The latest Tier 4 immigration rule changes may be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ for many private colleges. Having invested millions in buildings and infrastructure, some college owners have already closed their doors – unable to recruit sufficient student numbers following 4 July Tier 4 changes which mean that students studying at their college will not be allowed to work or sponsor their dependants.
The UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) proposed criteria to become a Highly Trusted Sponsor under Tier 4, announced on 19 July, invited comments and feedback from the education sector.
Following that feedback the UKBA has published new Tier 4 sponsorship guidance covering:
- Highly Trusted Sponsorship, including the date by which Tier 4 sponsors who are not already highly trusted need to apply for HTS by; what will happen to existing Tier 4 sponsors who do not apply for HTS by the deadline or who do apply and fail; and details of transitional arrangements for sponsors who are not already highly trusted.
- educational oversight, confirming the previously announced detail of the new approach, including a reminder of the date by which applications should be made and to which oversight body; and information Tier 4 sponsors who either do not apply by the specified deadline or who apply and fail to obtain it.
Tier 4 sponsor ratings will also change and in future there will be just 2 ratings: ‘A’ rating and Highly Trusted.
The Tier 4 changes are being implemented as part of the government’s reforms of the immigration system to ‘tackle abuse and bring net migration down to sustainable levels’.
Immigration changes included reforming the work route, settlement and family migration to the UK.
You can now download the new sponsor guidance from the Guidance for sponsors page.
On 13 June, the UKBA announced in a separate news story that applications for educational oversight would need to be made to the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) by Friday 9 September 2011. These bodies have since issued additional guidance on the QAA website and the ISI website. Tier 4 sponsors are required to apply to the QAA or ISI by Friday 9 September or they will not be able to sponsor new students.
The Bridge Schools Inspectorate wll inspect faith-based private colleges in England and Wales, and that the School Inspection Service would inspect Steiner and Montessori colleges in England and Wales with providers required to apply by a deadline of 7 October. Education Scotland will inspect privately funded providers in Scotland, with providers required to apply by 11 November.
Any registered independent schools and publicly funded colleges will be covered by their statutory inspections and do not need to apply separately for educational oversight. Source: UK Border Agency.
“You have my absolute assurance that I will continue to work with the UKBA – and with universities – on removing obstacles to the essential business of global intellectual exchange.” Vince Cable, UK Business Secretary
A UKBA spokesperson said in a statement: “the changes to the student visa system will, create a system where every student coming to the UK attends a legitimate course at a legitimate institution. We are also reforming the work route, and change is being planned for the settlement and family routes.”
Speaking at the Universities UK annual conference this week Business Secretary Vince Cable said:
“The criteria aim to achieve a sensible balance between attracting genuine students and operating a robust immigration system that denies entry to people with an ulterior motive.
“You have my absolute assurance that I will continue to work with the UKBA – and with universities – on removing obstacles to the essential business of global intellectual exchange. International students are important for a university’s basic mission and important for the economy; put crudely, HE is an export industry.”
Industry figures are predicting that the new Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) regime and recent student visa rule changes will put a large number of private colleges out of business.
Colleges which have been suspended from the Tier 4 Sponsors Register will not qualify for HTS.
In recent weeks Immigration Matters has received an alarming number of emails from students reporting that their college had ‘closed their doors’ and ceased trading following a UKBA suspension.
Students who have paid thousands of pounds to these colleges for a CAS in order to renew their visas are unlikely to see their money again.
The UK Border Agency has implemented significant changes to the Tier 4 student route of the points-based system this year.
On 4 July the government changed the Immigration Rules relating to Tier 4 so they could:
- restrict work entitlements, by only allowing students sponsored by higher education institutions (HEIs) and publicly funded further education colleges to work part-time during term time and full-time during vacations;
- restrict sponsorship of dependants to those of students sponsored by HEIs on postgraduate courses lasting 12 months or longer, and of government-sponsored students on courses lasting longer than 6 months;
- require institutions to confirm that courses represent genuine academic progression from any previous courses studied by the student in the UK; and
- create a streamlined application process for low-risk nationals sponsored by Highly Trusted sponsors.
A spokesman for UK University Services added that there are a number of rule changes which will make it difficult for students renewing visas, especially those at private colleges.
“Students renewing visas at private colleges will no longer be allowed to work as well as sponsor dependants.
“In addition the 3 year rule will block those who take too long to complete a lower level course such as an NVQ.
“These changes, combined with the burden of reapplying under the new Highly Trusted scheme, will be the ‘last straw’ for many private college owners who have faced an onslaught in the last 18 months.”
The 3 year rule will prevent students who take too long to complete lower level courses from renewing their student visas or leave to remain.
Immigration appeal specialists are seeing a surge in enquiries from people who have been refused visas and leave to remain.
The government’s aim is to ‘encourage’ international students to study only at government colleges and universities.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email:
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