For international students wishing to study in the United Kingdom, the process to attain a visa to begin or extend their studies will be undergoing some serious changes. The tier 4 visa, scheduled to come into effect at the end of March, still has many unclear details including an official date of implementation and confirmed immigration rules. The tier 4 visa focuses upon students from overseas who wish to gain clearance to study in the United Kingdom. This new visa will replace the student visa currently used by international students and puts more responsibility on universities.

According to tier 4’s official website the aim of this new system is to “provide a more user friendly, transparent route to studying in the United Kingdom.” At the University of Sussex the international office expects the new visa regime to “affect all students (undergraduate, postgraduate, visiting and exchange) from outside the EEA or Switzerland who wish to study in the UK for six months or more,” according to the university. According to their latest figures, this will affect a total of 1,175 students studying at Sussex including 99 visiting and exchange students, many of whom study here for less than 6 months.

The new visa system requires a certificate of sponsorship before a student can be granted clearance to study abroad. This certificate would come from the place of study, after the school has attained status as an approved sponsor for students visiting the United Kingdom. This idea is to ensure that students aren’t claiming they’re in the UK to study, but in actuality are here for a job or at an unaccredited school.

According to the International and Study Abroad office, the visa changes are necessary to fix a system that was complicated, with 80 routes to study and work in the United Kingdom to be replaced with 5. The university comments: “We regularly came across spurious visa refusals, based on the subjective reasoning of entry clearance staff.” “The new system will be clearer for applicants as well as for the staff operating the system.”

On the current visa system immigration officials have no real way of knowing what University a student is studying at other than the student telling them. Without having concrete proof, it is unclear how border control can properly admit people across the UK border. Under the tier 4 visa, students will be granted leave to reside in the United Kingdom to complete their course, graduate and conclude affairs. If a student wishes to transfer universities, the sponsorship would have to be changed and reported with written notification of the change to the UK border agency. However, students changing courses within a University will not have to reapply for the visa. These two situations will be formally addressed as soon as the Immigration rules are formally published next month.

The tier 4 visa is being implemented to better track students as well as to eliminate unaccredited universities. This, as unlicensed universities will not be able to be sponsors under the UK border agency, and thus, not be able to enrol international students. The new system will also check on student applicant’s financial and academic criteria, making sure they can afford University, the cost of tuition and the price of being in England in the hopes of denying students who will end up dropping out of the institution due to these issues.

The tier 4 system will not lead to naturalisation of students or the opportunity to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom, according to the visa’s official website. Those who wish to become citizens will have to begin the process after they finish their studies.

The international office is asking any students concerned about the new visa requirement to attend an immigration drop in session or email the office at The office is also sending out emails to those students who will be affected by the visa changes currently enrolled at the University.

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Changes in visas to affect international students

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