From 5 October 2020, Tier 4 visas will be replaced by the new Student visa route. This is part of the Government’s commitment to introduce a new immigration system from 1 January 2021.
All student visa applications submitted on or after 9:00am on 5 October 2020 will be decided under the new rules, even if they rely on a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) issued under the old Tier 4 sponsorship system.
There will continue to be separate visas for Students and Child Students. Current Tier 4 sponsors will automatically be sponsors under the new system.
Implications for EU nationals
The introduction of the new rules at this time, means that EU nationals who are currently outside the UK, but planning to come and study here after 1 January 2021, can start making their visa applications. Of course those who are already in the UK, should apply for pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and so this new Student visa route will not be relevant for them. Indeed if they try to apply, the application will be rejected!
There will continue to be a list of ‘low risk’ countries whose nationals benefit from a concession that allows them to submit fewer supporting documents. This list will include nationals of EEA countries and Switzerland.
What is changing?
As more students will need to apply for visas in future, the Government has taken the opportunity to simplify several elements of the application process.
The new rules ensure that applicants will only have to prove their level of English to the Home Office once. If you have obtained a GCSE, A Level or Scottish equivalent in English language or literature following education at a British school whilst under the age of 18 this can be used to meet the English language requirement. The new rules also designate Malta and Ireland as majority English speaking countries.
There is still a maintenance requirement, but if the student has already been in the UK for over a year, further financial evidence will not be required. Exemptions will also apply to student union sabbatical officers and doctors and dentists in training on recognised Foundation Programmes, as it is accepted they will be earning an income in the UK.
A wider range of accounts will be accepted as evidence of maintenance and you will be able to use electronic rather than hard copy original bank statements.
Students at universities with a track record of compliance will not be required to provide evidence of the academic qualifications used to obtain their CAS.
There will no longer be an eight-year time limit on post-graduate study.
There will be increased possibilities to switch between different visa routes and for students to apply for further leave in the UK.
Students will be able to bring their fiancé or proposed civil partner to the UK as their dependant. We understand provision will also be made for unmarried partners who have lived together for at least two years. Previously only those who were married or civil partners were eligible.
Applications can be made outside the UK up to six months in advance, instead of three months.
This article is from the September 2020 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For more details regarding any of the matters covered in this update, please contact Janice Leggett in our Immigration Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at September 2020.