United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has announced flexibility in visa rules, with health precautions throughout the system, to ensure a hassle-free experience for all customers, especially international students.

UKVI is allowing incoming international students to apply for study (Tier 4) visa when they are due to travel to the UK, rather than at the start of their course. This means students who have already gained admission can begin their courses online and apply for a study visa when they are ready to do so.

Students completing courses online will still be eligible to apply for the Graduate Immigration Route, provided they are in the UK by April 6, 2021.

On the safety and hygiene front, visa services partner VFS Global has implemented standardised protective measures across all its UK visa application centres. A mandatory online appointment system, checking the body temperature of all customers at the entrance, and maintaining physical distancing are being adopted.

‘On-demand mobile visa’ at your doorstep is also available.

Since July 6, 2020, UK visa application centres have reopened in 11 cities in India in a phased manner — Ahmedabad, Bengaluru (Global Tech Park only), Chandigarh, Chennai, Jalandhar, Kochi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai (Mahalaxmi only), New Delhi (Shivaji Metro Stadium only), and Pune.

These centres are receiving Tier 4 applications.

Vinay Malhotra, regional group chief operating officer, south Asia, middle east and north Africa and Americas, VFS said, “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.”

According to data from UKVI, almost 50,000 student visas to the UK were granted to Indian nationals in the year ending March 2020. This was a 136 per cent increase from the year ending March 2019.

David Ratcliffe, UK Visas and Immigration regional director, south and southeast Asia said:

“Over the last few years, we have seen a huge increase in the number of Indian students choosing 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.

“For those travellers, our message is clear: your safety is our highest priority. Throughout the visa application process and your travel to the UK, we are taking measures to ensure you are safe and secure.

“In addition, the new Graduate Route is guaranteed to open next summer – meaning those students heading to the UK this autumn will be able to apply for two years additional post-study leave to kick start their career in the UK.”

Click here to view more details on a student visa for the UK.