, LONDON, Febr 7 – Britain is to cut the number of visas it hands out to foreign students in a bid to stop people breaking the rules by working illegally, officials said Saturday.
A total of 236,470 student visas were issued in 2008-09, the last year for which full figures were available, and a Home Office spokesman said the change would have a "significant impact" on the number.
He could, however, not confirm reports it would cut the figure by tens of thousands.
Under the new rules, applicants will have to speak English to a better standard before being let in and those studying on courses below degree level will only be allowed to work for 10 hours a week, rather than 20.
They will also not be able to bring dependants with them if they are enrolling on courses lasting less than six months. Dependants of students on courses below degree level will not be allowed to work.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson said in a statement: "We remain open to those foreign students who want to come to the UK for legitimate study — they remain welcome.
"But those who are not seriously interested in coming here to study but come primarily to work — they should be in no doubt that we will come down hard on those that flout the rules.
"I make no apologies for strengthening an already robust system."
The change, which comes after Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered a review of the system at the end of last year, is expected to come into force within weeks.
Last week, Britain temporarily suspended student visa applications from northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh after a sharp rise in numbers, triggering anger among many students there.
But the Home Office spokesman insisted the latest move was not targeting any specific part of the world.
"It\’s a general tightening up of the system, it\’s not aimed at any area in particular," he said.