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British Embassy briefing gives the hard facts on student visa restrictions

March 30, 2011

Diplomats?at the British Embassy in Manila gave the official briefing to the press on the new restrictions coming into force over the student visas.

What would have expected to be well attended as an important matter was slightly overshadowed by the news of the executions of the 3 Filipinos in China, so the press pack was a bit thinner than?normal. However, the?briefing was none the less confirmation that the?working student visa era appears to be at an end.

British Home Secretary Theresa May had given details (reported earlier in Balita Pinoy) of the restrictions in a speech last Tuesday to the UK Parliament. It is expected to be laid before parliament officially 31 March, so the briefing by British Ambassador Stephen Lillie (below left)?and the head of the UK Borders Agency in Manila Ed Mackie (below right) to the Philippine press anticipated this.


Briefing Notes were issued out to all attendees (reproduced below in full), then Ambassador Lillie gave opening statements on the main outline proposals:

  • Changes to be implemented on Tier 4 Guidelines

  • Home Secretary Theresa May made a statement before Parliament of the proposed changes in the UKBA Guidelines

  • UK is well known as a place to acquire high standards of education

  • Aim of the changes is not to stop students from undertaking studies in the UK as this is a major part of the British Economy (5 Billion pounds)

  • Studying in the UK will still be promoted for legitimate students

  • Aim is to stop abuses made to the system whereby the student route into UK is used to primarily work in the UK and not to study

  • Colleges and agents are taking advantage of the old system whereby 26% of the Non-EU students in the UK have not been accounted for by the colleges

  • 10 Major Colleges Licenses have either been cancelled, suspended or down graded so they could not sponsor students

  • It is recognized that there is large community of Filipinos in the UK

  • New rules are geared to stop the abuse of legitimate Filipino Students by implementing tighter rules in sponsoring students

  • The old system failed to protect students from abuse by unregulated colleges and agents

Then the Manila based UK Borders Agency Regional Manager for East Asia and Australasia Ed Mackie discussed the changes and explained the changes to be implemented in more detail, outlining the following:?


  • Accreditation and Courses on Offer

    • All Sponsors must have inspection and passed inspection or audit like QAA, Ofsted, etc.

    • All Sponsors must now have Highly Trusted Status by April 2012

    • Transition period until end of 2012

    • Interim limits for sponsorship shall be limited to levels of 2010

    • Universities will be the direct sponsors or through independent schools/colleges

  • English Language Requirements

    • From April 2011 - Degree Level (NQF 6) and above must be at minimum B2 standard (immediate proficiency) which the Universities will show through their own assessments not requiring the Secure English Language Test (SELT)

    • Courses below Degree Level must be at minimum B1 standard provided by SELT

    • UKBA officers may interview students to determine English language and will refused entry if student is not able to communicate in the English language.

  • Provision of documentary evidence

    • From April 2011 - clear declaration on applications and robust refusals where students do not genuinely have the necessary maintenance funds

    • Embassy will come out by summer of 2011 with a list of accredited banks that will be accepted as proof of maintenance funds

  • Permission to work & work placements

    • Degree Level or above at universities will still be allowed 20 hours per week during term times and unlimited hours during off term times.

    • All students Below Degree level will not have any permission to work starting summer 2011

  • Dependants

    • From summer 2011 - Students can only sponsor dependants for courses 12 months or more at degree and post graduate levels only

    • Students below degree level will not be allowed to bring dependants

    • Dependants will be allowed to work

  • Progression

    • Maximum of 3 years for courses below degree level

    • From April 2012 maximum of 5 years in courses at degree level and above except for longer degrees like medicine and those doing PhD

  • After Course ends

    • From April 2012 - Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa will be closed

    • Graduates with job offer can switch into Tier 2 provided application is made before Tier 4 leave expires ( four months after course finishes) in-country only

    • Post study workers would not be allowed to bring dependants in with them, unless they were already in the UK whilst studying.

There then followed a question and answer session by the press, the salient details are listed thus:


  • Current rules will apply for Students with pending applications in the embassy

  • Students already in the UK will only be affected by rules changes to be implemented by April 2012

  • Actual number of students per Nationality out of the 26% un-accounted for in the UK is not readily available but could be later inquired from Lynn Plata, Press, Visits and Events Officer

  • Major top Universities in the UK are Cambridge, Oxford, University College London but tuition rates are at?very high levels

  • Studying in the UK is not really that affordable although the UK Government has sponsorship programs at a very limited scale.

  • Students of schools which shut down were not immediately deported but given enough time (around 3 months) to get enrolled with another school but have to pay again their tuition fees with the new school.


After the briefing, Balita Pinoy's reporter buttonholes Borders Agency?boss Ed Mackie to clarify some details??


(Important Note: In reproducing the briefing notes in full, we inadvertantly left in contact details for the press officer at the British Embassy in Manila - they contacted Balita Pinoy requesting these be removed and we are happy to do so. This is because they only deal with the press and are unable to answer specific questions relating to visas, any potential students or other interested parties should contact the visa section only)

UK Visa Application Centre


Contact numbers:

1-909-885-8472 (for PLDT and Smart subscribers)

1-903-847285 (for Bayantel subscribers)

Note: Calls made to these numbers are charged at Php32.00 per minute for landline calls. Additional rates may apply for calls made through prepaid phone cards or mobile phones. Lines are open Mondays to Fridays 8:00-20:00 and Saturdays 8:00-18:00 and are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.



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