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Shake-up of the Tier 4 student visa system

13 December 2010

Last week the UK Immigration authorities launched a public consultation on the reform of the Tier 4 Scheme with a view of implementing tougher criteria as well as limits on employment and opportunities to extend students' stay in the UK.

The student route accounts for two-thirds of migrants entering the UK each year and according to the Immigration Minister, Damian Green,  as  many as 41 per cent of students coming to the UK under the Tier 4 route are pursuing courses below degree level. Mr Green believes that it is pivotal for the UK to attract talented students from abroad, however, he has emphasized the importance of implementing a more selective approach in deciding who can come to the UK and how long they can stay. The data collected by the Home Office indicates that many students coming to study courses below the degree level are often more focused on finding work than their studiesin the UK

The UKBA's main aim behind the 8 weeks consultation is to find a workable solution which would help to reduce the number of students coming to the UK. In particular, the consultation will focus on the following issues:

  • reducing the number of people coming to the UK to study below degree level;
  • introducing a tougher English language requirement;ensuring that students wishing to extend their studies show evidence of academic progression;
  • limiting students' entitlements to work and their ability to bring in dependants; and
  • improving the accreditation process for education providers, alongside more rigorous inspections.

The new proposals could see the Tier 4 Scheme restricted to those studying largely degree-level courses and to child students, unless the institution is a Highly Trusted Sponsor. English language competence is likely to become the key indicator of someone's eligibility to complete a higher-level course.

The drive to ensure that students return overseas after their course finishes will mean students will have to leave the UK and apply for a new visa to further their studies, and show evidence of progression to a higher course. It will also see the closure of the post-study route under Tier 1 Scheme which previously allowed graduate students to gain work experience in the UK for at least 2 years.

In addition, the UK immigration authorities will monitor closely the Tier 4 sponsors to ensure full compliance with the regulations as well as the highest standard in the education provided by private institutions.


Migra & Co is a private immigration company, regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), reference number F200900038. This website is not a government website and as such, we are not linked or affiliated with the UK Visas and Immigration. We offer expert legal advice and flexible tailored solutions to both private and corporate clients to ensure that their immigration needs are met. If you wish to download or prepare a UK visa application form, you can do so free of charge by visiting the Official UKVI website.