Home Office relaxes Visa rules for Chinese students

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) found that China paves the way as the leading outsource for international students in the UK. Outshining any other nationality, Chinese students make up one-third of international students in the UK. Further still, China is the only country indifferent to Brexit and British politics as their students continue to study in British universities at an unparalleled rocketing rate: as many as 95,090 Chinese students came to the UK in the academic year 2016/17 – a huge increase since the 87,895 that came in 2013/14.

Just days ago, the Home Office announced a reform on Tier 4 Student Visas, aiming to ease the process for international students coming to the UK. The new policy has relaxed rules on English language tests and financial requirements for around 25 countries. The Home Office recognise these countries as ‘low risk’, meaning that applicants are trusted and considered less likely to abuse the system or fill out fraudulent applications, and in turn, benefit from a streamlined visa application and a reduced load of documentation.

Already benefitting from a relaxed Student Visa, the US, Canada and New Zealand now welcome China, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia and Serbia to the list (to name a few) . This will come into effect by July 6th 2018. 

The move comes as many criticised the government’s severe visa caps, blaming them for turning away hopeful students in a bid to reduce immigration in the UK. However, the reform faces further scrutiny for excluding many other countries from the student visa-light option. India is the third largest country outsourcing young minds into British universities, behind the US and China, yet it has been left off the list. Indian students applying for the same or similar courses to ‘low risk’ international students will continue to be subject to the rigorous requirements and face a higher refusal rate. Lord Karan Bilimoria, president of the UKCISA, criticised the policy as an ‘insult to India’.

Tier 4 Student Visa

As it currently stands, to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa UK you must:

  • Be a ‘genuine Tier 4 student’
  • Be applying to study for more than 6 months
  • Provide evidence of academic qualifications and/or courses as recognised by the UK government such as A-Levels (or equivalent)
  • Have an unconditional offer from a university that holds a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence
  • Provide a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) by your UK university
  • Provide proof that you have enough money to support yourself and your course
  • Pass an English language test (SELT) including speaking, reading and writing in English to satisfy the Points Based System

If you come from a ‘low risk’ country you no longer have to provide evidence of your maintenance funds or evidence from previous academic qualifications. You can also bypass the English language test. However, the Home Office have warned: all international students “still need to meet the requirements under Tier 4 and UK Visas and Immigration reserves the right to request this evidence in full and will do so for a random sample of applications.” This means that even if you’re low risk, you could be subject to further inspection in your application regarding your English ability, your financial stability, and/or evidence of previous academic qualifications.

Choosing an in-demand degree

It is not the be-all and end-all for other international students facing stricter immigration inspections. There are still many options aside from the Tier 4 Student Visa that is available for youngsters who want to come to the UK.

Choosing a specific degree that has been declared as ‘in shortage’ of in the UK could lead to relaxed visa applications. Opting for a degree that is ‘in-demand’, international students – no matter where they are from in the world – are viewed equally alongside other hopeful candidates applying for that course.

An ‘in-demand degree’ refers to a course that leads to a job outlined on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List.

Some jobs on this list are:

  • Engineers (civil, electrical and mechanical)
  • Scientists
  • IT specialists
  • Medical practitioners
  • Nurses
  • Secondary education teachers
  • Social workers
  • Artists
  • Dancers
  • Musicians
  • Chefs

Students dreaming about a career in the UK or those wanting to benefit from the UK’s prestigious education sector should check the list before deciding on their future. Advantages of choosing a degree relevant to the list include a decreased volume of competition as well as a higher chance of landing a job in the UK post-graduation.

Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme)

Alternatively, youngsters discouraged from student life in the UK could explore the route of the Youth Mobility Scheme which is popular due to its lenient visa requirements. The scheme is ideal for international youth or graduates who want valuable work experience or a taste of the UK without paying the extortionate international study fees.

To apply for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme, you must:

  • Be 18-30 years old
  • Provide proof of at least £1,890 in savings

The Home Office’s decision to extend their ‘low risk’ rank to Chinese students is a promising and timely change. It is most likely that the UK government will amend the list and extend it further to include India or other countries exempt such as Malaysia, Nigeria and Hong Kong. But for now, students need to be aware what the UK government expects from them and should explore all avenues if they are seriously considering studying or working in the UK.


This article has been provided by Olivia Bridge, political correspondent from the Immigration Advice Service.


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Olivia Bridge

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