What is the change? The U.K. Home Office is expanding a visa pilot program that eases immigration processing for international master’s students seeking to study in the U.K.

What does the change mean? The program will be expanded to 23 universities based on low visa refusal rates in their region. Currently the program is limited to four universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Imperial College of London.

  • Implementation time frame: Applies to intake for 2018-2019 academic year.
  • Visas/permits affected: Tier 4.
  • Who is affected: Non-EEA nationals seeking to study in a master’s program of 13 months or less at one of the 23 universities.
  • Impact on processing times: The pilot scheme affords reduced processing.

Business impact: The program also allows the students to remain in the U.K. after they finish their courses for up to six months (as opposed to four months for other graduates), giving them more flexibility to obtain work and convert their student visa to a work visa.

Background: Under the pilot program, students applying to one-year master’s programs must still meet all Tier 4 visa requirements, but they qualify for a streamlined process that reduces the number of required supporting documents. The two-year pilot program began in 2016 with four universities and has now been extended for another year and expanded to the 23 universities listed below.

Universities added to the program

Cardiff University Goldsmiths University of London Harper Adams University Newcastle University
Queen’s University Belfast The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama University of Bristol Durham University
University of East Anglia University of Edinburgh University of Essex University of Exeter
University of Glasgow University of Leicester University of Liverpool University of Manchester
University of Nottingham University of Reading University of Sheffield University of Southampton
University of Wales Trinity St. David (Swansea Campus) University of Warwick University of York  

BAL Analysis: The expansion of the program is good news for non-EEA students and employers seeking to recruit from the 23 universities and is intended to attract more international students. It shows that the Home Office is taking a liberal approach in contrast to the tough talk on migrant numbers by the government and may be a sign the government’s stance on students is softening against fears that Brexit will deplete student talent and negatively impact the U.K. economy.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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