Changes to the UK immigration rules affecting international students - December 2023
12 December 2023

Changes to the UK immigration rules affecting international students - December 2023

The government published changes to the UK immigration rules on 7 December. 

ID card travel returns for French school groups

From Thursday 28 December, French school groups will be able to travel to the UK on an organised educational trip without passports or visit visas.

There are some conditions:

  • This applies to groups of five or more students aged 18 or under
  • Students must be resident and studying at a school in France which is registered with the French Ministry of Education
  • The school will need to complete a form which the accompanying adult will present at the border
  • Children in the group with an EU/EEA/Swiss national identity card will not require a passport
  • Children of other nationalities will need to travel with their passport but will not need to apply for a visa

We expect further details to be available on 28 December.

More Youth Mobility Scheme visas available

In 2024 there will be an increase in the number of Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visas available for:

  • Uruguay: 500 new visas available
  • Japan: increase from 1,500 to 6,000 visas 
  • Republic of Korea: increase from 1,000 to 5,000 visas

The large increases for Japan and Korea will make it much easier for young people from those countries to obtain a YMS visa. The previous ballot system has been removed.

The YMS visa allows people to work and study in the UK for up to two years. They can also do internships or other work experience programmes.

Immigration health surcharge (IHS) to increase

On 16 January 2024, the immigration health surcharge increases to £776 for a 12-month stay, up from £470.

This is the IHS fee for Short-term study visa, Student visa and Youth Mobility Scheme visa applicants. It is paid during the online visa application. 

Anyone visiting the UK for six months or less does not pay the surcharge. 

The total IHF fee depends on visa duration:

  • Students staying for more than 6 months but less than one year, must pay the the cost of a full year.
  • Students staying between 12 and 18 months, pay 1.5 time the yearly cost

Use the government's immigration health surcharge calculator.

Electronic Travel Authorisations (ETAs) required for visitors from Gulf countries from February

From 1 February 2024, some visitors will need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) before travelling to the UK. :

  • Bahrain
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Saudi Arabia 

Visitors from Qatar already require ETAs (since 15 November). 

An ETA costs GBP 10 and allows multiple visits over a two-year period.

Applications are done via the ETA app or online. The visitor uploads a photo of their passport, and a photo of their face, then answers some questions before paying the fee.

Anyone who already has permission to enter the UK (visa holders or anyone with permission to live, work or study) does not need to apply for an ETA.

Home Office information events on ETAs

The Home Office are running online information sessions between January and March 2024. See event details (pdf). 

The ETA scheme will be gradually rolled out to all remaining non-visa nationalities throughout 2024.

Qatari nationals were the first cohort to use the new ETA process. They started using ETAs on Wednesday 15 November 2023.

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