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Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules: HC 707 – “new Points-Based Immigration System” rules for students
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Is a statement of changes even a statement of changes nowadays if it doesn’t introduce a new appendix to the Immigration Rules? On 10 September 2020, the government laid the first statement of changes of its infamous “new Point-Based Immigration System”. It includes the addition of five new appendices. The explanatory memorandum also tells us that
The routes are the first to be simplified in line with the recommendations of the Law Commission in its report, ‘Simplifying the Immigration Rules’, to which the Government responded on 25 March 2020. The Immigration Rules will eventually be consolidated in the new style.
Those routes relate to students: what have been known as Tier 4 and Tier 4 (children) will now be “Appendix ST: student” and “Appendix CS: child student”.
Welcome to the new age of simplification. In addition to Appendix ST and Appendix CS, there are three new appendices, whose names tell us what they are about: Appendix ATAS, Appendix English Language and Appendix Finance. These only apply to students for now but are likely to apply to other routes as the new system is unrolled. While applicants will need to refer to all those appendixes in an application; they no longer will need to look at part 6A; part 8; part 15; Appendix A; Appendix C; Appendix E; Appendix H or Appendix 6. Five appendices is better than eight, right?
The changes will take effect on 5 October 2020 at 09.00. Applications made before then will be considered in line with the Rules in force at the time.
What is new for students
Apart from the rejigging of appendices and Rules above, the main changes are as follows:
- Brexit did happen, and we are coming to the end of the transition period. This means that the rules will apply to EEA nationals. EEA nationals applying in-country will only be able to make an application from 1 January 2021. For those applying for entry clearance, visas will only be granted to start on 1 January 2021. EEA nationals also apparently need to use the form which other applicants only use in-country, even if applying out of country. This should all be clearer once the forms are out.
- The list of countries with “different (i.e. easier) documentary requirements” is expanded to include EEA countries and Switzerland.
- Appendix ST and CS contain their own rules on when an application made is valid (rather than those rules being in part 1). Importantly, in addition to the usual validity requirements such as having to submit a passport and enrol biometrics, some requirements which used to be eligibility requirements are now validity requirements. In particular:
- The applicant must provide a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies reference number that was issued to them before the date of application.
- If applying in-country, the applicant cannot be here on certain routes (see below) or on immigration bail.
- An applicant who needs consent from a government or international sponsorship agency must have that at the date of application.
The reason why this is important to note is because an application which is rejected as invalid rather than refused may interrupt the applicant’s section 3C leave, and therefore make them an overstayer.
- The rules on switching are better. While previously only those already on Tier 4 leave (and only sponsored by some institutions) and Tier 2 leave could apply in-country, now everyone will be able to except those in the UK as visitors, short-term students, parents of a child student, seasonal workers, domestic workers in a private household or those with leave outside the Immigration Rules.
- You can apply for entry clearance up to six months before the start of the course (as opposed to three months, as it remains for in-country applications).
- The eight-year time limit on studying courses at postgraduate level has been removed (the five-year limit for degree level courses is still there).
- And, of course, there are points! But they are non-negotiable so the old refrain of this not really being a points-based system applies.
Changes to English language requirement
- An applicant will meet the English language requirement if they have a GCSE, A level, or Scottish Highers in English in the UK which they obtained while under 18.
- The list of English-speaking countries is expanded to include Malta and Ireland.
Changes to financial requirement
- There is more flexibility on where maintainence funds can be held. While the rules now say that funds must be in cash, it will now be more about whether they can be immediately withdrawn. So funds can be in pension and investment accounts, for example, as long as the money can be accessed immediately. Shares, bonds, credit cards won’t work.
- Financial institutions where the funds are held must use electronic record keeping.
- Students who are applying for permission to stay in the UK and have been living in the UK with permission for 12 months or more on the date of application won’t need to meet the financial requirement.
- Students applying for leave as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer or to study on a recognised Foundation Programme also won’t need to meet the financial requirement.
Changes to ATAS requirement
- There is now a list of countries whose nationals are exempt from the ATAS requirement. They are the usual suspects: EEA countries, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US.
On a final note, short-term students still need to refer to part 3 of the Rules; they are not included in Appendix ST and CS.
Overall, not many substantive changes, but a taste of what the new rules will look like.