Changes to Entry Clearance applications for students

by Gherson Solicitors on July 20, 2012

On 9th July 2012 a Statement of Changes was announced by the Home Secretary in the Immigration Rules. This will affect students applying for Tier 4 (General) Student Entry Clearance in the Tier 4 category. The changes will come in effect from 30 July 2012.

The first change is that the Entry Clearance Officer must now be satisfied that an applicant is a “genuine student” before granting entry clearance under the Tier 4 Points-Based system. The purpose of this examination is to determine whether the applicant has the required English language proficiency as specified in a confirmation of acceptance of studies (CAS). In order to assess this, the applicant will be required to attend an interview or examination.

The second change is that the Entry Clearance Officer may refuse to issue entry clearance where the applicant fails to attend an interview without providing a reasonable explanation. Both changes are due to have effect from 30 July 2012.

Certain nationals from specified countries will be exempt from these changes. These nationals must be holders of a passport from one of the relevant competent authorities listed in Appendix H of the Immigration Rules. These countries are:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • British National (Overseas)
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States

When assessing an entry clearance application, the guidance has made it expressly clear that the application must be considered in the whole and from an objective standpoint, taking into account all relevant factors. There is no definitive list of factors which can be considered ‘relevant’ but some of the points expressly raised include the immigration history of the applicant, the applicant’s research into the course and location of study as well as the relevance of the course to the applicant’s post study plans. Any vagueness in the future plans of a student cannot be the sole reason for refusing an application. Instead it is only meant to be one of the factors to consider when assessing the application.

From December 2011 to the end of February 2012, the UK Border Agency ran an interviewing pilot. During this pilot, over 2300 visa applicants from 47 countries were interviewed. 17% of those interviewed were refused under current existing rules but the Entry Clearance Officers indicated they could have refused up to 32% of the remainder on grounds of genuineness. This could potentially be hugely problematic to students especially as the new school year is about to commence. The long term effects of these changes are yet to be experienced yet it seems to target those students who only wish to have the best start for their futures.

Contact Gherson’s expert immigration solicitors if you require legal assistance with your application.

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