The UK Immigration rules changed on 1 December 2020. There are minor tweaks to the new Student Route which already came into effect from 5 October 2020, and major changes to some other visa routes. We have summarised these changes from 1st December below.

Start-up visa changes

On 1st December, the Home Office published new guidance for the Start-up visa. You can read the changes in full at the link below:

You now require bank statements showing you’ve had at least £1270 in savings in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you apply. The closing balance can be no more than 31 days before the visa application date. 

New Visitor route which permits study for up to 6 months

From 1 December 2020, if you are coming to GCU to study for a period of 6 months or less (it can be a period of study abroad, undertake research or to learn how to do research), you will be able to do so with a standard Visitor visa. This visa will replace the current Short-term study visa for students coming to study in the UK for up to 6 months.

  • If you are a visa national, you will need to apply for this Visitor visa before you travel
  • If you are a non-visa national, you will be able to enter the UK as a Visitor either via the e-Gate (eligible nationalities only) or by seeing an immigration officer on arrival.
  • if you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national, you will be able to enter the UK as a Visitor if arriving from 1 January 2021, either via the e-Gate or by seeing an immigration officer on arrival (you will need to travel with a passport)

You are not limited to studying one course and you are not required to have a place on a course before you arrive. However, you should submit a copy of your GCU offer letter (if applying for a visa before you travel) or keep a copy of your offer letter in your hand luggage as evidence when you enter the UK.

You will need to prove that you have enough money to cover all reasonable costs of your visit without working or access to public funds. This includes the cost of the return or onward journey.

You will also need an ATAS certificate if your course requires ATAS clearance.

New Short-term study route for English language courses only

From 1 December 2020, the Short-term study visa route will only be available to students who are coming to the UK to study an English language course which is between 6 and 11 months long.

You must apply for this visa before you travel, even if you are a non-visa national, or, if you are from an EU/EEA/Swiss country and are arriving from 1 January 2021.

If you have applied for your Short term study visa before 1 December 2020, you visa will continue to be considered and granted based on the current rules, which means you can use it to enter the UK and study the course.

Increased financial requirement for a Student visa

If you apply under the Student route on or after 1 December 2020, the financial requirement you must meet will be:

  • £1,334 a month for study in London (if you are studying at GCU London), or
  • £1,023 a month for study outside London (if you are studying at GCU Glasgow)

The maximum number of months that you need to meet this requirement stays the same as it was before, i.e., 9 months, even if your course is a several years long. You can also rely on electronic bank statements without having to get them stamped by the bank on each page. These must meet certain requirements as outlined in Appendix Finance. (please speak with VISA if you are unsure)

Criminal convictions

From 1 December 2020, the Home Office UKVI is more likely to refuse your immigration application, or cancel your immigration permission, if you have or had a criminal conviction.

It is very important that you declare any criminal convictions when you make your immigration application. If you fail to, the Home Office can accuse you of exercising deception, which is a ground for refusal and could seriously impact any future interactions with UK immigration.

Hong Kong residents who are also British National Overseas

From 31 January 2021, 2 additional visa routes are being introduced: BN(O) Status Holder route and the BN(O) Household Member route. If you are eligible to apply under this route, you can choose the 2.5-year route or the 5-year route at the point of application. This leads to settlement after 5 years.

Application needs to be made using UK Immigration: ID Check app. Study is permitted whilst holding this visa and is also subject to ATAS and police registration conditions. If you currently hold the 6-month BNO (Leave outside of rules), you will be permitted to switch to the new routes from 31 January 2021.

Skilled worker route

From 1 December 2020, the skilled worker route will open which will replace the Tier 2 visa category. The minimum skill threshold is lowered from RQF level 6 to RQF level 3. The general salary threshold is lowered from £30,000 to £25,600, with this salary being “exchangeable” when other requirements are met, for example, if you have a PhD qualification relevant to the job; a PhD qualification in a STEM subject relevant to the job; a job in a shortage occupation; being a new entrant; or being in a job in a listed health or education occupation.

Holders of a Student visa will qualify for the lower 'new entrant' wage for up to two years after their Student permission expires, and the Resident Labour Market Test is abolished for all applicants.

Further information

Full details of all the changes are set out in Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules HC 813