Many people take a lot of effort to come to the UK to work or study but there is always some fear at the back of their minds that the visa rules may change and that they might have to leave the life they make for themselves here and go back some day.

Students take loans to be able to come to this country to study and want to pay off some off those loans and also gain work experience by taking up a job here for a few years. Sometimes they might even want to extend their stay and do another course but that too has been made very difficult because of the changes to the Tier 4 student visa.

On today’s show I had the pleasure of talking to Paul John who is a very experienced immigration solicitor. He said that on a Tier 4 Visa students can change courses but they may need to get permission from the home office to do so. However, if someone wants to study a new course once the current one is completed then that person needs to go back to their home country and make a fresh application to do so. Also, they can only do a course which is directly related to the previous study and the University needs to confirm that this will further the career aspirations of the student in the future.

If someone here on a student visa completes 10 years of continuous residence in the UK then they are allowed to make an application for settlement. But due to these changes, it may be difficult to do so. Paul said that previously if someone was doing a course which is below Level 6 (below Degree Level), the student visa was valid for a maximum of 3 years but it has now been reduced to 2 years. For those doing courses above Level 6 (above Degree Level), the student is given a maximum time of 5 years.

Paul feels that these changes in the student visa category are mainly aimed to bring breaks in achieving the continuity in the 10 year period thus making it difficult for more people to become eligible for the ILR on the basis of their studies alone.

Paul also mentioned a rule regarding the 10 year route of settlement, which says that if a person has a particular visa and that person leaves the country before the visa end date but comes back within a 6 month period then it will not break the continuity that is needed for being eligible for settlement in the future.

Speaking about the rules for the dependents of Tier 4 and Tier 2 visas Paul said that the dependents will now only be allowed to do skilled jobs and will not be permitted to take up unskilled employment. How these changes will be implemented is still unclear but Paul said that the authorities may say that the dependents can do only those skilled jobs which are mentioned in the shortage skilled occupations or those jobs advised by the Migrant Advisory Committee. Currently Tier 4 dependents are allowed to switch into Tier 2 provided they get a job and the employer is able to get a restricted certificate of sponsorship which is issued for overseas workers.

Many students get trapped in scenarios where they have paid the fees and gotten admission in colleges only to have the licence of the colleges suspended. Paul said that most of the universities do not want to take students from the UK studying in colleges that suffer from such problems. Someone who is stuck in a situation where their college licence has been suspended can talk to the Admissions Office of Universities who can then send an email to the Home Office and ask whether they can take that particular student. So if the university calls the Home Office and the Home Office gives the permission to admit that particular student then only does he or she gain admission for a course. Paul suggests that for this reason it is better to contact the universities early.

I had a good time talking to Paul about the changes in the Tier 4 Visas that are already in effect and also those which will be brought into effect very soon.