Indian students have expressed concern that they face financial difficulties after the UK added India to the list following the emergence of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus.
The travel rules came after India saw an “extremely rapid rise in cases” in the new variant detected throughout April. Over the last week, local rates have almost doubled, increasing to 111 cases detected per 100,000 per week.
“It has a huge financial implication because now I’m required to quarantine in a hotel”
From 4am on Friday April 23, international visitors who have departed from or transited through India in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England.
Only British and Irish citizens, or those with residence rights in the UK (including long-term visa holders), will be allowed to enter and they must stay in a government-approved quarantine facility for 10 days.
Indian students coming to the UK are required to have a Biometric Residence Permit – a document which according to the government’s website proves the holders right to live in the UK.
This means that they are able to enter the country so long as they can follow quarantine requirements.
Some students had expressed confusion about whether they would actually be allowed into the country.
“Indian students holding a student visa or a Tier 4 visa, have residence rights in the UK, therefore the travel ban does not apply to them,” Janaka Pushpanathan, director South India, British Council said.
“However, they will be expected to complete a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense as per the UK government guidelines.
“It is important to note that the rules are different for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so students need to check in advance of travelling to those locations.”
Students have said they will find it difficult to afford to quarantine, if they are permitted to enter the country.
“It has a huge financial implication because now I’m required to quarantine in a hotel,” said Ameesha Vora, a masters student at the University of Leeds.
“So the implications of doing my course have added up. First it was international fees, then the accommodation in Leeds that I’m still paying for because of the contract.
“And now if I’m required to travel back, I need to stay in government accommodation, which I think is about £1,700, which is a huge amount for me,” Vora added.
Vora said that she had tried applying for emergency hardship funds from her university.
“They were really small amounts… Like I would get two hundred pounds just maybe for groceries… It won’t pay for the hotel quarantine,” she said.
Vora explained that she had to return to England by June to be eligible for the UK’s new post-study work rights scheme and so is now trying to borrow money from her family and friends to meet the costs.
“It is most likely to impact students coming for the May intake”
NISAU founder and chairperson, Sanam Arora, explained to The PIE that Indian students who are getting ready to come to the UK for the May intake are likely to face problems as a result of the new rules.
“Whilst it’s not great from the point of view of the already restricted mobility we fully appreciate and understand why the step has needed to be taken.
“Depending on how long this redirection is in place for it is most likely to impact students coming for the May intake who would’ve been hoping to be able to enjoy some of the overarching easing out of restrictions in the UK as they commence their studies.”
Arora said that at this point she was most concerned about the situation in India with Covid-19.
“I am sure the student community will join me in supporting our governments with the required steps despite the difficulties it may cause to us in the short term,” she added.
UPDATE (GMT 14:15): The Home Office has confirmed to The PIE that students’ residence rights will allow Indian students to arrive in the UK under the arrangement.
A Department for Education spokesperson told The PIE
“International students, including the large number of Indian students who study here, are a vital and valued part of our higher education sector.
“Students on the ‘red list’ are still able to enter the UK, but are required to quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel on arrival. Those unable to travel will continue to receive online tuition and specific Graduate route visa concessions will ensure students benefit from our post-study work offer, even if their arrival to the UK is delayed.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time for students which is why we have made an additional £85m of funding available this academic year for students in the greatest need, including international students, on top of an existing £256 million that universities can draw on.”