The Immigration Rules covering student visas were substantially revised in early September 2020, with the changes coming into force on 5 October. As Nath has noted, this means that the student routes were not as affected as other categories by the major statement of changes (HC 813) on 22 October, which largely focused on the glittering new Points-Based Immigration System. It did include some amendments to the rules for students, though, and this post is a brief overview of those further changes.
Let’s start with the explanatory memorandum which says:
In the Student and Child Student rules, the maintenance levels are being amended in line with the current home student maintenance loans. Minor corrections will be made to the rules as laid on 5 October 2020.
A new Short-term Study route is being introduced for students who wish to come to the UK to study English language courses for between 6 and 11 months, replacing the current route. The study must be at an accredited institution. Students who wish to come to the UK to study for 6 months or less may now do so under the Visitor route.
There are four of these “minor corrections”:
- Maintenance levels are being increased from £1,265 to £1,334 per month inside London and from £1,015 to £1,023 for courses outside London. One positive change is that applicants can now rely on electronic bank statements without the need to grovel to the cashier to stamp every page (though weirdly this new relaxation doesn’t apply throughout the Rules, e.g. in Appendix FM applications).
- If students or their dependants have permission to work, they’ll no longer be prevented from working as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in training (obviously sensible in a pandemic).
- There are new forms for EEA nationals who have a chipped passport and are applying as student dependants (paragraph ST 28.1).
- Clarification that sponsors cannot assess the initial B1 English level needed by students, but in certain circumstances where the student is going on to study at degree level after a pre-sessional course, can self-assess that the student’s English will improve to level B2.
There is also a new Appendix Parent of a Child Student. Its provisions are broadly comparable to the previous rules for this visa category, with a major added benefit: parents will now be granted the same length of leave to remain in the UK as the child, meaning that they won’t be required to re-apply every 12 months. This is a welcome addition given the over-priced application fees nowadays, but note that this arrangement can end sooner if the child turns 12 in the meantime.
The Short-term Student route
We see more substantive changes with the introduction of the new Appendix Short-term Student (English language). This is described as a route for people over 16 who want to study an English language course for between six and 11 months at an accredited institution. The existing rules covering short-term students, in paragraphs A57A to A57H, are being deleted.
The actual scope of the route has been narrowed. Amendments to the visitor rules now allow some people who previously needed a Short-term Student visa to apply for a visit visa instead. A visitor’s main purpose for visiting the UK can be to study here, and students in visitors’ clothing are now able to study for between 30 days and six months. The Short-term Student visa fills the gap for those who are looking to study an English language course for longer than six months but no more than 11 months.
There is still a marked difference between the requirements for visitors who are studying and those on a Short-term Student visa, in particular the requirements in the latter route to provide evidence of their finances in a specified way and stick to a fixed course of study.
Importantly, paragraph ST 1.4 prevents people on visit visas or Short-term Student visas from jumping over to the standard student route. In both cases, unlike in the normal student rules, an applicant will need to show evidence that they’ll be returning home.
All these changes take effect on 1 December 2020.