The Main Changes to the Immigration Rules for International Students

The rules will apply to EEA nationals as well as non-EEA nationals from 1 January 2021. EEA nationals will be required to meet the same requirements to study within the UK as non-EEA nationals and will need to apply under the Student rules.

There will be greater flexibility to switch into the student categories from within the UK. Students will be able to apply for further permission from within the UK, provided they meet the Academic Progression requirement and the new course of study commences within 28 days of the expiry of the current leave. Students will able to apply for further leave in country, 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.

The list of countries whose nationals may submit reduced documentary evidence has been updated to add all the countries which form part of the EEA and Switzerland. The following countries have been added to the list: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Students applying under the new Student route from outside the UK, now have up to 6 months to do so prior to the start of their course, rather than 3 months, as it remains for in-country applications.

The eight-year time limit on studying courses at postgraduate level has been removed. There is no longer a limit on the time that an individual can spend studying postgraduate courses (the five-year limit for degree level courses still remains).

New ways of satisfying the English language requirement have been introduced:

  • This can now be satisfied if the applicant has obtained either a GCSE, A Level or Scottish equivalent in English language or literature at a UK school whilst below the age of 18.
  • Students who are nationals of Malta will be classed as being from a majority English speaking country. Such students can rely on their nationality, and students of other nationalities can submit academic qualifications taught at an institution in Malta.

Changes to the financial requirement:

  • There is more flexibility on where maintenance 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. For example, funds can be in pension and investment accounts, as long as the money can be accessed immediately.
  • 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 will not need to meet the financial requirement. This means that the student will not need to submit any financial evidence with their
  • Students applying for leave as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer or to study on a recognised Foundation Programme also will not need to meet the financial requirement.

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