An important strand of our campaigning is to create a more favourable immigration operating environment for our sector. Our team members Huan and Naadiya met senior officials from the Student Migration Policy Team with London First in early April to discuss five separate immigration issues on which we are campaigning.
Expansion of the Youth Mobility Scheme
This reciprocal, bilateral scheme allows 18-30 year olds from a handful of countries to enter the UK to work, travel or study for up to two years. We are campaigning for new agreements to be signed, prioritising five of our top EU markets, and also for modification of the quota system which does not currently allow unused capacity to be shifted between different national schemes.
We were broadly encouraged by this discussion: UKVI is keen to extend the scheme, have looked at trends for UK nationals travelling to Europe, are interested in other models of the scheme and will look at quotas. However, they asked us and London First to help by recommending partners in the EU for the Home Office to work with. We have agreed to help with relationship building and dealmaking with potential partner nations.
Student visa work rights
We hope to regain work rights for UK ELT centres and are approaching this in England by the route of gaining Office for Students registration for language schools which could then build a track record of compliance. For devolved nations there would be a similar route, but not involving the OFS. Student rights would then be granted to centres demonstrating a track record of visa compliance.
Officials told us the Home Office has no say over who the OFS agrees to register: but they would not stand in the way of this proposal. Action would be down to the Department for Education (DfE) and there would need to be a change to the Higher Education Reform Act, requiring secondary legislation, for this to happen. Concerns were expressed about potential abuse and the point was made that it was important politically that students have good reasons for wanting to work. We explained that students want to work for experience and to improve language ability.
The Home Office has agreed to approach the DfE about this. It is important to note that if we find a way forward on this there may still be difficulties further down the line around accreditation costs, for instance.
ID Card Travel
We and colleagues in the Tourism Alliance have proposed a Youth Group Travellers' Scheme which would apply to under-18s on educational visits. Only the adult group leader(s) would require a passport with the rest of the party travelling on a single document. This would work round some of the impact of ID card travel no longer being available into the UK.
This is one of the Home Office's red lines. However, officials agreed to discuss both this issue and the limitations of the Council of Europe Collective Passport scheme with colleagues and report back.
In the meantime, with the wider industry we will continue to campaign on this, focusing on other government departments, such as the Department for International Trade and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Changing provider for students on 11-month visas
We are campaigning for this to be allowed, citing examples where the initial provider goes out of business or cannot support the level of language reached by the student in the later part of the course. The officials agreed it was not in the best interests of students to always be tied to one programme for 11 months, and would look at whether they could flex the rules to allow movement between providers in the same group.
Home Office officials were also open to looking at movement between different providers and will consult lawyers to establish whether technically students have signed up to a type of course or the specific provider.
Switching visas in the UK
previous entry << >> next entry
We would like students on short-term visas to be able to apply for other visas, such as the student visa, without leaving the UK. After discussion with officials their position was made clear: in principle students on short term routes are expected to leave at the end of their stay, as was their original intention. We do not expect any movement on this at this time.