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Student Immigration Update – October 2020 (last updated 12 Nov 2020)

Immigration rules changes announced on 22 October

The UK Immigration rules are changing from 1 December 2020. There are minor tweaks to the new Student Route which came into effect from 5 October 2020, and major changes to some other visa routes.

New Visitor route which permits study for up to 6 months

From 1 December 2020, if you are coming to Warwick to study for a period of 6 months or less (it can be a period of study abroad, undertake research or to learn how to do research), you will be able to do so with a standard Visitor visa (because the University of Warwick is an accredited institution for visa purposes).

· If you are a visa national, you will need to apply for this Visitor visa before you travel

· If you are a non-visa national, you will be able to enter the UK as a Visitor either via the e-Gate (eligible nationalities only) or by seeing an immigration officer on arrival

· if you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national, you will be able to enter the UK as a Visitor if arriving from 1 January 2021, either via the e-Gate or by seeing an immigration officer on arrival (you will need to travel with a passport)

You are not limited to studying one course and you are not required to have a place on a course before you arrive. However, you are advised to submit a copy of your offer letter (if applying for a visa before you travel) or keep a copy of your offer letter in your hand luggage as evidence when you enter the UK.

You will need to prove that you have enough money to cover all reasonable costs of your visit without working or accessing public funds, including the cost of the return or onward journey. You will be able to use someone else's money to prove this if you have personal or professional relationship with them, and they will provide support to you for the duration of your visit.

You will also need an ATAS certificate if your course requires ATAS clearance.

New Short-term study route for English language courses only

From 1 December 2020, the Short-term study visa route will only be available to students who are coming to the UK to study an English language course which is between 6 and 11 months long.

You must apply for this visa before you travel, even if you are a non-visa national, or, if you are from an EU/EEA/Swiss country and are arriving from 1 January 2021.

If you have applied for your Short term study visa before 1 December 2020, you visa will continue to be considered and granted based on the current rules, which means you can use it to enter the UK and study the course as detailed on your visa supporting letter.

Increased amount of maintenance requirement if you are applying for a Student visa

If you apply under the Student route on or after 1 December 2020, the financial requirement you must meet will be:

  • £1,334 a month for study in London (if you are starting a course at Alan Turing institution), or
  • £1,023 a month for study outside London

The maximum number of months that you need to meet this requirement stays the same, i.e., 9 months, even if your course is a few years long. You can also rely on electronic bank statements without having to get them stamped by the bank on each page.

Criminal convictions

From 1 December 2020, the Home Office UKVI is more likely to refuse your immigration application, or cancel your immigration permission, if you have or had a criminal conviction.

It is very important that you declare any criminal convictions when you make your immigration application. If you fail to declare them, the Home Office can accuse you of exercising deception, which is another ground for refusal.

Hong Kong residents who are also British National Overseas

From 31 January 2021, 2 additional visa routes are being introduced: BN(O) Status Holder route and the BN(O) Household Member route. If you are eligible to apply under this route, you can choose the 2.5-year route or the 5-year route at the point of application. This leads to settlement after 5 years.

Application needs to be made using UK Immigration: ID Check app. Study is permitted whilst holding this visa and is subject to ATAS and police registration condition. If you currently hold the 6-month BNO (Leave outside of rules), you will be permitted to switch to the new routes from 31 January 2021.

EU/EEA/Swiss students (excluding Irish national)

EEA/Swiss who have not lived in the UK before and are arriving after 31 December 2020 will need to meet the ‘normal’ Immigration Rules. This means if your course is longer than 6 months, you will require a Student visa and you must apply for this visa before you travel. Student visa is a sponsored route and you will require a CAS from the University of Warwick before you can make your Student visa application: https://warwick.ac.uk/study/international/immigration/tier4/cas/

If you arrive in the UK before 31 December 2020 and you have not applied under the EU Settlement Scheme, you are advised to do so as soon as possible (or as soon as you arrive, if you are a new student). This is especially important if you arrive in the UK to study but without Comprehensive Sickness Insurance or an EHIC card issued by the government of your nationality, as you will be considered an unlawful resident during the ‘grace period’ (1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021) until you receive the ‘pre-settled’ status.

Skilled worker route

From 1 December 2020, the skilled worker route will open which replaces the Tier 2 visa category. The minimum skill threshold is lowered from RQF level 6 to RQF level 3. The general salary threshold is lowered from £30,000 to £25,600, with this salary being “exchangeable” when other requirements are met, for example, if you have a PhD qualification relevant to the job; a PhD qualification in a STEM subject relevant to the job; a job in a shortage occupation; being a new entrant; or being in a job in a listed health or education occupation.

Holders of a Student visa will qualify for the lower 'new entrant' wage for up to two years after their Student permission expires, and the Resident Labour Market Test is abolished for all applicants.

Further information

Full details of all the changes are set out in Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 813

Immigration rules changes taking effect on 5 October 2020

The Immigration rules changed on 5 October 2020, bringing the 'new points-based system' Student route into force. This may affect:

  • Non-European students who are currently in the process of preparing for a student visa application (including applying with dependants) to study a course at Warwick;
  • Students who currently hold a Tier 4 student visa and intend to study a further course in the UK upon completion of their current course, as well as their dependants;
  • Students from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, who have not lived in the UK before and intend to first arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 to study a course which is longer than 6 months.
For non-European students who are currently in the process of preparing to make a student visa application (including applying with dependants) to study a course at Warwick:
  • If your CAS shows that it is assigned under the Tier 4 Pilot Scheme (1-year Master's student only), you will no longer be eligible for the Tier 4 Pilot Scheme because the scheme would have closed. There is no need to update your CAS, but this means unless you are a low risk national, it is likely that you will now need to submit financial evidence to the UKVI in support of your visa application. Please take great care and ensure that your financial evidence meets the requirement to avoid a visa refusal.
  • If you are starting an undergraduate or postgraduate course at RQF 6 or above, there is no longer a requirement to submit academic qualification with your visa application.
  • The UKVI is now accepting a wider range of financial evidence. If you have prepared your financial evidence according to the current requirements, they will still meet the new requirements. However, if you are relying on a Student Loan Letter, the letter must now confirm the lender meets the requirement of providing the loan. If the loan letter you have doesn't state this, you may wish to apply before 5 October 2020.
  • The 5-year or 6-year study limit for postgraduate level studies is being removed. This means if you were previously instructed to hold off your visa application because you would have exceeded the study limit, you no longer need to wait. Please do let us know though, so that we can double check your CAS remains accurate.
  • When your visa is granted, it will no longer be called a 'Tier 4' visa. This is because 'Tier 4' is being replaced with 'Student Route'. It doesn't change anything else though.
  • If you are making your visa application in the UK, and you currently hold a valid visa issued more than 1 year ago, there is no longer a requirement to prepare or submit financial evidence. Please do contact us if you want to use this provision, so that we can check the guidance after 5 October to see if anything else may be required.
  • The Immigration Health Surcharge is due to increase from £300 per year of visa to £470 per year of visa from 27 October 2020 (postponed from 1 October).
For students who currently hold a Tier 4 student visa and intend to study a further course in the UK upon completion of their current course (or PhD students applying under the Doctorate Extension Scheme), as well as their dependants:
  • The rules governing switching visa in the UK are being relaxed. This means more people are eligible to switch to Student Route visa in the UK, including dependent visa holders.
  • The rules governing what is considered a ‘valid application’ are tightening. In particular, if you were financially sponsored by your home government or an international sponsorship agency, you will need to have obtained their consent letter before you can make your visa application online or risk your application being ‘rejected’ as invalid. This is important especially if you are making your visa application in the UK close to your current visa expiry date.
  • If you are applying for your Student Route visa outside of the UK, you can now apply up to 6 months prior to the course start date on your CAS. In most cases you can still come to the UK up to 1 month before your course start date. However, if you apply in the UK, you can only apply 3 months prior to your course start date on your CAS.
  • If you are making your Student Route visa application in the UK for any course, and you currently hold a valid visa issued more than 1 year ago, there is no longer a requirement to prepare or submit financial evidence. PhD students who wish to apply under the Doctorate Extension Scheme still need to prepare £2,030 as financial evidence.
  • If you are starting a new postgraduate course and you are from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea or USA, you no longer need to obtain ATAS.
  • If you are starting a postgraduate course at RQF level 7 or above, the 5-year, 6-year and 8-year study limits have been removed.
  • If you are starting an undergraduate or postgraduate course at RQF 6 or above, there is no longer a requirement to submit academic qualification with your visa application.
  • The UKVI are accepting a wider range of financial evidence, so do visit our webpages to ascertain the requirements before you make your visa application.
For students from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland:
  • If you are currently in the UK, or would have started living in the UK before 1 January 2021, you should make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme. If you have not lived in the UK before, you will need to arrive in the UK and then apply. If you have lived in the UK before, you can apply straight away even if you are currently overseas (for example, you are remote studying in Term 1 or you are currently in a period of study abroad). A student status letter can be used as evidence of your residency in the UK.
  • If you intend to arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 to study a course which is longer than 6 months, you can now request a CAS from your admissions team in support of a Student Route visa application. You can make your Student Route visa application from 5 October 2020, but your visa will be valid from 1 January 2021. The application process is different to non-EEA students, in that you are not likely to need to attend a visa appointment but can self-enrol biometric data, and you will receive a ‘secure digital status’ when your visa is granted, not a vignette or BRP.

For further information, please visit the GOV Statement of Change or information available on UKCISA website.

Fri 02 Oct 2020, 11:02 | Tags: Immigration Advice