UK government tightens student visas

07 Feb 2010

The government  has tightened the restrictions on overseas students coming to study in Britain from outside the EU.

This follows the review announced last November by the Prime Minister and conducted by the UK Border Agency. 

Adult students applying to come here to study will in future have to show they already have fluency in the English language at a level close to GCSE.

There are also new restrictions on which students will be able to bring dependents with them.

Clearly, the government is motivated by security implications and a desire to be seen to be taking tough action on illegal immigration. With the other parties demanding tough action too, electoral considerations may well have played a part in the timing of this announcement.

However, there is another side to this - overseas students are a very important contributor to the UK economy and tighter visa restrictions, and the barrier of a language test, will make the UK less competitive.

Some believe it is crazy to require students who want to come here to learn English to prove that they can already speak the language before they are allowed in. Some universities will be worried about the impact on postgraduate students coming here on non-language courses.

There is now a new issue to address: which test - or tests - will be officially recognised as proof of English language ability for visa applicants?

For more on these issues, see this article I wrote about the review: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8462623.stm

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