UK Government

Home Office: Tougher rules for foreign students

Press Release   •   Feb 11, 2010 10:29 GMT

Foreign students from outside Europe wanting to come to the UK to study will be required to meet stricter entry criteria, the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson announced today.

The new regulations will ensure that students studying below degree level have a limited ability to work in the UK and that their dependants cannot work here at all.

It will be even harder for bogus students, whose only aim is to work in the UK, to come into the country.

The Home Secretary also confirmed today, that the Government will implement plans to introduce a points test by 2011 for those who wish to earn British Citizenship.

New measures include:

* a good standard of English (equivalent of holding just below a GCSE in a foreign language) will be needed to come to the UK and study to improve English language competency further;

* a good standard of English (again equivalent of holding just below a GCSE in a foreign language) will need to be demonstrated in order to study any other course below degree level;

* restricting the lowest level courses (A-levels and equivalent) to only the most trusted institutions;

* halving the amount of time a student studying below first degree level or on a foundation degree course, will be able to work, to just ten hours during term time;

* a ban on bringing in dependants for anyone studying a course for less than six months; and

* a ban on dependants of anyone studying a course lower than foundation or undergraduate degree level from working - they will face removal from the UK if found doing so.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:

"The Points Based System was introduced to provide a rigorous system to manage legitimate access to the UK to work and study, with the ability to respond to changing circumstances.

"We want foreign students to come here to study, not to work illegally, and today we have set out necessary steps which will maintain the robustness of the system we introduced last year. I make no apologies for that."

In addition, the new measures will include:

* a ban on foreign students studying below degree level if the course includes a work placement - unless that course is being provided by a university, college or training provider which has the status of "highly trusted sponsor";

* a requirement for students to demonstrate their English language ability by passing an approved secure test - this will apply to all students studying below (foundation) degree level, including those coming to study English language; and

* introduction of tougher criteria for defining which course providers count as "highly trusted sponsors" of foreign students. We expect that all publicly funded universities and colleges will count as highly trusted, and we will ensure that there is a rapid but rigorous system for ensuring that private training colleges can also gain that status as soon as possible.

UK universities and colleges offer an excellent education and the government recognises the essential contribution genuine international students bring - economically, academically and socially - to the country as a whole, as well as to the universities and colleges in which they study. However these steps are part of the government's commitment to crack down on potential abuse of the system.

These changes are part of a radical overhaul of the student system that began last year. Since March 2009, the government has required all foreign students to be sponsored by a UKBA licensed college and to demonstrate they can support themselves once they get here before being granted a visa. Also since March, any college or university wanting to bring in international students must be accredited and licensed. This has reduced the number of institutions able to bring students to the UK from over 4,000 to approximately 2,000.

Pat McFadden Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills said:

"Genuine international students are welcome in the UK. They make a significant contribution to the academic and cultural life of the universities and colleges where they study and bring over £5.3bn to our economy each year. But where there is abuse it undermines the position of genuine students as much as anyone else.

"It is important that we protect the reputation and quality of our institutions by ensuring only legitimate students are able to benefit from the courses they offer. This is why we will work closely with the sector to implement the recommendations of this review."

The new requirements for foreign students follow a review of Tier 4 of the PBS, announced by the Prime Minister in November 2009. The review team were asked to look at whether the current Tier 4 arrangements strike the right balance between facilitating access of genuine students and preventing abuse by economic migrants.

The decision to introduce a points test for citizenship follows the results of a public consultation on the proposals which were published today. The results show that three quarters of the public polled during the consultation are in favour of the Government's plans to introduce a points scheme for citizenship.

Alan Johnson added:

"We have already made fundamental changes to the immigration system to control migration in a way that is firm, and has a positive impact on our work force and economy.

"From 2011 we will put the mechanisms in place that will ensure that people who are allowed to become citizens have earned their right to stay here.

"We will do this using a points test, giving us the ability to take clear, enforceable decisions about who should be allowed to stay permanently, with the flexibility to raise or lower the threshold for citizenship, depending on the current interests of the country and economy."

Under the new rules anyone wishing to become a permanent resident will have to earn their right to citizenship. This will restrict the number of economic migrants granted citizenship, for example by limiting it only to those who have the qualifications or skills that the economy needs, or are living in parts of the country where there are specific skills shortages that they can fill. They will also have to demonstrate that they could speak good English for their application to be successful.


1. The Implementation Plan for Tier 4 of the PBS can be found at:

2. Tier 4 is one of five tiers of the PBS and was introduced in March 2009. Tier 1, for highly skilled migrants, was introduced in February 2008 and Tier 2 (for skilled migrants) and Tier 5 (for primarily non-economic visitors) were introduced in November 2008. Tier 3, for unskilled workers, is currently suspended.

3. Students already have to prove that they have; been sponsored by an educational establishment that holds a tier 4 Sponsor Licence, the required level of maintenance with which to support themselves in the UK - £800 (London) / £600 (outside London) per month up to a maximum of 9 months, a good immigration history and that their presence in the UK would not be harmful.

4. The Prime Minister announced a review of Tier 4 on 14 November 2009. The review looked at the case for or against any policy changes, and specifically: the potential impact of raising the minimum level of study an adult may undertake in the UK, introducing an English language test for those coming to the UK to study below degree level, restricting access to vocational courses (courses with work-placements) and the work entitlements of students.

5. The 'Earning the right to stay: A new Points Based Test for Citizenship' consultation can be found on the UK Border agency website at The consultation closed on 26 October 2009.

6.  Full details on obtaining British citizenship can be found online at

7.  The new path to citizenship in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 requires that newcomers earn the right to stay. We announced in Building Britain's Future (published by the Prime Minister on 29 June) that we now intend to extend the Points Based System to probationary citizenship, strengthening control of the number of people getting settlement - <>


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