UK: Overhaul of student visa system

Measure #2941 | Published 30 Nov 2011 ▲


On 22 March 2011, the UK Border Agency announced an overhaul of the British student visa system.


The overhaul includes the following measures. Unless stated otherwise, these measures came into effect on 21 April 2011.


  • Higher language requirements. Migrant student shall have the oral level B2 ("upper intermediate") rather than the current B1 ("lower intermediate") of the European Standard for foreign languages. The UK Border Agency staff may also reject students upon entry if they are "cannot speak English without an interpreter".
  • Strikter work permits for enrolled students. Only students of universities and publicly funded further education colleges will be allowed to work alongside their study. Students at other educational institutions will not be allowed to access the labor market during their study.
  • Srikter rules for dependents.Only postgraduate students at universities and government-sponsored students may bring their dependants. Other long-term students previously allowed to bring their dependents to the UK,will no longer be able to do so.
  • Maximum duration for student visas. Foreign students in higher education may stay on their visa no longer than 5 years. Currently there is no limit to their stay. Visas to students at lower levels are limited to a duration of 3 years. This limit has not been altered by the reported regulation.
  • Post-study work. After finishing their British education, migrant students shall no longer be allowed to directly enter the labor market via Tier 1 (Post-study work). Rather only those students who found a "skilled job" eligible for the Tier 2 points-based system shall be allowed to stay in the country. This change shall take effect in April 2012.
  • Restriction of sponsoring instutions. In a final step by April 2012, the sponsoring instutions need to qualify for the "Highly Trusted sponsor" program. A measure aimed to prevent low-quality educational establishments from providing a route into the country.

Apparently widespread abuse of the current student visa system was given as the justification for the reported changes.


Any Evidence-Based Deliberation:

Question Result
Is there anything in the public record to suggest that evidence of the effectiveness of the proposed measure was considered during official deliberations?
Is there any evidence that alternatives to the proposed measure were considered?
Is there anything in the public record that suggests that empirical evidence informed the comparison across the alternatives available to government?
Was such evidence identified?
Is such evidence publicly available?
Did the official decision-maker in question provide an explanation as to why a chosen measure was favoured over alternatives?
Is there any evidence to suggest that potentially affected trading partners were consulted before the measures were taken?
Is there any evidence that safeguards have been put in place to ensure that implementation of the initiative is transparent and non-discriminatory?
Did the government state its intention to review the measure within one year of implementation?

Implementing Jurisdiction:

Affected Trading Partners:

Measure type:

Affected Sectors:

Affected Tariff Lines:

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Date Discovered:

Implemented: Yes

Date of inception: 21 Apr 2011

GTA Evaluation: Red


UK Border Agency. (2011). New rules for student visas come into force. Available at

UK Border Agency. (2011). Government outlines overhaul of student visas. Available at

UK Border Agency. (2011). Summary of new student visa policy. Available at

Government Response:

Glossary of trade terms