UK immigration debate continues as new legislation passes into law

In the wake of the United Kingdom’s new Immigration Act 2014, questions remain about how the new legislation will impact international student enrolment and the experiences of international students studying in the UK. Student groups, representatives from the university sector, and policymakers continue to voice serious concerns about the new law.

Their reactions come at a time when English universities are reporting the first decline in international student enrolment in nearly 30 years, and reflect a broader policy debate regarding international students and student visa policy in the UK that has continued in recent years.

The new Immigration Act was given Royal Assent on 14 May 2014. Among the new requirements imposed by the legislation are:

  • the removal of free national health insurance (NHS) for international students;
  • the requirement that banks verify the immigration status of new clients;
  • and changes to make it easier for the Home Office to remove people from the UK.

Other regulations signed into law include the removal of the right of appeal for extension applications made in the UK, a delay in the wait time of up to 70 days before migrants are permitted to marry or enter into civil partnerships, and the indefinite retention of biometric data. After much lobbying, a late amendment was included in the bill exempting students from mandatory landlord checks on tenants’ immigration status.

Changes to Britain’s immigration system were first promised by Prime Minister David Cameron in early 2010 as a way to reduce overall immigration flows to the country.

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