posted 19 Apr 2011, 14:08 by Mehdi Asili   [ updated 22 Apr 2011, 17:08 ]
Changes from 21 April 2011
New English language requirements for Tier 4 (General) students:
- a B1 Secure English Language Test (SELT) requirement for all courses at NQF 3-5 / QCF 3-5 / SCQF 6-8 (ending the current SELT exemptions on pre-sessionals / pathway /foundation degree courses); 
- a B2 SELT requirement for courses at NQF 6 /QCF 6 / SQCF 9 and above, with an exception for higher education institutions who can make their own assessment;
- A student may be refused a visa or entry to the UK if he cannot speak English without assistance. 

 B1 CEFR B1 4.0 – 5.0 overall bandscore with
no less than 4.0 in any skill.
 B2 CEFR B2 5.5 – 6.0 overall bandscore with
no less than 5.0 in any skill.

 B1 CEFR B1Listening - 13           Reading - 8
Speaking - 19            Writing - 17
 B2 CEFR B2 Listening - 21         Reading -22
Speaking - 23           Writing - 21

A CAS may only be issued in respect of a single course, except where the student is attending a pre-sessional course of not more than three months’ duration and has an unconditional offer of a place at a higher education institution or at an independent school starting not more than one month after the end of the pre-sessional course.

Changes from July 2011
Students will have to declare at the visa application stage that they hold and will continue to hold the required maintenance funds to support themselves and pay for their course. The UKBA shall publish local lists of financial institutions with whom they are unable to verify financial statements to their satisfaction.
Students of designated low-risk nationalities attending courses at Highly Trusted sponsors will not routinely have to present the specified documents at the visa application stage in respect of their maintenance funds or educational qualifications, although the UKBA reserves the right to ask to see the evidence.
The UKBA will restrict permission to work during studies for new students, so that only students at higher education institutions and publicly funded further education colleges can do so, retaining their current entitlements.
The UKBA will only allow new students studying at a higher education institution on a course on NQF 7 / QCF 7 / SQCF 11 or above lasting 12 months or more to sponsor their dependants. The dependants will be able to work.

Changes from april 2012
All sponsors must have acquired HTS status (Highly Trusted Sponsor).
Courses offering work placements will have to have a study:work ratio of 66:33 except at 
higher education institutions.
We will set a maximum time of five years in Tier 4 studying at degree level and above, with exceptions for some courses and PhD students.
We will close the Tier 1 Post Study Work Route but allow switching into Tier 2 category.
We will make provision for student entrepreneurs.

Changes from end of 2012
All sponsors have to meet the new educational accreditation criteria to be able to sponsor new students. 

English language requirements
The UKBA will strengthen the current requirements on English language competence in Tier 4 (General). The Border Agency will require that when a sponsor issues a CAS for any student commencing a course, they will have to confirm that the student is competent to an appropriate level. This requirement will apply for CAS issued after 21 April 2011, whether to be used by an entirely new applicant overseas or in the UK, as well as existing students applying for an extension of leave to remain.

As now, Tier 4 (Child) students will not be subject to an English language test requirement.

level of course
For all students following courses at NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9 and above, the required level of English will be a minimum of level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference 
for Languages (CEFR) in each of the four components of language learning (reading, writing, 
listening and speaking). Students not attending a higher education institution will be required to demonstrate this through the provision of a Secure English Language Test (SELT) certificate, which is within its validity date at the date of the Tier 4 application, from one of a limited number of test providers approved by the UK Border Agency. The list of approved providers can be found in the "Forms & Docs" page. 

We will allow higher education institutions to choose their own method of assessing the English language competence at B2 level for their students studying at NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9 and above. For students following courses between NQF 3/QCF 3/SCQF 6 and NQF 5/QCF 5 /SCQF 8 and English language courses, the required level of English will be a minimum of CEFR level B1. 

All students at this level, regardless of the status of their sponsor institution, will be required to demonstrate this through the provision of a recent SELT certificate which is within its validity date when the student applies under Tier 4. We will end some of the current exemptions and therefore apply this requirement where students are undertaking foundation degrees , pre-sessional and pathway courses before a degree course and for students coming to study English as a foreign language under Tier 4 at CEFR level B2 and above.

English as a foreign language
Students who want to come to the UK to learn English as a foreign language at a level below 
CEFR B2 will be able to do so through the extended student visitor visa (ESVV) launched on 10 January 2011, which allows study on courses of up to 11 months which are exclusively to learn English as a foreign language.

The UKBA will also allow exemptions from the requirement for the production of Secure English Language Test certificates for:
students moving from Tier 4 (Child) into Tier 4 (General) who have completed a course of 
study of at least six months duration; 
those who have completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree which was taught in 
a majority English-speaking country (including degrees taught in the UK); and
those who are nationals of a majority Englishspeaking country.

UK Border Agency checKs
From 21 April 2011 the UKBA will introduce a rule that students must be able to demonstrate they can speak English to the required standard (B1 or B2), if interviewed by a UK Border Agency officer. The officer will not judge whether level B1 or B2 has been obtained. He will test whether the student can hold a simple conversation without an interpreter. If they cannot, then clearly the required level has not been attained. This will be applicable whether or not the student has been required to present a SELT certificate. We will not, however, routinely interview.

Where we have interviewed a student and we find they cannot speak English without assistance, we may refuse the visa application or entry to the UK. Refusals will require confirmation from a senior officer. 

Material Obtained from the UKBA database