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On cards: 6-year or longer student visas for foreigners in Scotland

Taking cognizance of an appeal from the Scottish Affairs Select Committee earlier this year, the Home Office has given clear indications that six-year or longer student visas could be introduced for foreigners studying in Scotland.

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The indications have come from Home Secretary Theresa May. She has made it clear that the UK Home Office open to the idea of considering the move to allow Scotland to operate under a different visa regime, when reforms of immigration rules for international students are implemented next year.

The Home Office, in an official response to the committee’s paper on the impact of immigration reforms to international students and higher education in Scotland, asserted it “would be happy to give further consideration to the position in Scotland”.

It was in July the Scottish Affairs Committee wrote to the government saying: “The five year visa limit appears to be based on adding two years to a standard English three year degree.

“Logic would suggest that if the visa limit is based on ‘the length of a standard degree plus two years’ and a standard degree in Scotland is four years, then there is a strong argument for a visa limit of six years for international students studying on a conventional four year degree in Scotland.

“We understand that the Minister is wary of creating a potential loophole which may be exploited by a few. We believe that, if monitored properly, a six year visa limit for international students studying in Scotland, or on longer courses in England and Wales, should be permitted in exceptional circumstances.”

The Home Office in its response on behalf of May has asserted: “The five year maximum period a student will be able to spend in the UK studying at degree level is one of the new measures we plan to introduce from April 2012.

“Certain exceptions for courses will be made where as a matter of professional qualification, the required total period of study is longer than five years. However, we would be happy to give further consideration to the position in Scotland you have outlined, where integrated degree courses may be five years long, and/or postgraduate qualifications short of PhDs may be up to two years or longer.”

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