30 Jul 2008 11:17 AM
Strict new rules for foreign students

HOME OFFICE News Release (138-08) issued by The Government News Network on 30 July 2008

Foreign students hoping to come to the UK to study will have to meet strict new criteria, the Government announced today.

The Home Office has published proposals for much tighter rules for foreign students - and the universities and colleges hosting them - under the student tier of its new Points Based System.

All colleges and universities that want to recruit foreign students will now need a licence to do so and will have to take greater responsibility for their international students, helping Government crack down on bogus colleges who abuse the system. For the first time education providers face a ban on bringing over international students if they fail to follow strict new rules - including alerting the UK Border Agency (UKBA) if students fail to enrol.

Students will also face stringent new criteria if they want to study in the UK, ensuring only those who benefit Britain can come. Before they can study here, foreign students must:

* be sponsored by a UKBA-licensed education institution;

* prove that they have the means to support themselves and their families while studying here; and

* supply their fingerprints.

Stricter rules on work placements for students will also ensure that the UK's labour market is protected.

Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:

"All those who come to Britain must play by the rules. It is right that foreign students wanting to take advantage of our world-class universities and colleges must meet strict criteria.

"By locking people to one identity with ID cards, alongside a tough new sponsorship system, we will know exactly who is coming here to study and crack down on bogus colleges."

Visas will only be granted to students who show a proven track record in education and are applying for a course that meets a minimum level of qualification. They must also be able to demonstrate they can financially support themselves and any of their dependants.

Students on courses for longer than 12 months will have to show they have sufficient funds to pay their first year of fees, plus £9,600 to cover their first year in the UK. Students wishing to bring their dependants with them will need to show they have a further £535 per month for each person they bring.

Each year, international students contribute £2.5 billion to the UK economy in tuition fees alone and an overall estimated contribution of £8.5 billion. In recognition of the many economic and cultural benefits that these students bring to the UK, earlier this year the Government announced a special visa category allowing successful international students who have graduated from a British university to work in the UK for up to two years.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said:

"I welcome the education sector's involvement in developing a structure that allows international students to benefit from the excellent educational experience the UK offers, while giving them the opportunity to work in the UK for two years following graduation.

"However, I will not tolerate the minority of individuals who seek to damage the quality of our education system through bogus colleges. This is why we have introduced tighter checks to the current Register of Education and Training Providers. The new system will toughen this process further and give extra protection from the damage bogus colleges can cause."

Under the new system education providers who want to teach foreign nationals must be granted a licence by the UKBA, they can then sponsor students to come to the UK.

Without a confirmation of acceptance for studies issued to them by their sponsoring institution a student's visa application will not be considered. It also acts as a pledge from the college or university that they accept responsibility for the student while they are in the UK.

Universities and colleges face losing their licence if they fail to:

* keep copies of all their foreign students' passports;
* keep and update their students' contact details;
* alert the UKBA to any students who fail to enrol on their course;
* report unauthorised absences to the UKBA; and
* inform the UKBA if any student stops their studies.

The sponsorship register for colleges and universities opened for applications this week.

Notes to editors

1. The statement of intent for Tier 4 of the PBS can be found at: http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk

2. In March 2006 the Government published a Command Paper setting out the new PBS, 'A points-based system: Making Migration work for Britain'. The new system consolidates the many complex routes into just five tiers. It is designed to facilitate entry to the UK of all those wanting to come to work, train and study. A Statement of Intent for Tier 1 of the PBS was published in December 2007. The Command Paper and Statement of Intent can be found at http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk

3. Tier 4 is one of five tiers of the PBS. Tier 1 (for highly skilled migrants) was introduced in February this year and Tier 2 (for skilled workers) and Tier 5 (for temporary workers and youth mobility) will come on-line this autumn.

4. Tier 3, which covers low skilled routes, will only be used if specific shortages are identified that cannot be filled from the UK's domestic or European labour force.