been published. Coming into force on 5 October 2020, they provide a first glimpse of how the new system will operate in practice.
The first point to note is that the new Immigration Rules cover EEA students who will commence study in the UK from 1 January 2021. EEA students who arrive in the UK before then can, and indeed should, apply under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The EUSS is free, leads to settlement in UK and has relatively generous provisions for family members.
We have taken a look at the rules and picked out some of the key elements. Sponsors can also review the Home Office’s ‘partner pack‘. This contains further detail along with information sponsors are encouraged to share via social media and other platforms to help highlight the new rules.
Goodbye Tier 4
Tier 4 will cease to exist from 09:00 on 5 October 2020. However, the change is very much in name only. The new Student and Child Student routes contain many of the current Tier 4 requirements. Sponsors must also continue to adhere to the Sponsor Guidance which we can expect to be updated before the new rules go live.
Running to almost 70 pages, unfortunately they remain fairly detailed and complex and also incorporate a number of Appendices. These include Appendix ST, Appendix CS, Appendix English language, Appendix Finance, Appendix AR. This is despite ongoing efforts to simplify the Immigration Rules.
What’s to like?
There are a number of positives including:
- it will be easier for many people to switch into the student route from inside the UK;
- the phrases ‘leave to enter’ and ‘leave to remain’ have been changed to ‘permission’ which is much easier for applicants to understand;
- students who have met the English language requirement in a previous application won’t need to do so again;
- students who have lived in the UK lawfully for at least 12 months under any immigration route won’t need to meet the financial requirement;
- study limits have been removed for postgraduate courses;
- applications for entry clearance can be filed up to six months in advance.
What’s not to like?
In less welcome news, sponsors will continue to have to comply with sponsor duties including the monitoring of sponsored students. This has never been popular amongst students or academics and can take up a significant amount of resource. However, new rules on monitoring are expected imminently and we anticipate that these will be less onerous than the current ones.
Academic progression will also still play a role in relation to many students who are making in-country applications, unless one of the exemptions set out in the rules applies.
In relation to English language, the current blanket exemption for Tier 4 (Child) students will be removed. Instead they will need to have an A-level, GCSE, Scottish National Qualification at level 4 or 5 or Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher, in English language or literature. This must have been awarded by an Ofqual (or SQA, Qualifications Wales or CCEA) regulated awarding body. The student must have studied for the qualification in a UK school while they were aged under 18.
It is not intended that EEA students applying under the student route will receive a physical Biometric Residence Permit. Instead, evidence of their status will be held in digital format. We are yet to be convinced that this alone is sufficient given that many landlords, employers and others generally want to see physical evidence of status. Education providers will need to adapt their right to study checking systems, if they have not already done so, to cater for increasing numbers of EEA students who will have digital only evidence.
Applications filed before 08.59 on 5 October will be considered under the current Tier 4 rules. Applications filed after then will be dealt with under the new system.
If the sponsor has issued a CAS reliant on the current English provisions for those moving from Tier 4 (Child), the application will need to be filed before the change takes place or a new assessment will need to be made and, potentially, a new CAS issued (unless UKVI confirms that it will accept a sponsor note).
Those with responsibility for the sponsorship of international students will need to review the new Immigration Rules in detail to ensure that information provided to students who will make an application from 5 October is up to date.
We will be analysing the new rules in detail and providing further practical information as the new Points-Based Immigration System is rolled out. We are also providing training sessions and you can keep up to date by subscribing to our legal updates.
Please contact us if you need advice on any aspects of the new student and child student routes.