The Home Office is continuing to roll out the interview process for Tier 4 students. Following a pilot scheme last year, students from the following countries are likely to be called for an interview:
- Russian Federation
It is likely that further countries will be added and this may include, in the future, students from countries regarded as ‘low risk’ by the Home Office. Further information about the ‘low risk’ rules can be found here.
Students who are called for an interview will be given a date to attend the visa application centre. The interview will take place by way of Skype with an immigration officer who will be based in Sheffield. We have seen some of the new system and the Immigration Officer will follow a specified interview format asking questions, for example, about the student’s prior education, their financial position, their future intentions, etc. If a question is not answered in a way that is satisfactory to the Immigration Officer, they can open up further drop down options on the system which contain more detailed questions about the particular area of concern.
At the end of the interview process the officer completes a comments box in which they provide comments for the Entry Clearance Officer to consider when deciding the application.
We have been preparing a number of Tier 4 sponsors for the process and have considered the various legal issues that may arise. For instance, it is extremely important that data protection issues are considered and sponsors may wish to obtain authorisation from prospective students to requesting a copy of the interview record if necessary. It is advisable in any event that students should ask for a copy of the interview record at the end of the interview process. Whilst individual students cannot be coached as to how to answer interview questions, there are a number of general steps sponsors can take to help students to prepare for the interview. This may include, for instance, allowing the students to see mock interview videos – and a number of providers have now created this. A list of the types of areas that may be covered in the interview can also be provided and it is also possible for sponsors to offer practice Skype sessions to help students become more confident generally with the process.
The Home Office’s current position is that, up until the end of July 2013, refusals based on information gained during a credibility interview will not count in relation to a sponsor’s HTS status. We understand that is likely to change in the future.
Regardless of whether or not the information is incorporated into the HTS system, the Home Office already has the power to take action against a sponsor in any event if it considers that the sponsor does not have in place suitable recruitment processes. There is no reason why information gained from interviews cannot be used by the authorities to assess the recruitment processes for sponsors. As such, we strongly recommend that sponsors review their procedures in light of these new measures. We also recommend that sponsors collate information gained via the interview process so that they can strengthen the general information and advice they in-turn provide to student about the process.