It’s Friday Week 7, and I’m at home studying for my final exam when a letter arrives from the Home Office: ‘Dear Mr. Avelar, your visa application for leave to remain in the UK has been refused.’ I gawk at the letter, tears welling up in my eyes. What’s going on?
On April 6, the Home Office introduced changes that make it impossible for Overseas students who have changed or extended their course to be able to extend their visa from within the UK. This means that non-EU International students who changed to an integrated masters course (like myself), came to York and decided to do a year in industry, or decided to change their course (all of which naturally add time to your stay), are now expected to leave the UK and do a visa application from their home country instead. For some of us this equates to an unplanned flight to Latin America next month and another hefty visa application fee (they’re about £400 each time), and some students may not have the funds to do this. This change in legislation goes beyond just a financial burden though. Students who have failed examinations and must come back to York for re-sits now face the possibility of having to fly home when university ends (17th of June), apply for a visa, and hope that their passport is returned with an issued visa before they have to be back in York for re-sits in August. Students who fail to extend their visa in time will be forced to either take a leave of absence, or in cases like mine, possibly graduate in third year and miss out on finishing an integrated masters. This change in legislation has affected multiple students in York and will continue to affect Overseas students across the country for the foreseeable future.
Over the last couple of years, changes in legislation has made it increasingly difficult for International students to study in the UK, and to work here after they finish their degrees. 50.7% of non-EU students surveyed by the NUS in 2014 said that the UK Government was not welcoming towards International students, and 19.4% said they would not recommend the UK as a place to study for friends or relatives. This doesn’t really come as a surprise when you consider that the Home Office wrongly deported 48,000 International students in 2014 – that is over twice as many students as our entire university, including postgrads. Coupled with increasing tuition fees (as high as £28,000 per year to study medicine in York as an International student), many international students may justifiably feel unvalued.
So, what can we do? In 2014, it was the NUS that provided the Government with evidence that the 48,000 International students were wrongly deported. Regardless of whether or not York disaffiliates from the NUS, we will still be in the NUS next year (the disaffiliation process takes one year), and this is a great chance to review any existing motions at the NUS conference and even pass our own motions. York could potentially lead a nationwide student movement that pressures the Government to change back the Tier 4 Visa legislation. Students can also write to local MPs and the Home Office explaining how this change hurts international students around the UK, and urge them to help revert the changes. International students make up 25% of our university, and 19% of the student population in the UK, and it is imperative that we stop xenophobic legislation from preventing International students from studying here. Any International students affected by the change in legislation and worried about finances can contact the university for support.