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Science Careers Blog

June 14, 2011

New Rules for Student Visas in the U.K.

Some new regulations for student visas in the United Kingdom go into effect on 4 July. Among the changes is the need for visa applicants to declare that they have the necessary funds to support themselves during their course of study (though a fast-track application process will be put in place for "low risk students" coming from certain countries). One important change is that only postgraduate students whose course lasts more than 12 months, as well as government-sponsored students, will be able to bring dependents to the United Kingdom. 

The changes are part of a broader overhaul of the U.K. student visa system, which was announced by the government last March. A first batch of regulations was implemented in April, including a higher English proficiency requirement for students who will study at the undergraduate level and above.

More regulation changes are to come. Starting in April 2012, the time Bachelors' and Masters' degree students may spend on a student visa in the United Kingdom will be limited to 5 years, with exceptions made for subjects like medicine. There is no limit to how long a Ph.D. can take, but if at the time of completion you have been on a student visa for more than 8 years, you will de denied another student visa. And while up to now overseas students had 2 years to seek employment after the end of their course, only graduates who have a job offer before their visa expires will be able to stay to work. Talented would-be entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to stay, but the details of the new regulations haven't been announced yet.

Government figures suggest that students constitute about two thirds of the non-EU migrants coming to live in the U.K.; that's about 200,000 immigrants per year. One aim of the reforms is to clamp down on the abuse of the student visa system whereby people get a visa to study, mainly at below-degree levels, then don't show up at their institution, the government said. An impact assessment released yesterday by the Home Office said that the goverment expects this reform to lead to "273,000 fewer student visa grants over the full five years of the parliament, leading to a fall in net migration of about 232,000," the Press Association reported yesterday.

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