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The UK is making changes to its visas in October – what South Africans should know

The UK is making changes to its visas in October – what South Africans should know

In an attempt to produce clearer pathways for students, and maintain competitiveness in a changing global education market, the UK government has announced new immigration routes for students, says John Dunn, director of immigration and citizenship at Sable International.

Dunn said the UK’s university system is often touted as a sparkling jewel in the country’s crown. The sector, which educates millions of students each year, also contributes heavily to the country’s economy and is famed for its quality, research and student choice., he said.

“However, on the back of widespread concern for its economy, the UK government – in an attempt to lure students to its institutions – has announced a new, points-based visa route for international students.

“Initially expected to come into effect from January 2021, the student and child student routes will now both open on 5 October, meaning those who are planning to study in the UK in the near future may need to apply through the new system.”

Dunn said that the changes form part of the Boris Johnson-led government’s new post-Brexit points-based immigration system, which comes into play as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU and an end to the EU’s free movement of people rules at the end of December.

“The new routes will treat international students on an equal footing. All overseas-born students – including those coming to the UK from Europe after the transition period is over – will be taking the same, simplified route,” he said.

Dunn said that the new student route improves on the previous Tier 4 route by making it more streamlined for sponsoring institutions and their students. The government also reiterated that there would be no limit on the number of students who can come to the UK under the route.

“If you’re a prospective international student, you’ll be required to achieve a total of 70 points to be granted a student visa,” he said.

“You will be able to achieve the required points if you can show proof of an offer from an approved educational institution, demonstrate that you can speak English and you are able to financially support yourself throughout your studies in the country.”

Dunn said that increased flexibility will allow international students to apply for a UK visa six months prior to travelling to the UK.

Under previous rules, international students could not apply for a visa until closer to the course start date, he said.

“Moreover, Masters degree students will be allowed to remain in the UK for a further two years after completion of their studies, while PhD students can stay for an additional three years. Students will also be given the possibility to switch to work routes if they can find a suitable job,” he said.