UKBA VIRTUALLY FORCING SPOUSES/PARTNERS TO ACHIEVE HIGHER ENGLISH PROFICIENCY THAN REQUIRED BY LAW

By Manpreet Singh and Sindur Jha, London 15 March 2011.

Since the 29th November 2010 in order to gain entry to, or remain in, the UK following individuals have to prove that their English is of a basic level.

Persons who are in a relationship with a British citizen or permanent resident and apply as a husband, wife, civil partner, Fiancé(e), proposed civil partner, unmarried partner or same sex partner.

If they are not a national of a majority English speaking country they need to show a basic level of English ability in speaking and listening at level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). At this level you should understand simple everyday expressions and very basic phrases. You can meet this requirement by passing an acceptable English language test with an approved test provider.

However, the problem with this is, from our research, 13 out of 24 approved English tests do not have A1 equivalency specified by the UKBA.

This is unfair to those 13 test providers as the uptake of their tests will be less as nobody would want to be forced to achieve a higher proficiency than required by the law if there are alternative providers.

Moreover test takers would also not like to take a chance with their results because these tests cost a lot of money especially for people living in developing countries with lower buying power. Theoretically they may achieve A1 equivalence or more but that still may not satisfy UKBA criteria as their minimum specified band or score for that test may be more. So they may need to take the test again. In developing countries the test that is easily accessible may not have an A1 equivalency specified forcing the applicant not only to undertake that test but also achieve a higher English proficiency than required by law which seems to be unfair.

For example IELTS, which is the world’s proven English test, has no A1 equivalency specified by UKBA. Over 1.4 million candidates take the test each year. Despite repeated request to the UKBA by Immigration Angels Limited to specify A1 equivalency they have failed to do so. There is a chance that this test might have already been taken by a number of spouses/partners who are applying for UK visa or leave to remain. Those who have taken this test in the past may have already achieved a band of 1 or 2 which is equivalent to A1 as per IELTS guidance but UKBA only specifies B1 (band 4) equivalency or above for this test.

It is high time that UKBA specifies A1 equivalency for all the approved English language tests to create a level playing field for test providers and be fair to test takers.

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New Student Visitor Visa regime in the UK

New Student Visitor Visa regime in the UK. First step in the right direction by UKBA.

Manpreet Singh 17 December 2010, London

The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) announced last Monday that Student visitor visas can be issued for up to 11 months from 11 January 2011 for students wishing to attend exclusively English language courses.

We discussed in our previous blog post that UKBA is considering sweeping changes to the tier 4 student visa regime and have opened up a consultation which is ending on 31 January 2011. They have proposed that even students coming to learn English will need a Level B2 on Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) which is considered as “advanced” in most countries including Switzerland and is required to study a degree level course in English. For those of you more familiar with IELTS it is band 5 or above. So if the English learners are already linguistically capable of doing a degree course why would they come and learn English by spending a huge amount of money? Conversely, if this proposal is implemented, genuine English language students below this level can only come here on courses of up to six months duration on student visitor visa under current rules as they won’t be eligible for longer courses which require a tier 4 visa which in turn needs Level B2.

This latest move (of 11 month student visitor visa) from UKBA is aimed at killing two birds with one stone. Firstly, by allowing the student visitors to study English language courses for up to 11 months (which should cover most of the English language courses) they are trying to address the concerns of the English language industry which will be significantly affected if the proposed B2 level requirements are made law next year. Currently around 600,0001 students come to Britain every year to study English language courses.

Secondly, it aims to reduce the number of bogus students who try to come to the UK to study English language, but their real purpose is to work in the UK since under current tier 4 visa regime the students are allowed to work 10 hours during term time and full time during vacations for English language courses over 6 months but below degree level. The new student visitor visa regime will not allow any work, neither they can bring any dependants and thus can serve as a real deterrent to many potential bogus students.

In my opinion this appears to be the first right move by UKBA in their efforts to weed out bogus English language students. The only drawback is that it will also deter genuine English language students who cannot maintain themselves fully without some degree of paid work while they study English in the birthplace of English language.

Does these new student visitor visa rules affect you ? Do you want to know more about this or other education and immigration matters?

Please contact us on +44 (0)2080901930 or visit us on www.immigrationangels.co.uk

1 British Council UK www.educationuk.org

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Major Changes proposed for Tier 4 student Route to UK from April 2010

Major Changes proposed for Tier 4 student Route to UK from April 2010
Manpreet Singh, 09 December 2010, London

On 07 December 2010, the UK government proposed some major changes to the Adult Student Visa regime officially known as Tier 4 (General) which allows students to come and study in the UK.

The proposed changes are:

  • Restrict Tier 4 largely to degree-level courses and child students by allowing only Highly Trusted Sponsors to offer courses below degree level (I.e. courses at NQF 3, 4 and 5 / SCQF 6, 7 and 8 only) to adults.
  • Any Tier 4 student seeking entry to any course in the UK including English language courses of six months or more must prove English ability at level B2 (such as IELTS band 5.0 or above) through a secure English language test such as IELTS or others.
  • Tier 1 (post study) visa to be closed.
  • Students must enrol for a higher level course if they want to extend their stay in the UK after finishing the first course.
  • They may be required to go back home and come again in case they want to study another course.
  • Students can only work on-campus during weekdays and any number of hours off-campus during weekends and vacations.
  • Study to work placement ratio in courses involving work placement element to be raised to 66:33 except where there are statutory requirements for the placement element to be more than 33% e.g. PGCE (Post graduate Certificate in Education).
  • No permission for student dependants to work in the UK except where they qualify on their own under tier 1 or tier 2.
  • Student dependants can only come in the UK if the course duration is more than 12 months
  • Different evidence requirements for maintenance funds and previous qualifications for different nationalities or regions of the world. It may be based on type of sponsor such as Highly Trusted sponsor, A or B rated.
  • Stricter accreditation criteria for institutions wishing to sponsor Tier 4 Students.

No changes to existing policy are as follows:

  • No changes to child student route.
  • No changes to student Visitor route to study courses of less than six months duration.

In our future Blog entries, we will discuss how it will impact different stakeholders.

If you are thinking of coming to the UK under the current regulation, you must act now!!

Immigration Angels can help you every step of the way to come and study in the UK. We can provide online or telephone based counselling services as well to people from all over the world. Please contact us on +44 (0)2080901930 or visit our website: www.immigrationangels.co.uk for more information.

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How will the abolition of Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Post Study Work) Visas from April 2011 affect UK businesses?

Proposed abolition of Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Post Study Work) Visas from April 2011.
How it will affect UK businesses?
Manpreet Singh, 06 December 2010, London

The UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, on 23 November 2010 announced caps on Non-EU workers in Tier 2 category from April 2011 and the abolition of Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Post Study Work) categories. Tier 1 will be replaced by category called “exceptional talent” with an allocation of mere 1000 visas per annum.

How it will affect Businesses?

The number of people a business can sponsor in a given time is limited since the introduction of interim limits in July 2010. The announced final cap on Tier 2 visas from April 2011 will further restrict the availability of Tier 2 visas. In this background, each Tier 2 visa allocation will be done very carefully by businesses. UK businesses will surely lose the ability to test a worker’s skills over a reasonable period before they take a decision to sponsor him under tier 2 as is the case now with candidates who can work for up to 2 years in a Tier 1 post study work visa. Moreover, there will be little scope for one-to-one interviews with potential Highly skilled migrant candidates as they won’t be able to come here without a job offer as is the case now. The employers will have to rely heavily on technology such as video conferencing which may not prove to be a 100% effective as a replacement for real interviews. In both cases, there will be reluctance to sponsor somebody without having adequate engagement with the candidate. Also, unlike the previous “Work Permit”system, the introduction of sponsorship regime couple of years ago made it costly to sponsor non-EU workers which coupled with these changes may discourage small, high tech innovative companies to take chances with non-EU candidates. This may potentially lead to recruitment of a person who is less skilled but has a right to work in the UK. Skills upgradation of the local workers is an essential but costly and slow process. Skills upgradation is the responsibility of all the stakeholders and not just the businesses and it is feared that business will be forced to train people thus sharing disproportionate financial burden. As per the European Union’s CEDEFOP, the European Economic area working population will start shrinking from 2012 onwards. There is a danger that this shrinking population combined with existing acute skills mismatches and abolition of Tier 1 General will compel some of the businesses to relocate in order to have a reasonably priced and reliable supply of skilled manpower without all the bureaucracy and burden attached with sponsorship regime.

Are you the one who will be affected by these proposed changes? Do something now!!

If you were thinking of hiring a person from outside the EU for a hard-to-fill vacancy in the UK, then you must act now before it becomes considerably difficult after 1 April 2011. You should contact an experienced immigration adviser in your area or you can contact us on +44 (0)2080901930 or visit our website: www.immigrationangels.co.uk for more information.

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How will the abolition of Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Post Study Work) Visas affect highly skilled migrants?

Proposed abolition of Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Post Study Work) Visas from April 2011.
How it will affect highly skilled migrants?
Manpreet Singh, 24 November 2010, London

The UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, on 23 November 2010 announced caps on Non-EU workers in Tier 2 category from April 2011 and the abolition of Tier 1 (General) and Tier 1 (Post Study Work) categories. Tier 1 will be replaced by category called “exceptional talent” with an allocation of mere 1000 visas per annum.

How it will affect Highly Skilled Migrants?

It may affect the ability of highly skilled migrants to fully realise the benefits of free market and may lead to wrong decisions in terms of choosing the right company. Currently, highly skilled migrants can come here without a job offer in order to gain knowledge about various companies and are free to choose a company after good degree of engagement via interviews and meetings with the company staff. If Tier 1 General is scrapped as planned, they can only come if sponsored i.e. they will get tied to a company. Migration is a big decision and the truly highly skilled people are already making money in their own countries whether in developing or developed world. They are here to help UK deal with skilled shortages and in return get perhaps clean environment and better infrastructure especially if they are coming from developing countries. The new regime will be a great barrier in attracting those people who we really need.

Are you the one who will be affected by these proposed changes? Do something now!!

If you were dreaming for applying as a Tier 1 General migrant, then you must act now before it closes completely on 1 April 2011. You should contact an experienced immigration adviser in your country who has good knowledge of UK Immigration rules or you can contact us on +44 (0)2080901930 or visit our website www.immigrationangels.co.uk for more information.

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