Community, Diaspora and Immigration

Controversial new changes to student regime

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The Home Secretary has indicated that by a Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules (HC 367), coming into force from 3 March 2010, students will now only be able to work for 10 hours per week during term time instead of the 20 hours which has been routinely allowed for many years.
Entry clearance or leave to remain is to be denied to the partners and children of students whose course of study is of six months' duration or less.  They simply won't be eligible to apply.
The Rules will also be changed so that dependants of students studying at less than degree level (apart from for "foundation" degrees) will not be allowed to work in the UK.  The only exceptions will be where the dependants themselves qualify either as Highly Skilled Migrants under the Tier 1 (General) Immigration Rules, as skilled workers under Tier 2 (General) or as Sportspeople or Ministers of Religion.
Additionally the Home Secretary announced that the Tier 4 of the Points Based System – Policy Guidance is to be altered, also with effect from 3 March 2010 so that any English language course which a student wishes to pursue in the UK must be to level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) – a standard "roughly the equivalent of GCSE level".   This is said to be so as to prevent migrants exploiting the availability of "low level" English language course as a ruse to enable them to come to the UK to work.
The Home Secretary also announced that from the summer the level of command of the English language which applicants for entry clearance will have to show will be raised to level B1 of the CEFR.
In April the UKBA will also introduce a new label for licensed education providers who satisfy the Agency of their commitment to the Sponsorship scheme.  Such Sponsors will be called "Highly Trusted Sponsors".  What Sponsors will have to show in order to gain this status will be revealed following completion of the UKBA's consultation with providers.
It will only be such these highly trusted Sponsors who will be allowed to Sponsor students wishing to study for qualifications at National Qualifications Framework Level 3 (and its equivalents) and courses with work placements below degree level.  The rationale is that such courses are "attractive to economic migrants" as opposed to genuine students.
Groups representing colleges in the UK have quickly responded that this measure is highly unwelcome – given the difficulties they are already experiencing due to sharp cuts in university funding.   Students from overseas provide a valuable source of non-state funding, as Lord Justice Sedley noted in G.O.O and others v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2008) EWCA Civ 747:
"…it is relevant to recall that the admission of foreign nationals to study here is not an act of grace. Not only does it help to maintain English as the world's principal language of commerce, law and science; it furnishes a source of revenue (at rates which, by virtue of an exemption from the Race Relations Act 1976, substantially exceed those paid by home students) of frequently critical budgetary importance to the United Kingdom's universities and colleges as well as to many independent schools."
The points based system is subject to frequent change in this way – and each change carries with it the possibility of an individual's application being unsuccessful due to what are often apparently trivial errors in providing the required information or documents.
Anyone seeking to enter the UK as a student, or any educational institution which wishes to be able to provide courses of study to students from overseas is strongly advised to seek professional legal advice.
Gherson's solicitors and paralegals are highly experienced in assisting those who wish to study in the UK to obtain both entry clearance and leave to remain.  That experience has been gained both before and since the implementation of the UKBA's points based system.  
 Advice and representation is also available to educational institutions as to how successfully to apply for a sponsor licence and – equally importantly – how to fulfil the obligations Sponsorship entails.

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