Welcome back Amy oh yes, and more crazy news for the UK. This is what my return from maternity leave felt like late last year straight back into a familiar situation that was the UK changing its mind on its immigration policy yet again. Each time a change in policy has been touted, the industry holds its breath, waiting to see if the government really will risk its education export industry for the sake of gaining political mileage.
One of the main shockers now is that the government proposes increasing the English language level requirement for Tier 4 applicants from outside the EU from B1 to B2 which will require an applicant “to be able to converse on a wider range of topics, whereas B1 level is more focused on understanding public announcements and instructions”.
This explanation of levels, as described on the Home Office’s own website, speaks for itself: there is no point in anyone interested in learning the English language in its native country applying for a student visa should this rule come into effect. Tony Millns of English UK blasted the suggestion as totally wrong. “Students simply will not need to come here to learn English because they will already be fluent in it,” he said.
The consultation startled the industry, although a subsequent change to Student Visitor Visa rules allowing SVV holders (distinct to Student Visa holders) to study for up to 11 months, rather than six brought some cheer, as lower-level students now at least have a (temporary) route into the UK for longer than six months (although no access to part-time work rights or ability to switch visa categories).
Stamping out “non-compliance” is the government’s reasoning behind some of its new proposed rules, according to the consultation (page 7), but Theresa May, UK Home Secretary, has acknowledged a commitment to a pre-election pledge of bringing migrant numbers down to the “tens of thousands”. Non-compliance of visa rules overstaying, essentially is a problem in any country, but maintaining a strong entry and exit system is better in solving this, rather than creating barriers that thwart genuine students too and threaten to damage the UK economy.
Non-compliance issues are also better managed by a strict accreditation system linked to visa issuance; one area that the UK government is consulting on (“more rigorous inspections”) that the majority of the industry will endorse. But in terms of other modifications to the visa regime, some suggestions are non-sense.