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Student Visas

Volume 528: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2011

The Petition of residents of Sheffield,

Declares that international students are a great social, cultural and economic asset and a key contributor to British Higher Education; that international students bring billions of pounds to the British economy, help forge vital business contacts and are important ambassadors for British culture globally; that the Petitioners do not agree with labelling international students as “immigrants” as they reside in the UK temporarily, make significant contributions and are in no way a burden to the country; that the petitioners believe that the proposed measures in the Home Office consultation on student immigration would restrict the freedom of choice of international students and would significantly damage their university experience; and that international students should retain their rights to find work experience in the UK for up to two years, to work while studying, bring their dependants to the UK, to apply for visa for a new course within the UK, and to study a second course of the same qualification.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to accept the changes proposed in the Home Office consultation on the current student immigration system.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Paul Blomfield, Official Report, 24 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 8P.]

[P000910]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government agree with residents of Sheffield that genuine international students are a great social, cultural and economic asset and acknowledge that they make a significant economic contribution to the United Kingdom.

The Government believe that international students who want to come here should be able to speak English, to support themselves financially without taking paid employment, and to show that they are coming to the UK primarily for study, rather than to work or for their dependants to work. Students who wish to continue their studies in the UK will need to demonstrate that they are making progress, and we will limit the maximum period of time a student can spend studying in the UK. From the summer, only students at higher education institutions and publicly funded further education colleges will be able to work part-time during term-time, and full-time during vacations. The ability to bring dependants will be restricted to Government-sponsored students and those who are studying at postgraduate level at higher education institutions. From April 2012, only graduates who have an offer of a skilled graduate-level job from an employer licensed by the UK Border Agency will be allowed to stay in the UK to work.

The planned changes will be implemented in a phased manner which began on 21 April, and aim to protect the interests of our world-class universities, leading independent schools and publicly funded Further Education colleges. In addition to tightening the criteria education providers will have to meet in order to be able to continue to bring international students to the UK, the Government are introducing a number of measures that seek to ensure that only genuine students use tier 4, rather than those who are simply seeking to use the student route as a way in to the UK.

Over 31,000 responses were received to the Government’s consultation on proposals to reform the student immigration system, and these responses have helped shape the final policy which was announced on 22 March. These changes seek to tackle abuse of the student route, whilst also supporting the Government’s key objective of reducing net migration to sustainable levels.