From 9am on 5 October, applications via the old Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) visas were closed to new applications. The new system – the Student Route – is the first taste some migrants will have of the UK’s new points-based immigration system. It includes important changes for those wishing to study in the UK, and a glimpse of what’s to come  as the UK Government implements rules which it says lay the foundations for a new (post EU) “Global Britain”

What are the new appendices?

The former Tier 4 categories are replaced with self-explanatory new Appendices, titled “Appendix Student” and “Appendix Child Student”. They contain the core requirements for any applicant.

Additional new, simply titled appendices have also been published.

  • “Appendix English language” details the new requirements for proof of language. Applicants will now only need to prove their English language level once if they continue studying in the UK. GSCES, A-levels and English language Scottish Highers serve as proof of English language ability in the new appendix.
  • “Appendix Finance” sets out the financial and maintenance requirements. Major changes in this area are detailed below.
  • “Appendix ATAS” (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) is a niche security appendix aimed at postgraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics applicants. Note that there is an exemption for EEA, USA, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Japanese, Singaporean and South Korean nationals.

Key timings and documents

For EEA nationals currently in the UK who do not seek Settled Status, the new Student Route visa will open to applications on the 01 January 2021, at the end of the transition period. EEA nationals currently outside the UK can apply, but their entry clearance will only be granted commencing 01 January 2021.

More generally, there are two key timeframes to note. Overseas applicants may apply for the new visa 6 months before the start date of their course. Those in the UK may only apply 3 months before the start date.

Importantly, certain nationalities are exempt from providing key financial documents. The full list can be found here at ST22.1.

New rules on validity and their implications

Certain requirements in respect of the grant of a visa have shifted in the transition from Tier 4 to the Student Route. The key implication is that failure to satisfy these requirements now has the potential to make the failed applicant an overstayer – and so subject to adverse immigration consequences.

The requirements newly classed as validity requirements are:

  • Obtaining a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies prior to the date of application.
  • A bar on in country applications from those currently with leave as a Visitor, Short-term Student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household, outside the Immigration Rules.
  • Applicants who received third party or government sponsorship for a UK course completed in the 12 months prior to their application must provide written consent in respect of that sponsor.

Postgraduate limits and maintenance fund changes.

There is no longer a general limit of 8 years of postgraduate study. The 5 year limit for undergraduate study remains in place.

Finance and proof of maintenance funds have become more flexible. Doctors and dentists in training, and Sabbatical Officer applicants do not need to show proof of funds. Similarly, applicants from the countries subject to “differential requirements” are not required to demonstrate maintenance funds at the time of application, but may be asked to do so later. Otherwise, nationals of all other countries who are applying overseas, or who have been in the UK for less than 12 months with permission, must continue to demonstrate their ability to maintain themselves..

Electronic bank statements are now allowed where evidence is needed. So too are cash funds held in current, deposit, savings, pension and investment accounts. (Cash in these accounts must be immediately accessible. On the other hand, institutions that do not use electronic record keeping are no longer admissible.

If you or someone you know would like any help or advice about the issues mentioned in the above, then please do get in touch with our immigration team.