The new policy centres on two main areas:
1. Extending the maintenance concession for Tier 4 applicants who are already in the United Kingdom - this will help to ease the transition process for would-be students.
2. Tying Tier 4 students' permission to stay to their sponsors, if they make their application on or after 5 October - this will strengthen Tier 4 and strengthen the United Kingdom border.
Extending the maintenance concession for Tier 4 applicants who are already in the United Kingdom
Tier 4 applicants need to have enough money to cover their course fees and maintenance. They must normally show that they have held this money for a 28-day period ending no more than one month before their application, but until now we have operated a concession allowing them to show only that have the required funds in place on the date when they apply. This concession ends on 1 October 2009.
However, we recognise that many students already in the United Kingdom will not have needed to show this money before, so we have decided to allow a longer transitional period for all Tier 4 applications made within the United Kingdom.
Would-be students who make a Tier 4 application from inside the United Kingdom before February 2010 will only need to show that they have the money needed on the day when they apply. They must still provide the correct documents to support their application.
From 1 October 2009, would-be students applying from outside the United Kingdom must show that they have held the required money for a 28-day period ending no more than one month before the date of their application.
Tying Tier 4 students' permission to stay to their sponsors, if they make their application on or after 5 October
On 5 October 2009, new Tier 4 students' permission to stay in the United Kingdom will be 'tied' to the education provider that is sponsoring them. This will bring Tier 4 in line with other tiers of the points-based system.
From 5 October, every new Tier 4 student will find their sponsor's reference number on the vignette in their passport or on their identity card for foreign nationals.
In future, if a student wants to study with a new Tier 4 sponsor and they made their last application for a Tier 4 visa on or after 5 October 2009, they will need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa. They will not be allowed to begin studying with the new education provider until they have received a decision on the outcome of their application - if they do so, they will be committing a criminal offence for which they could be prosecuted or removed from the country.
We have been asked whether students in this situation will be able to begin studying with the new education provider, at their own risk, before they have received a decision on their application. The UK Border Agency cannot condone a criminal offence, and therefore cannot advise students that this is an option for them. We will make every effort to ensure that applications from students wishing to change education provider are considered within the published service standard, so that they can move to the new education provider as quickly as possible.
If a student wants to study with a new Tier 4 sponsor, and they made their last application for a Tier 4 visa before 5 October 2009, they will continue to be allowed to change their without making a new Tier 4 application. They must, however, seek permission from us to change their sponsor.