The first 'statement of changes' to the Immigration Rules, heralding the government's new immigration system, was released on 10 September 2020, and will come into effect from 09;00 on 05 October 2020. The Home Office tell us that this is the first of the 'new style' Immigration Rules that will eventually replace the current ones - readers of this blog will remember that the Law Commission recommended a total re-write way back in January.
This statement of changes applies to students, but gives us a taste of what the new rules will look like, though whether the rules have really been simplified remains to be seen...
The current Tier 4 rules are to be replaced by two new appendices - Appendix ST and Appendix SC, for students and child students. There are also three other appendices - Appendix English language, Appendix Finance and Appendix ATAS.
The rules for student visitors will continue to be in Part 3 of the Immigration Rules.
EEA and Swiss Nationals
Once the transition period ends on 01 January 2021 EEA and Swiss nationals will also need to meet the requirements of the new student rules. If applying from within the UK, EEA nationals will only be able to apply after 01 January 2021, and if applying from overseas, visas will only start to be issued from 01 January 2020.
EEA and Swiss nationals are also included on the list of nationalities for whom there are "different" - that is, easier - evidential requirements.
English Language Requirements
With EEA nationals now needing to make applications under the Immigration Rules if they wish to study or live in the UK, Ireland and Malta have been added to the list of English-speaking countries.
The English language requirement will be met if an applicant has a GCSE, A level or Scottish Highers in English obtained while in the UK and before the age of 18.
Students applying for leave to remain who have already been living in the UK with leave for 12 months or more at the date of application will no longer need to meet the financial requirements. Applicants who are applying for leave to study on a recognised Foundation Programme or as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer also won't need to meet the financial requirements.
Maintenance funds now must be held in an immediately accessible account, though that can be pension and investment accounts that don't need prior notification to withdraw funds. Financial institutions where the funds are held must keep electronic records.
ATAS, or the Academic Technology Approval Scheme, requires international students studying certain 'sensitive' subjects to obtain prior clearance, in the form of an ATAS certificate, before they can study in the UK.
Appendix ATAS contains a list of the countries exempt from the ATAS requirement - Australia, Canada, EEA countries, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the US.
Switching Immigration Status
It will be possible to apply to switch to student leave from within the UK for everyone except people who are here as visitors, short-term students, parents of a child student, seasonal workers, domestic workers in a private household or who have leave outside the Immigration Rules.
Time Limits for Studies
The eight year limit on studying courses at postgraduate level has been removed. There continues to be a limit of five years for degree level courses.
Timing of the Application
If applying from outside the UK, an application can be submitted up to six months before the course starts. If applying from within the UK, you can apply up to three months before the course starts.
Requirements previously listed as eligibility requirements will under the new system become validity requirements, such as having a valid Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) at the date of application, having consent from a sponsoring government or international agency at the date of application, and only being able to switch from certain categories.
The impact of this will mean that if an application is returned as invalid, rather than refused because the eligibility criteria aren't met, it will potentially interrupt a period of lawful residence in the UK and could make a person an overstayer.
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