The Home Office has announced more reforms to the immigration system, further tightening up loopholes in educational visas to prevent abuse.
The changes to so-called ‘Tier 4 visas’ issued by the Home Office controlled UK Visas and Immigration authority will make it harder for potential migrants to use the education system to gain entry to the country for false pretences. The visas are sponsored by specific educational establishments, which give assurances to the Home Office that the foreign students will turn up for class and not use their visa to work illegally in the United Kingdom.
Abuse of the system became so widespread a number of major sponsors including University of West London, London Metropolitan University, Glyndŵr University, Bedfordshire University, and Buckinghamshire New University have had their ‘trusted’ sponsor licences suspended by the Home Office. ‘Students’ would enrol on courses upon arriving from abroad and then vanish – failing to turn up at tutorials, classes, or exams and presumably entering the workforce illegally instead.
Shutting down the offending institutions has gone some way to reduce this abuse, but the new changes will go further. From August, students will be banned from working in the United Kingdom while they study, and will be required to sit credibility interviews if they want to change course. This will go some way to prevent migrants taking endless degrees they never finish to extend their stays in the United Kingdom.
From November, students will also be restricted on the extensions they can get for their time-limited tier 4 visas, meaning those who wish to study another course once theirs is complete will have to go home and re-apply from outside the United Kingdom. The time limits for post-graduate degree visas will also be reduced from three to two years, bringing the rules in line with home students who typically will spend no longer than two years completing a master’s degree part time.
One of the most significant changes to the tier 4 visa is the way it treats dependants of students. At the moment, students can bring their families with them on a single visa – a fact that certain colleges have chosen to make the most of. Breitbart London reported last month on the gender-segregated classes offered by one Cardiff language school provided specifically for the wives of Saudi Arabian men who had come to Britain to study. A spokesman for the Celtic English Academy told Breitbart London that without these classes, these wives would rarely if ever have the opportunity to leave the home, as Saudi Arabian social more prevent them going outside unaccompanied or meeting men.
From the Autumn, these dependants will be banned from taking unskilled work while they stay with their studying relatives, but will be allowed to take skilled work. The move is intended to encourage a higher calibre of academic migrant to come to the United Kingdom.
The UK Visas and Immigration authority said in a statement of the move:
“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”.
Follow Oliver Lane on Twitter: Follow @Oliver_Lane or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org