Following a recent review of student visa policy, the United Kingdom Border Agency announced changes to Tier 4 of its Points Based Immigration System (PBS) which will go into effect March 3, 2010. Student Visitors will not be affected by these changes. The Education Abroad Regulatory Practice Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee has been in contact with representatives of the United Kingdom Border Agency, and a summary of their findings is below. Also included here is the Ministerial Statement released by the Home Office. For more information, check out the UKBA website.

It is the understanding of those in the LA office of the UKBA that the Highly Trusted Status (HTS) is primarily for those institutions who are admitting students below degree level. This would not benefit institutions that focus on degree level study. However, there is a team of Entry Clearance Mangers working on what this scheme will look like and once it is announced (mid March) they will share this information with NAFSA. The HTS program will not go into effect until April 6th.

The 10 hour work week is only for those students studying in the UK below degree level. Students who are studying on a course which applies to their degree will keep the ability to work for 20 hours per week during school and 40 hours per week during holidays. For Internships, as long as the student is studying at degree level they will not be affected by this change.

The Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) will come online February 21st, 2010 and moving forward will be referred to as the CAS. This is a bit of a misnomer as it is not actually a certificate, but a 14 digit alphanumeric ID. Applications received February 22nd and onward must reference this ID in the VAF appendix when applying for their visa. It is unique to the applicant and institution and may only be used one time. If the student’s application is denied the CAS will be voided and the student must request a new CAS from their UK University. The CAS will be submitted on the VAF Appendix by the student and will serve in place of the Visa Letter. However, the Entry Clearance Managers request that universities continue to issue something like the visa letter to their students (which would include the CAS #) rather than simply sending them the number. The information included on the visa letter tells the students what they need to provide in support of their application, and the UKBA is concerned that students will not know what is required otherwise. To find out what a student needs to provide to apply, s/he will be able to log onto a section of the UKBA site and enter their CAS number. This will list the tuition paid, financial aid received etc. The student will be responsible for navigating this process. There will be no grace period after February 22nd, 2010.

Students taking part in programs for less than 6 months who will not work or take part in an internship (aka non-PBS applicants) will continue to use the Student Visitor letter to enter the UK.

There is an ECM conference in Los Angeles the first week of March, after which more information will be shared with NAFSA. In the meantime, the Education Abroad Regulatory Practice Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee is collecting questions for submission to UKBA via Report an Issue. Please submit to as soon as possible.