The UK will implement a points-based immigration system from 2021 onwards, as announced earlier this year by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the division of the Home Office responsible for the country’s visa system. Following this announcement are a host of UK visa updates for visa applicants and temporary residents. Here’s what you should know as an international student.

You can apply for Tier 4 visa six months ahead

Under the latest UKVI guidelines, students can apply for a study visa as soon as they gain admission into the university and confirm their UK travel. This is a welcome change to international students at this time of travel uncertainty. Previously, students could only apply for this visa closer to their course commencement.

As part of the measure, UKVI will issue visa vignettes for 90 days instead of the usual 30 days for the rest of 2020. This way, students benefit from more time and flexibility in the longer travel window.

UK travel

You can now begin your degree at a UK university remotely. Source: Torsten Blackwood/AFP

You can start studies remotely without a visa

Next on the latest UK visa updates: those who are unable to travel to the UK due to restrictions can start their studies remotely without applying for a Tier 4 visa. You need only apply for a student visa when you are ready to travel to your university.

In India, for example, UK visa application centres have just begun opening up after closing due to the pandemic. You can apply for Tier 4 visa at Ahmedabad, Bengaluru (Global Tech Park only), Chandigarh, Chennai, Jalandhar, Kochi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai (Mahalaxmi only), New Delhi (Shivaji Metro Stadium only), and Pune, with the option of “on-demand mobile visa” available for delivery to your doorstep.

New highly-skilled visa route introduced

The Global Talent Scheme will welcome the most highly-skilled workers to come to the UK without a job offer. Top scientists, researchers, and mathematicians will be given fast-tracked entry into the UK via this route, which is expected to roll out in late 2021. It replaces the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route and will see endorsements from the scientific and research community for the first time.

UK travel

The UK’s new two-year Graduate Route will be available next year. Source: Shutterstock

Graduate Route to come into effect in summer 2021; online learners included

All international students with valid Tier 4 (General) visa who successfully complete a degree in the UK can apply for the Graduate Route post-study work visa. Undergraduates finishing their course in 2021 onwards will be able to work for two years, while PhD holders can stay for three years. This includes every student who started their studies online in the 2020/21 academic year.

This visa opens up avenues for graduates to work and live in the UK. They can extend their stay later on with a skilled worker visa, return to the UK via the Intra Company Transfer (ICT) route after a period working overseas, or return via another non-sponsored route.

The UK government also announced that there would be no time limit on postgraduate courses provided the student is progressing academically. Plus, university sponsors can now self-assess an applicant’s academic and English language abilities themselves at the admissions stage.

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