Retailers sometimes rely on temporary workers, for example, students during busy periods in their year such as Christmas and sales, however, changes to the Immigration Rules affecting migrant students and educational providers came into force in April this year and a new Highly Trusted Sponsor category for Tier 4 (students) applications has been introduced.

The purpose behind the new rules is to provide stricter entry criteria for students from outside of Europe wishing to study in the UK and to stop people abusing the student visa system to remain illegally.

Working hours

At the centre of the new rules are working hours and new limitations have been imposed restricting the number of hours that foreign students are permitted to work. Foreign students studying a course below foundation degree-level will be permitted to work up to a maximum of 10 hours per week during term time and full time during vacations. Those on foundation or degree-level courses will be permitted to work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time and full time during vacations.

Migrant students may not fill a full-time permanent vacancy, with the exception of a recognised Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors or as a students’ union sabbatical officer. Employers are advised to closely monitor the number of hours foreign students work in order to avoid potential penalties.

Family members and language skills

It is not only working hours that have received stricter regulation: family members of Tier 4 migrants will be affected by the changes as those students on a course of less than six months will not be entitled to have dependants accompanying them to the UK.

Furthermore, the minimum level of English language course offered has now been raised to a standard equivalent to GCSE level imposing a tougher language ability requirement on students visiting the UK.

Transitional Arrangements for Educational Providers

A further step towards combating abuse of the student visa system is the introduction of “highly trusted” status for education providers. Institutions previously deemed to hold a Highly Trusted Sponsor licence prior to the commencement of the new system will now be listed as highly trusted on a Tier 4 register of sponsors while their application of a Highly Trusted Sponsor licence is processed. Consequently, foreign students visiting the UK to study and work should ensure that their chosen institution is on the Tier 4 sponsor register at the time of submitting an application to study at their chosen institution.

The introduction of these rules can be seen as a further step towards closing what has been described as a loophole in the UK’s Border Controls. Whilst the implementation of the new rules is currently in its early stages, critics will be waiting with anticipation to see whether the Government’s crackdown will have beneficial or detrimental effects. The Conservative Party had said that the system had been the ‘biggest hole in border controls’ and now in power under the new coalition government the success or failure of the new rules will be closely observed.