London: Tough rules applicable for students from India and other non-European Union countries have came into effect as part of the David Cameron government's promise to prevent abuse of the visa system and substantially reduce immigration during its term in office.

The new rules include tougher entrance criteria, limits on work entitlements and the closure of the post-study work route, which was popular among self-financing students from India.

From April 2012, any institution wanting to sponsor students will need to be classed as a Highly Trusted sponsor, and will need to become accredited by a statutory education inspection body by the end of 2012.

The system until Thursday did not require this, and allowed many poor-quality colleges to become sponsors.
Students coming to study at degree level will need to speak English at an 'upper intermediate' level, rather than the current 'lower intermediate' requirement.

Immigration officers will be able to refuse entry to students who cannot speak English without an interpreter, and who do not meet the minimum standard.

Students at universities and publicly funded further education colleges will retain their current work rights, but all other students will have no right to work.

Only postgraduate students at universities and government-sponsored students will be able to bring their dependants. So far, all students on longer courses could bring dependants.

A limit has been placed on the overall time that can be spent on a student visa to 3 years at lower levels and 5 years at higher levels.

The post-study work route, which allowed students two years to seek employment after their course ends, has been closed.

Only graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer under Tier 2 of the points-based system will be able to stay to work.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "International students not only make a vital contribution to the UK economy but they also help make our education system one of the best in the world. But it has become very apparent that the old student visa regime failed to control immigration and failed to protect legitimate students from poor-quality colleges."

She added: "My aim is not to stop genuine students coming here - it is to eliminate abuse within the system. Our stricter accreditation process will see only first-class education providers given licences to sponsor students".

(Agencies)