THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
A new flexible visa policy and enhanced health precautions are just two of the measures announced by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and VFS Global to help US students who want to study in the UK.
Amid the global pandemic, there has been uncertainty over international travel and visas, particularly for students, some of whom have to start their UK course online from overseas. Today's announcement is intended to offer clarity for Americans who are planning to study at a UK school, college or university.
Among the announcements:
Students who begin courses online while overseas can apply for a visa later
This means that if you're enrolled on a course at a UK institution, and your studies begin online while you're still in the US, you don't have to apply for a visa until you need to move to the UK in order to continue those studies.
Appointments for students available at Premium Application Centers in the US
If you're unable to book a routine appointment online for a visa interview, students will be able to use Premium Application Centers run by VFS Global in 10 US cities. There is an additional fee for this, but the Premium service offers certain benefits designed to speed up the visa process. If you'd prefer to avoid an extra fee, you can use the standard UK visa service by booking an appointment with a USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) Application Support Center.
Enhanced graduate route policy
As part of the UK's new points based immigration system, graduates will be able to stay in the UK for 2 years (3 for PHD students), either to work or to look for work. The graduate route, which launches in Summer 2021, has been enhanced by allowing those affected by the pandemic to apply as well. This means that if you start a UK course online overseas, provided you are in the UK by April 6, 2021, and complete your course in the UK, you'll be eligible to apply for the graduate route to stay in the UK longer.
New student route visa open for applications
Prospective students are also now able to apply for the Student Route visa, which replaces the previous Tier 4 route. According to VFS Global, "The new route includes the option for students to apply for their visa six months in advance, compared to three months under the former Tier 4 system. Visas that have been issued through the Tier 4 route are still valid and those eligible will still be able to apply for the graduate route when it opens in summer 2021."
Health precautions added across the visa system
As the pandemic continues, VFS Global, which operates Premium Application Centers for UKVI, is maintaining a mandatory appointment system with social distancing rules in place to protect those applying for a UK visa.
Discussing the developments, Martin Potter, Head of Customer Experience and Account Management for UK Visas and Immigration, said that "Over the last few years we have continued to see thousands of students from the United States choose the UK’s world-class higher-education system as the destination for their studies. Despite the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important we provide international students with the support and flexibility they need to pursue their studies in the UK, in a safe manner ... For those travellers, our message is clear: your safety is our highest priority. Throughout the visa appli-cation process and your travel to the UK, we are taking measures to ensure you are safe and secure. In addition, the new Graduate route is guaranteed to open next summer – meaning those students heading to the UK this fall will be able to apply for two years additional post-study leave to kick start their career in the UK."
For more information on the new student visa route, go to www.gov.uk/student-visa, and for more details on the graduate route, go to homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/10/14/fact-sheet-graduate-immigration-route/.
For more details on the current status of visa applications, go to www.vfsglobal.com/en/individuals/covid-19-customer-advisories.html