The main changes to the Tier 4 student visa route will:
- stop new students at publicly funded colleges from working, bringing them in line with those at private colleges (from August 2015);
- allow university students to study a new course at the same level but only where there is a link to their previous course or the university confirms that this supports their career aspirations. There will be credibility interviews and sanctions against universities who abuse this rule (from August 2015);
- ban college students from extending their Tier 4 visas in the UK unless they are studying at an ‘embedded college’, one which has a formal, direct link to a university and is recognised by the Home Office. This will require them to leave the UK and apply for a new visa if they want to study another course (from November 2015);
- ban college students from being able to switch visas to Tiers 2 or 5 in the UK, and require them to apply from outside the UK (from November 2015);
- reduce the time limit for study at further education level from 3 years to 2 years. This brings the maximum period into line with the length of time British students generally spend in further education (from November 2015);
- stop Tier 4 dependants from taking a low or unskilled job, but allow them to take part-time or full-time skilled work (from the autumn 2015).
The government hope that the above changes will help reduce abuse of the UK immigration system and ensure the UK attracts the brightest international students.