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Understanding Tier 4 Visa Rules For UK Study Abroad Applicants

Posted on Apr 03, 2018

Despite the fact that United Kingdom continues to rank as one of the world’s most popular postgraduate study destinations, with more international students than any other country outside the USA, the visa rules have not been very conducive for students planning to work while staying abroad. However, things have finally eased up a bit for students planning to study in UK.

UK visa policies, processes, and what Indian students need to know about the visa formalities.

Who Needs a Visa to Study Masters In The UK?
If you are an Indian planning to pursue postgraduate study in the UK, you will need a study visa. The university that has admitted you to their post-graduate program has to sponsor your Tier 4 visa. This visa typically allows for multiple entries into the country.

What’s the Catch?
Students with Tier-4 visa were earlier unable to switch over to work visa Tier-2 visa. So there was no question of seeking employment in UK immediately after graduation. If they wanted to apply for a job, they would have to wait to obtain a degree to apply for the Tier-2 Visa. Students had a very small window of time to find a job before their visa expired. This effectively meant that students would have to return to their native country after completing their studies, and apply from there. For example, if a student has chosen to pursue a research based degree, she would have to wait for her thesis to be marked or a degree to be awarded so that she was eligible for a work visa.

“International students in UK can soon enjoy more flexibility in switching over to work visas, with new immigration rules set to be introduced from January 11, 2018.”

Why the Stringent Visa Rules in the UK?
UK likes to keep a tight check on immigration. While the government is all for attracting top talent from students from around the world, the government has actively tried to make it difficult for international students to stay in the UK after completing their studies, to bring down immigration numbers and to reduce visa fraud.

What’s the Latest Update About Visa Rules for UK Based International Students?
International students in UK can soon enjoy more flexibility in switching over to work visas, with new immigration rules set to be introduced from January 11, 2018. According to the new rules, international students can switch over to Tier-2 visa as soon as they complete their course.

Here is a summary of the changes for international students: (sourced from UK Council for International Student Affairs)

Changes to Tier 4 Visa:

1.There will be an option for students to study part-time courses in the UK if the course leads to a qualification at RQF level 7 or SCQF 11 and above, and if the sponsor is a Higher Education Institution (HEI).

2.Students studying such part-time courses will not be permitted to work in the UK (this includes on a work placement), will not be entitled to bring family members as Tier 4 dependents, will not be able to apply to extend their Tier 4 visa from within the UK and will not be eligible to switch into other immigration categories permitting work after completing the course.

3.Students who need to make a Tier 4 application to undertake a study abroad programme or an assessed work placement, or who need to extend their visa having completed a study abroad programme or work placement as part of their course, will be exempt from having to meet any requirement about academic progress.

Changes for ‘Short-Term Students’

1.The minimum age to apply as a short-term student will be reduced from 18 to 16. This means that students aged 16 and over will be eligible to come to the UK for the longer period of 11 months in order to study an English language course.

2.Short-term students are currently required to leave the UK at the end of their course or at the end of the 6-month period of immigration permission, whichever is sooner. This will change to allow short-term students to stay for up to 30 days after the course has ended.

3.It has been made clearer that students will be able to undertake courses concurrently and consecutively as long as all courses can be completed within the 6-month validity period of the visa.

4.A student who is enrolled on a course abroad in medicine, veterinary medicine and science, or dentistry which is equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK, will be able to undertake electives relevant to their course of study as a short-term student if they are accepted by a UK higher education institution and these electives are unpaid and involve no treatment of patients.

Changes to Post-Study Work Options

1.Tier 4 students (excluding those studying a PhD) who are switching to Tier 2 (General) currently need to have completed and passed their course. This will change so that students can make their application for Tier 2 as soon as the course has been completed. If the final degree certificate or academic transcript is not yet available, evidence can be submitted stating the date the course was completed, having sat all exams and presented all academic papers.

(UK applicants, please note: this article was published in April 2018. For the latest updated information on the UK Visa, please visit the official website of UK Council for International Student Affairs.)

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