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14 July 2015
The first change which will come into force will deal with the period for which entry clearance visas are issued. This change will affect all applications which have yet to receive a decision by this date. Previously most visas were issued for the full duration of the course but, from the end of July 2015, a new procedure will apply worldwide. Under this new procedure, entry clearance visas will be issued for 30 days and students will then need to collect a biometric residence permit within 10 days of arrival in the UK.
The Home Office is amending the Immigration Rules to reflect this new procedure. Universities and Colleges with international students will need to ensure that their staff are aware of this new procedure and that they ensure students provide a copy of their biometric residence permit once it has been collected. If a University or College only keeps a copy of the initial entry visa it will not be in compliance with its obligations to the Home Office and enforcement action could be taken.
3 August 2015
This is when the Home Office will make a number of changes to the Immigration Rules.
A change which will affect all sponsors from this date are the rules relating to academic progression. Currently a student can only apply for a different course if it represents "academic progress" from their existing course. The Home Office is clarifying that this means the student must be moving up a level on the National Qualifications Framework unless the course is related to their previous period of study or supports their genuine career aspiration. Whilst the Home Office has not given any guidance on how institutions should assess "genuine career aspirations" care will need to be taken when assessing if a new course of study represents academic progress, particularly in light of the changes announced last year which can result in the loss of Highly Trusted Sponsor status where an institution's visa refusal rate reaches 10%.
A further change will only affect publicly funded further education colleges. Currently students sponsored by these colleges are allowed to work for 10 hours per week during term time, and can work full time outside of term time. For applications submitted on or after 3 August 2015 the Home Office will not grant these students the right to work. Students with existing visas will continue to be allowed to work. Affected colleges should ensure that information provided to students is accurate, and if they have any concerns that a student is breaching the terms of their visa these should be reported to the Home Office.
12 November 2015
The final date institutions will need to be aware of is 12 November 2015 when a number of changes will come into force that will affect future visa applications. The first of these changes will be an increased maintenance requirement for all applications and the removal of the established presence rule. Currently students who are already in the UK and applying for further courses of study benefit from a lower maintenance requirement as they only need to show they hold funds to cover the first two months of their course instead of a maximum of 9 months. This rule will be removed for all students except those applying under the rules for post doctoral extensions.
For all applications submitted on or after 12 November students applying for visas will need to show that they hold £1,265 for each month of their course, if they are studying in London or the Former Metropolitan Police Force Area, or £1,015 if they are studying outside London.
A further change which comes into force on this date is that students studying at Further Education Colleges will not be able to apply to switch onto other work or study based visas from inside the UK at the end of their course. They will instead need to leave the UK and submit a further application. This will affect students with existing visas and institutions should ensure that their students are aware of this. We have read a number of news items regarding this change and some suggest that it applies to all students but it will not affect students studying at Higher Education institutions and these institutions may wish to communicate this to their existing and prospective students.
If you require any further information about how these changes will affect your institution and how you can comply with them, please get in touch with us on the details below.