What will you be doing on Monday 5 October 2020 at 8:59am? Dashing from your office to the classroom? Sitting down at your desk with your first coffee? On your way to work from the school run, thinking about what the week has in store for you?

Well, somebody somewhere in the world will be doing something far less mundane: submitting the last ever visa application to be considered under the Tier 4 immigration Rules! At 9am on the 5 October, Tier 4 will be no more and the rules governing the new Child Student and Student immigration routes will come into force, replacing Tier 4 (Child) and Tier 4 (General) respectively. All student visa applications submitted from that point onwards will be considered under the new rules.

The new rules (published in Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 707 on 10 September 2020) are the first new routes launched by the government as part of their reformed post-Brexit immigration system - the Points Based Immigration System.

Independent schools that already hold a Tier 4 licence do not need to do anything to be able to use the new routes. The Government have confirmed that licences held under the current system will be automatically converted to licences that can be used under the new system. So a school that holds a licence to sponsor pupils under the Tier 4 (Child) category will automatically have that licence converted to a Child Student licence - if they are also Tier 4 (General) sponsors, the licence will also permit them to sponsor pupils under the new Student route.

Additionally, a Tier 4 Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) assigned before 5 October can still be used to support a Child Student or Student visa application submitted after that date.

Apart From the Name Change, What Changes Should Independent Schools Look Out For When Sponsoring Pupils Under the Child Student Category?

  • The biggest change is that from 1 January 2021, EEA and Swiss nationals will be required to meet the same requirements to study in the UK as non-EEA nationals, so will need to apply under the Student or Child Student route. An EEA or Swiss national who is already in the UK cannot apply under these rules until 1 January (if they are already here they should be applying under the EU Settlement Scheme); EEA and Swiss nationals who are not in the UK will be able to apply under these rules from 5 October but the earliest date their visas can take effect from is 1 January.
  • EEA and Swiss nationals who hold 'chipped' passports and are applying from overseas will need to apply using a different form from everyone else. Those applicants will not need to attend a Visa Application Centre to enrol their biometrics and will instead provide facial images using a smartphone self-enrolment application form. Additionally, they will not be issued visas or biometric residence permits (BRPs), but instead their immigration status will be accessed using a GOV.UK online service.
  • All EEA countries and Switzerland are being added to the list of countries whose nationals benefit from reduced documentary requirements when submitting their visa applications. Most significantly these arrangements - known as the differential evidence requirements - specify that proof of finances does not need to be submitted with the visa application, although an Entry Clearance Officer might still request them when considering the application.
  • Students and Child Students applying from within the UK to extend their permission to stay will no longer be required to provide evidence of finances if they have been in the UK with a valid visa for more than 12 months.
  • Applicants will now be able to rely on electronic bank statements and on a wider range of accounts to prove they meet the maintenance requirements.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.