Home Office wants EU students crackdown, Brexit leak reveals
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Document dashes hopes of more liberal approach to overseas students after myth of widespread overstaying was demolished.
The Home Office wants to introduce a crackdown on overseas students from the European Union for the first time after Brexit, the official document leaked to the Guardian on future immigration policy reveals.
Officials say it will be necessary to introduce checks on academic ability, English language skills and ensure that students have sufficient funds before they are granted a residence permit to study in Britain.
“The government welcomes and encourages EU citizens who wish to study in the UK and does not wish to restrict their access per se. However, we will need to ensure that study does not allow circumvention of any new controls on work,” says the leaked Home Office document dated August 2017.
“Therefore we may need to introduce some restrictions to ensure students are genuinely intending to study in the way that we do for non-EU students, by checking academic ability, English language skills and sufficiency of funds.”
The disclosure will dash hopes that the government was considering a more liberal approach to overseas students raised by the home secretary, Amber Rudd, last month when she announced an independent study of the contribution overseas students make to the economy and the labour market.
As the study was announced, Home Office research based on new border exit check data demolished the myth that a large proportion of overseas students stay on illegally after the end of their courses. The report showed that 97% of students left the country when their visas expired.
The leaked Home Office document on future immigration policy makes clear officials’ fears that their proposal to issue only two-year residence permits to skilled and semi-skilled EU migrants and take away their right to settle in Britain will lead to increased abuse of the student route.
Under the Home Office post-Brexit plans, EU overseas students who come to Britain after the two-year transitional phase starts in 18 months’ time will also require an official biometric residence permit but it could last longer than the two-year limit, which will apply to more than 80% of EU migrants who come to work.
“Arrangements will also be made for EU students whose courses finish after the implementation period in order for them to be able to complete their studies in the UK without risk of interruption,” it says.
The crackdown on international students from outside the EU has reduced numbers coming to the UK from 246,000 in 2011 to 136,000 in 2016. The sharpest falls in non-EU student numbers have been in further education colleges, independent schools and English language schools, where numbers have dropped by up to 60%.