UK Streamlines Student Visa Route

Overseas students planning to study at UK universities will now be able to apply for visas from October 5 under the new, points-based immigration system, rather than from January next year, as originally planned.

The announcement by the Home Office in London means that, in effect, the earliest a would-be student will be able to apply for a visa has been extended from the current three months before the start of a course, to six months.Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster said that launching the student route early “sends a clear message to the world we want the best and brightest to come to the UK”.He added: "There will be no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK. This will help to increase the total number of international students choosing to study in the UK higher education system each year to 600,000 by 2030, as set out in the International Education Strategy published in March 2019."The Home Office said the new student route would make it more streamlined for sponsoring institutions and their students by creating clearer pathways for students and ensuring the UK remained competitive in a changing global education market.To qualify for a visa under the new immigration system, which comes into effect on January 1, students from any foreign country, including the EU, will require a total of 70 points, which can be achieved if they can prove they have an offer from an approved educational institution, can speak English and are able to support themselves financially during their studies in the UK.Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of universities, said: "The UK is a global leader in higher education, research and innovation. As we look to the UK’s future place in the world, we want to protect our hard-won status and the opportunities it provides to help with the economic recovery of towns and cities across Britain - as well as finding solutions to the wider challenges that face our society."We welcome these changes to the immigration rules, which will help to ensure the UK remains an internationally attractive place for the best and brightest students to study. We will continue to work with the government to ensure our visa system remains flexible and responsive to developing issues, such as those emerging from the coronavirus pandemic."From next summer, the government is also launching the new graduate route for overseas student, which will allow those who have completed a degree at a UK higher education provider to stay in the country for two years (or three years for PhD graduates) and work at any skill level, and to switch into work routes if they find a suitable job.Barbara Wickham, director of British Council in India, said that the changes would have a further positive impact on the number of Indian students choosing the UK as a higher education destination. The number of Indian students studying in the UK is now second only to China.“The new student route is a welcome announcement for thousands of Indian students who opt for a UK education every year to gain international exposure. It offers greater flexibility and ease of immigration for applicants,” she told the Economic Times of India.“With the post-study work benefits of the graduate route and the launch of the student route, the UK has further solidified its commitment towards international students, enabling more than ever to fulfil their dreams of pursuing a world-class education.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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