Dubai: International students from the UAE and other countries can now apply for a study (Tier 4) visa when they are due to travel to the UK, rather than at the start of their course, it was announced on Wednesday.
It means students who have already gained university admission can begin their courses online and apply for a UK study visa when they are ready to do so.
The development is part of the easing of visa rules announced by United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to limit disruption caused by ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions.
New graduate route
Also, the new Graduate Immigration Route has been modified to accommodate students who start their courses online from overseas.
These students will be eligible to apply for the Route, provided they are in the UK before April 6, 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.
The new Route allows students who complete undergraduate or Master’s degrees to stay, work or look for work in the UK for up to two years (three years for PhD students) from Summer 2021.
UKVI said in the year ending March 2020, almost more than 900 student visas to the UK were granted to nationals from the UAE, where 98 per cent of those who applied were successful.
Teresa Hardy, UKVI regional director for Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, Pakistan and Turkey, said: “Over the last few years, we have continued to see thousands of students from GCC nations choose the UK’s world-class higher-education system as the destination for their studies. Despite the challenges of coronavirus, we are confident that many thousands more will join their compatriots at university in the UK this autumn.”
All visa customers, including students, can also avail of the optional ‘On-Demand Mobile Visa’ service that enables them to submit their visa application and enrol biometrics from their home. Once a visa decision is reached, passports can be couriered to the customer’s home. Customers in the GCC can visit the website of VFS Global, UK’s visa services partner, to book this service.
Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group Chief Operating Officer (South Asia, Middle East and North Africa and Americas), VFS Global, said: “As borders reopen and travel resumes, we are committed to maintaining the highest standards of health and safety precautions according to the guidelines of the World Health Organisation and local authorities. We are conscious that this is the time students will be applying for visas to travel to the UK for higher education, and would like to reassure them of a safe and seamless visa application process, at our centres or via the doorstep service.”
VFS Global has established standardised protective measures to be followed across all its UK Visa Application Centres. To ensure health safety norms are followed, the centres have implemented a mandatory appointment system, besides checking body temperature of all customers at the entrance, and maintaining physical distancing measures. Additionally, staff also carry out preventive measures such as disinfecting high-contact surfaces, body temperature screenings, use of hand sanitisers, and regular hand washing.
Since June 28, UK Visa Application Centres have reopened in GCC countries in a phased manner, including in the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) — and these centres are receiving Tier 4 applications.