UK Visas and Immigration Update – October 2016 Newsletter
Home Secretary Amber Rudd announces consultation on student immigration system
The Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced in her Conservative Party Conference speech earlier this month that the government will consult on changes to the student immigration system. As part of the consultation, the government will look at whether student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of courses and educational institutions that students are applying for. The consultation will focus on possible differential rules and procedures for Tier 4 sponsors according to an institution’s individual track record on quality and compliance. As The PIE News reports, some have speculated that an institution’s record of Tier 4 compliance might be the barometer used to decide its “quality”, while others have pointed to the coincidental timing of the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework as a tempting new regulatory mechanism for selecting winners and losers under a differential visa system.
Ms Rudd expressed the view that “a student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help” and promised through the imminent consultation to “ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent … while looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.” As The Times Higher Education reports, the proposal for further tightening of student visas is likely to be of concern to many in UK higher education, who see overseas students as vital to the UK economy and British “soft power”. Using similar language to many in the press, The Guardian reported on the consultation and potential changes under the headline “Amber Rudd announces crackdown on overseas students”.
The chair of ExEdUK, Graham Able, also responded to the Home Secretary’s speech in a blog post titled “Amber Rudd: the Speech that Should Have Been”, which you can read here, highlighting the positive impact of international students on jobs and their potential contribution to the Government’s emerging new industrial strategy.
Delegates to the Independent HE Annual Conference on 29 November 2016 will have the chance to hear in person from and ask questions of lead Home Office officials on their plans for the student visa system and the upcoming consultation.
Ministers hide report on migrant numbers (The Times, 13.10.16)
The Times reports that only 1 per cent of international students break the terms of their visa by refusing to leave after their course ends. Internal analysis conducted by the Home Office suggests that contrary to the official migration statistics (based on the International Passenger Survey) that have been used to suggest that tens of thousands of foreign students “vanish” each year after finishing their degrees, the true figure is closer to 1500. The previous large estimates of net student migration have been the driving force for the government’s plans for a consultation on stricter rules for international students, announced by Amber Rudd last week. The analysis was also reported in The Telegraph in an article titled “Visa breaches by foreign students are ‘exaggerated’ new figures suggest” and on The PIE News.
Yvette Cooper elected Chair of Home Affairs Select Committee and membership of Immigration committee announced
Former shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has been elected as Chair of the Home Affairs committee, the Speaker of House of Commons has announced. Cooper beat high-profile Labour colleagues Chuka Umunna and Caroline Flint to the post which became vacant following the resignation of Keith Vas last month. The membership of the cabinet committee on Immigration has also been announced by the government, with the goal of delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands. This will be delivered by “implementing domestic measures to control migration; ensuring an efficient and targeted visa system; and making it harder for illegal immigrants to stay in the country.”
Brexit Update: Theresa May to trigger Article 50 by end of March 2017 (The Guardian, 02.10.16)
The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister has confirmed that she will trigger article 50 before the end of March 2017, setting in motion the two-year process of leaving the European Union. This confirmation indicates that the UK will leave the EU by spring 2019, before the next general election. In addition, the Prime Minister announced plans for a ‘great repeal bill’ to incorporate all EU regulations in UK law as soon as Brexit takes effect. In her party conference speech, Theresa May also said that controlling immigration would be the top priority in negotiating the UK’s departure from the EU, the strongest indication yet that the government is leaning towards a “hard Brexit” at the expense of single market access. The prospect of greater restrictions on the movement of labour and students will be of concern within the higher education sector, as the chances of the current arrangements being maintained seem increasingly slender.
Director General of UK Visas and Immigration to leave home office
Sarah Rapson, Director General of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will be leaving her position this month after more than 11 years at the Home Office to take up the post of Director of Authorisations at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Mark Thompson, Director General for HM Passport Office, will take over responsibility for UKVI, carrying out the role alongside his existing position.
- On 24th October 2016