Young person being stopped at security

Foreign Students Trapped in the UK: The Immigration Laws Preventing Support During the Pandemic

Covid19 has caused huge financial stress, but with a handful of hostile immigration rules, foreign student’s wellbeing is ignored during coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a massive impact on foreign students living in the UK.  International students have found themselves stranded amidst the pandemic with no access to support, many are relying on food banks.

To remain in the UK, foreign students are required to pay their tuition fees consistently but as the pandemic continues to roll on many have lost part time jobs or support from family overseas. Hundreds are now battling to pay their bills, which could potentially lead to deportation.

The situation has left many paying the most to attend university yet receiving the least help.

Out of the average 121,000 people who travel to the UK to study each year, 60,000 have been left stranded and struggling. The charity, Educating Beyond Borders, reported a staggering 400 students contacted them for help in just one 48-hour period.

The Indian National Students Association, a ‘home away from home’ organisation for Indian students in the UK, has delivered over 3000 emergency food parcels to students since the pandemic started.

International students are banned from accessing state support because of the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) policy. The NRPF rule prevents migrants from accessing crucial government support due to their immigration status, which has ultimately led hundreds of people feeling abandoned amidst the chaos of the pandemic.  

The No Recourse to Public Funds rule should be suspended during the pandemic, as stretched charities and local government try to pick up the pieces

Rafiya Sherin, 24, moved to the UK from India to study business communications but has been struggling to pay her fees since she was let go from her part time administration job in March. She told the Independent: “I’m being very careful with what I spend. If I spend £10, it just makes me think of how much that is worth in India, money that my family is sending to me.”

Rafiya has found the last seven months depressing, the financial stress of trying to pay her bills is distracting her from studying. She pays £13,900 a year to study at the University of Central Lancashire.

If there continues to be no immigration policy breakthrough, supporting people with no recourse to public funds will place additional pressure’s on local governments. Provisions are still being wholly backed by already stretched independent charities. The worry is that as many people remain unable to access the safety-net of benefits, charities will be unable to keep up with the number of people needing support.

Due to the No Recourse to Public Funds rule, foreign national students and migrants in the UK may have to rely on food banks for support [George Clerk, tfn.scot]

In order to provide both financial and emotional support to those who desperately need it, the no recourse to public funds rule should be suspended during the pandemic. In a time of budget cuts, it is being left up to the stretched resources of charities and local councils to pick up the Home Office’s pieces.

This isn’t the only immigration rule preventing migrants from getting support. Thousands face poverty, job losses and the prospect of loved ones being forced to leave the UK. New Citizens Advice research also pushes for the suspension of the Habitual Residence Test. Passing the habitual residence test allows you to be eligible for benefits or homelessness assistance, because it proves a person’s ‘settled intention’. However, the three-month turnaround time has left many people entering lockdown with no financial support.

Consequently, this has forced migrants and their families to continue working even if it is unsafe.

The report also suggests suspending the minimum income requirement for families renewing visas, which is currently set at £18,600 per year.

The economic stress of the pandemic and lockdown could cause many families and international students to be forced to leave the UK.

[Header image: Getty, timeshighereducation.com]