UK visa system for students overhauled

22 Mar 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The UK visa system for students has been overhauled by the government, with tough criteria imposed on their rights to work.

Following what the Home Office review has called "widespread abuse of the system", student UK visas have been under discussion for some time but the reforms have now been finalised.

Home secretary Theresa May commented: "International students not only make a vital contribution to the UK economy but they also help make our education system one of the best in the world.

"But it has become very apparent that the old student visa regime failed to control immigration and failed to protect legitimate students from poor quality colleges."

She explained that from April next year, any institutions that wish to sponsor students from overseas will have to be classed as 'highly trusted sponsors' and become accredited by statutory education inspection bodies by the end of 2012.

This will work alongside changes that are designed to improve the quality of the colleges that are accepting students with UK visas.

Furthermore, those coming into the country on a UK visa will be required to speak a higher level of English than is currently the case and UK Border Agency staff will be entitled to refuse entry to students who cannot speak the language without an interpreter.

Meanwhile, the right to work for students from overseas will be significantly reduced, with some UK visa holders having no right to work at all if they enter the country through this route.

The concept of foreign students being entitled to employment after their studies will also be scrapped.

Previously those who had competed a course were permitted two years to seek employment in the UK.

In the future, only those graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer will be granted a Tier 2 work permit and the right to remain in the country.