On 24 June 2014, as we reported, the Home Office initiated enforcement action against a number of Tier 4 sponsor licence holders.
Most of the institutions were given 20 working days to respond to the Home Office’s allegations that they had failed ‘to prevent abuse of the immigration system’ by, for example, sponsoring individuals who were either not in possession of an authentic English language test certificate or who were working in breach of their conditions of stay, or by otherwise breaching their duties as a Tier 4 sponsor licence holder.
The Home Office may therefore start to revoke the sponsor licences of some of the institutions that have failed to provide adequate responses, or failed to obtain an Order for interim relief from the High Court, next week.
In addition to the enforcement action that is being taken against sponsors, the Home Office has also started to take action against individuals who are believed to have entered the UK using false documentation and/or have breached a condition of their leave to remain in the UK. In such cases, the Home Office usually curtails the leave of the accused migrant and seeks their removal from the UK. They may also detain them prior to removal and the individual can also be banned from returning to the UK.
It is also a criminal offence to obtain leave by deception, to fail to observe a condition of leave and/or to use forged documents. The Home Office has in recent weeks increasingly referred to migrants who entered the UK unlawfully or who remained in breach of their conditions of stay as criminals. We therefore expect to see a rise in the number of prosecutions against migrants who are accused of breaking the law and further information about criminal offences connected with the immigration system can be found on the Crown Prosecution Service website here.
The Government remains intent on reducing net migration in the run up to the May 2015 general election. Net migration can only be reduced within this time-frame if the Government takes urgent measures to prevent as many migrants as possible from coming to the UK and ensures that as many as possible leave. The benefit to the Government in preventing large numbers of education institutions from sponsoring international students, the largest group of migrants in the UK, combined with measures to remove large numbers of those deemed to be in the UK unlawfully is obvious.
Important information released by the NUS and UKCISA
Given the wide range of powers available to the Home Office, it is vital that international students who are called for an interview by the Home Office in connection with an allegation that they have breached the immigration rules understand the legal implications and framework and seek advice. Given the complexities inherent in the Tier 4 system, including the fact that assessing whether or not a student is ‘genuine’ is an entirely subjective decision open to different interpretations by different immigration officers, we are extremely concerned that innocent international students may be caught up in the Home Office’s current immigration enforcement and criminal prosecution action.
Both the National Union of Students (‘NUS’) and UK Council for International Student Affairs (‘UKCISA’) have released extremely important information for international students who may be affected by the action taken by the Home Office following the announcement on 24 June.
Information published by the NUS explaining the Home Office interview process can be found here.
Information published by UKCISA explaining the consequences of sponsor licence suspensions and revocations can be found here.
UKCISA has also provided information to assist international students who are due to enter the UK and who may find themselves questioned by Border Force Officers here.