In the initial outline of the new system – due to take effect from 1 January 2021 – the government has also said the EU citizens will be treated as non-visa nationals, and that the use of ID cards for entry by European citizens will be phased out.
The government is introducing a points system for skilled workers, with 70 points required to be eligible. Examples of how points can be accumulated include: a job offer by an approved sponsor (20 points); a job at an appropriate level (20); and speaking English at an appropriate level (10).
Additional points can be earned by salary level, qualification level and whether a job is listed as a shortage occupation. A salary above UK£25,599 will be worth 20 points, in line with proposals in a recent Migration Advisory Committee report.
The Home Office said that the same principle would apply to Tier 4 student visas, although it did not give full details of the scoring breakdown.
In a guidance document, it said, “Students will be covered by the points-based system. They will achieve the required points if they can demonstrate that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, speak English and are able to support themselves during their studies in the UK.”
As previously reported, the UK government has announced the reinstatement of two years of post-study work rights for international students, and has also recently introduced an unlimited Global Talent Sheme for scientists and researchers.
However, the President of the UK’s National Union of Students, Zamzam Ibrahim, criticised the new measures. “While the reinstatement of two-year post study work visas was a positive step, by introducing financial thresholds for EU students it will close of access to the UK’s higher education system to all but the richest international students. All EU students must continue to have access to student finance if we are to meet the government’s own target of attracting 600,000 students to the UK by 2030.”
The new Home Office guidance does not make specific reference to the short-term student visitor route, but StudyTravel Magazine understands that this will continue as normal alongside the new points-based system for Tier 4 student visas.
EU citizens are expected to be treated as non-visa nationals, meaning they can come as visitors for six months without a visa, similar to current rules for countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Non-visa nationals can obtain a student visitor visa on arrival in the UK.
However, the use of identity cards by European students will be stopped, it was confirmed, although a specific end data was not given. The Home Office said, “The use of national identity cards will be phased out for study at the UK and travel to the UK and the Home Office will set out our plans in due course.”
English UK and English language providers have expressed concerns over the removal of identity card-based travel due to the high volumes of teenage students from key source countries such as Italy and Spain who use identity cards.
Commenting on the points-based immigration system, Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, said, “While we welcome the recognition that the salary threshold of UK£30,000 was too high, we still need to ensure that all university staff will be able to work in the UK, including lab technicians and language assistants, who are vital to supporting the success of our universities.”
English UK have previously expressed concerns about the ability of member centres to hire seasonal and casual staff from the EU as they currently do under a new post-Brexit system.