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Changes to Tier 4 of the points-based system

The UK Border Agency is making a series of important changes to the student tier (Tier 4) of the points-based system.

22 July 2010

Level of English language study

Following the judgement made in the Judicial Review case brought by English UK, the Home Office have today made a further amendment to the Immigration Rules setting out the minimum levels of study permitted for different course types under Tier 4.

From 23 July 2010, the minimum level of English language course that will be permitted under Tier 4 will be level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference, restoring the position in place before the judgement was handed down.

The exemptions to the minimum level, which applied previously to government-sponsored language students and those undertaking a pre-sessional English language course before pursuing a degree course, remain in place.

Students applying to change to a different education provider

From 23 July 2010, existing Tier 4 students who want to change to a sponsor with a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) licence will be able to begin their new course of study, at their own risk, while they are waiting for the UK Border Agency to make a decision on their application to change sponsor.

Students applying to change to an A- or B-rated sponsor are not permitted to begin their new course of study until they receive a positive decision from us on their application to change sponsor. To avoid unnecessary delays in beginning a course, the Home Office have put processes in place to prioritise applications made by students who want to change to A- or B-rated sponsors.

US student loans

A recent change in legislation in the USA has altered the way that the US government processes student loans. From 1 July 2010, UK institutions participating in the William D Ford Federal Direct Loan Programme (administered by the US Department of Education) will be authorised to offer Federal Direct Loans to students coming from the USA to study in the UK. The US Department of Education has also contacted UK institutions involved in this programme.

This change will affect migrants who want to study under Tier 4 of the points-based system. A template letter has been agreed for use under this programme; a copy of this template letter is being sent to all sponsors today. Tier 4 sponsors participating in the programme must use this template when authorising loans to prospective students from the USA, so that the student can submit an application for entry clearance to the UK.

Students with International Baccalaureate qualifications

the Home Office are aware that students relying on International Baccalaureate qualifications awarded on 5 July 2010 will not be issued with a paper transcript giving their results, and will not receive their award certificates in time to apply for university courses starting in September this year.

To enable these students to apply under Tier 4, the Home Office have made provision to accept applications made by students relying on an International Baccalaureate qualification, but who have not received their original award certificate. Further information about this is available in the current Tier 4 policy guidance.

Secure English language tests

The requirement for sponsors to assess prospective students' competence in the English language will change on 12 August 2010. To find out more about this change, see the Secure English language tests news story.

Further information about all of the above changes will be set out in revised Tier 4 policy guidance and sponsor guidance, which will be published on Friday 23 July.