July 13th saw the UK Government announce new rules concerning the operation and extension of Tier 4 student visas. The surprise move, which has been described as harsh by political opponents and student advocates alike, was introduced at short notice and the changes have caught some students by surprise. Many online resources are yet to be brought up to date with the changes. Anyone applying for a Tier 4 student visa or a Tier 4 student visa extension is therefore advised to take direct personal advice from an accredited, qualified source.

Specific effects of the changes will see non EU students’ right to work in the UK whilst they study removed from the Tier 4 visa. Perhaps more significantly, from July 14th it will no longer be possible to apply for a Tier 4 extension visa from within the UK. Instead, applicants will be obliged to leave the UK on completion of their course and then apply to work in the UK under the terms of the extension.

The term of Tier 4 visas for those in Further Education is to be capped at two years – it was previously three years. Additionally, FE students will be prevented from continuing their studies to degree level unless their sponsoring college has a formal, established link to a registered university.

From November 12th changes to the maintenance requirements for Tier 4 students will increase to £1,265 per month with an additional requirement of £845 per month for each Tier 4 dependant. Applicants will need to show this level of support for a maximum of nine months. The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme will still only require applicants to show £1,265 for two months (£2,530).

Conservative ministers have insisted that the move to restrict the terms of the Tier 4 Extension Visa represents a crackdown on ‘back door’ and ‘bogus’ applications. Inevitably, it will make the process of application for those genuinely seeking to study and work in the UK more difficult to negotiate.