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Posted on July 22 2015

New UK immigration rules Tough For Tier 4 visa students

By  Editor
Updated April 03 2023

International students will be banned from working in the UK while they study. Many Tier 4 students will be forced to leave the country when their studies finish under tough new rules to be outlined next week. There are significant immigration rule changes for Tier 4 students at publicly funded further education colleges; They will be treated in a similar way to those at privately funded further education colleges. University students will not be so badly effected. Many of the changes will take place in August and November this year.

The new measures, announced by the UK home secretary Theresa May on July 13th, will apply to students from outside of the European Economic Area on Tier 4 Student visas. The changes will be presented to MPs in parliament this week, who will then vote on whether to approve the new rules.

List of main Tier 4 Visa changes

  • From 12 November making students at publicly funded further education colleges leave the UK before applying for Tier 2 or Tier 5 work visas, rather than being able to switch visas from within the UK; because of the added inconvenience to Tier 4 students this will have the effect of reducing the number of skilled graduates from overseas working in the UK.
  • From 3 August banning Tier 4 Students at publicly funded further education colleges from working while they study. Currently most migrant students at colleges may work up to 10 hours per week. This will impact students from poorer countries the most, as often their families will be unable to offer financial support.
  • From 12 November stopping Tier 4 college students from extending their visa after their course finishes, unless they begin studying at an institution with a 'direct, formal link' with a UK university.
  • From 3 August restricting new courses that Tier 4 University students may study to those which have 'a link to their previous course', or which 'support their career aspirations', as determined by their university.
  • From 12 November reduce the time that Tier 4 students may study at a further education college, from 3 years to 2 years. Many further education courses can run for more than 2 years.
  • From the Autumn banning family members of Tier 4 students (Tier 4 dependants) from taking on 'low skilled' work. The changes would allow dependants to take on skilled work only; effectively discriminating against students from poor countries, whose families often did not have the opportunity to gain the skills needed for this sort of work.
  • Introducing stricter English language requirements for Tier 4 visa applicants.

Changes criticised by university and industry experts

UK immigration minister James Brokenshire said the Tier 4 visa restrictions will "stop immigration cheats abusing publicly-funded colleges". With UK business secretary Sajid Javid adding: "We do not want a system where some people see studying as a motive to settle in Britain."

However, UK university staff and students – as well as other experts - have criticised the new rules.

School of Oriental and African Studies university director Paul Webley argues that international students bring "talent to the UK that the country would not otherwise attract". Webley added that "students who stay on after they finish their studies develop very strong links with the UK, and so have an understanding of and affinity for the UK that is of great long term benefit for the country."

Institute of Directors employment and skills Policy Chief Seamus Nevin also weighed in on the debate, saying that the changes are "misguided", and would damage the UK's "economy and global influence".

"Britain already makes it difficult and artificially expensive for them to enter and stay, and now these proposals would eject them ignominiously when their studies are finished."

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