In 2023, the UK government announced plans to cut immigration to the UK, with new rules predominantly affecting students and skilled workers. Under the new rules, what family members applicants can bring, what courses are eligible and what their minimum salary must be, have changed for all future applicants for Student and Skilled Worker visas.
Let’s look at what those changes are, how to apply for a Student visa and when you can switch to a Skilled Worker visa.
Switching to a Skilled Worker Visa
If you’re already in the UK on a long-term visa, you are likely to be eligible to switch to a Skilled Worker visa.
Visas that cannot switch to a Skilled Worker visa include:
- Standard Visitor visas
- Short-term Student visas
- Parent of Child Student visa
- Seasonal Worker visa
- Domestic worker in a private household visa
To switch to a Skilled Worker visa, you must apply before your current visa has run out. You would also have to:
- Have a job offer for a position on the list of eligible occupations
- Have a job offer from an approved UK employer (sponsor)
- Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer detailing your proposed role
- Meet the minimum salary requirements
If you are a Student visa holder, there are other eligibility requirements you need to meet to be able to switch to a Skilled Worker visa.
Can You Switch from a Student Visa to a Skilled Worker Visa?
You can switch from a Student visa to a Skilled Worker visa, however, only if you meet one of the following eligibility requirements:
- You have completed your course
- Your proposed start date for your job is after your course ends
- You have studied for a doctorate for at least 24 months
Doctorate programmes in the UK usually last from 3 to 4 years, although some may last longer. So you can switch to a Skilled Worker visa before your course ends if you have been studying for a PhD for at least 2 whole years. Otherwise, you must complete your course before switching to a Skilled Worker visa.
Bear in mind, however, that you must have a job offer before applying for a Skilled Worker visa, and you must apply before your Student visa expires. So if you plan to change from one visa to another, you should start looking for jobs while studying.
The New Changes to the UK Student Visa
The visa changes will come into effect in 2024, so those coming to study in the UK in 2023 will not be affected unless they have deferred the start of their course until January 2024.
The new rules for Student visas, primarily affect which visa holders can bring family to the UK. From 1 January 2024, only the students studying a postgraduate research programme may bring family members to the UK with them. This includes:
- A research-based doctorate e.g. PhD
- A research-based higher degree including some master’s programmes
To be eligible the course must also be longer than 9 months and the student must be government-sponsored. They can also only bring their dependents with them, i.e. partners or spouses and children under 18. Other family members are not permitted to join them.
Changes to the Skilled Worker Visa
The Skilled Worker visa will also see some changes in Spring 2024. Currently, workers with this visa must be paid a minimum salary of whichever is higher of:
- the ‘going rate’ for your job provided it’s higher than the national minimum wage
In 2024, the minimum salary will rise to £38,700, a huge increase, and one that is expected to curb immigration and prevent employers from paying low wages to their staff, especially when the going rate for some jobs is significantly lower than this figure.
Requirements for the UK Student Visa
Student visas are for foreign nationals over the age of 16 to come to the UK to study at an approved institution. They’ll need sufficient funds to pay for their course, or evidence of a loan or sponsorship, and to cover their stay in the UK. They must also prove they have sufficient ability to communicate in English.
Sufficient funds are currently:
- £1,334 per month for courses in London
- £1,023 per month for courses outside London
This money must be in the applicant’s account for at least 28 consecutive days before they start their application for a Student visa, known as the 28-day rule.
When applying for your student visa, you’ll need to provide the following documents:
- Your passport or other travel document
- A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your course provider
- Evidence you have sufficient finances or sponsorship for your course and living costs
- A negative tuberculosis test if you are coming from one of the listed countries
- Consent from your parents if you’re under 18, and proof of your relationship
You may be asked for additional documents depending on your individual circumstances.
When you apply for a UK Student visa, you are also required to pay the application fee of £490 as well as the Immigration Health Surcharge, which permits you to use the National Health Service. Currently, the IHS is worked out based on how long you will stay in the UK, if you will bring your dependents with you and several other factors. You can check how much you will have to pay before you start your application.
Getting a UK Student Visa
To get a Student visa in the UK, you’ll need an offer from an institution that has been approved to sponsor foreign students by the Home Office. You can check the government’s list of recognised sponsors to see if your preferred educational facility can sponsor you to study in the UK.
If you’ve got an offer of a placement, enough money to support yourself or a loan to cover your course costs and all the other necessary documents, then applying for a Student visa is an easy process. However, with so many boxes to tick and documents to gather before you can apply, it’s natural to be intimidated by the UK visa application process. You should also prepare yourself in case of rejection, as the Home Office can refuse your Student visa if, for example, they don’t think you are dedicated enough, you haven’t provided enough evidence of your finances, or your English language skills aren’t up to scratch.
Practise your English before taking the CEFR exam, make sure your attendance is excellent at your current school, and get the help of a visa agency to make sure you’ve got all the documents you need to increase your chances of getting your Student visa.
Once you’ve applied, it can take up to 3 weeks to receive a response on your visa, or up to 8 weeks if you’re applying to switch to a Student visa from the UK.
Your Rights in the UK as an International Student
If your application is a success, you’ll be allowed to stay in the UK for the length of your course. For over 18-year-olds studying for a degree, you’ll usually be given a visa for 5 years, while those studying below degree level can usually stay for up to 2 years in the UK. You can also extend your Student visa before it expires.
While in the UK, students may work limited hours while they study. Specifics will be given when you receive your visa, however, the following restrictions apply:
- Those studying full-time below degree level can work up to 10 hours per week during term-time
- Those studying full-time at degree level and above can work up to 20 hours per week during term time
- Those studying full-time may work full-time during holidays and after the course has ended until their visa expires.
- Students can undertake work placements if they are integral to the course and assessed
- Students may work as a sabbatical officer at a Students’ Union for up to 2 years
- Students may not be self-employed
Need Visa Help? Contact Synergy Immigration Solutions
The immigration experts at Synergy Immigration Solutions are here to help everyone with their visa application. If you want to come to the UK, contact us now for more information on your application process.