On 10 September 2020 the Home Office published new Immigration Rules for students. The rules provide the first glimpse of the new points-based immigration system (PBIS) and highlight what some of its implications will be, not only for students, but also for employers and workers.
The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 707 introduces new student and child student routes. These routes will come into effect at 9:00am on 5 October 2020 for non-EEA nationals and EEA nationals making applications from abroad, although EEA nationals will have their entry clearance issued starting from 1 January 2021 at the earliest.
EEA nationals who are already in the United Kingdom will be unable to apply before 1 January 2021. This is because EEA nationals who arrive in the United Kingdom before 11:00pm on 31 December 2020 will still be covered by the Brexit transition period and will be eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
Anyone who comes to the United Kingdom as a visitor will be unable to switch their immigration status to a student route in-country – they will have to leave the United Kingdom and apply for entry clearance.
Benefits for international students and employers
Under the new rules, there will no longer be an eight-year limit on postgraduate studies. This means that UK employers will have a greater chance of being able to hire more highly skilled workers after they have completed their full programme of studies.
When combined with the proposed two-year Graduate visa, international students will now have a clearer route to settlement following 10 years’ continuous residence in the United Kingdom, which means that a lower proportion will require sponsorship by employers. This will provide some administrative and cost savings.
Due to the promised abolition of the resident labour market test under the new skilled worker route (which will replace Tier 2 (General)), it will be a more streamlined process to sponsor an international student in circumstances where they have not completed their course in the United Kingdom (or have not completed at least 12 months of their course in the case of PhD students).
In some cases, international students may be considered new entrants to the labour market and so may be paid a minimum of 70% of the relevant going rate for the occupation that they are sponsored to fill as a skilled worker. This will enable sponsorship to be possible a pay level that is aligned with market expectations for those who are at the beginning of their career.
The new routes for students and workers will mainly be under the PBIS, which is how the Home Office has chosen to distinguish the new categories from the previous points-based system (PBS) categories introduced from 2008. The terms ‘leave to enter’ and ‘leave to remain’ are replaced with the less technical sounding ‘permission to enter’ and ‘permission to stay’.
For students, it will no longer be necessary to provide evidence of maintenance funds (which will be known as meeting the financial requirement under the new system) if they have been in the United Kingdom with immigration permission for at least 12 months already.
It is unknown what the financial requirements (ie, the maintenance requirement under the present system) will be for the skilled worker, intra-company transfer and other work-related immigration categories; however, it is likely that a similar provision will be made.
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