The Prime Minister and Home Secretary announced a number of new measures on 29 July 2014 aimed at tightening up the immigration system.
Reduction in HTS refusal rate
Of particular relevance to our clients in the education sector is the proposal to change the HTS refusal rate from 20% to 10% in November 2014.
The Government press release states that:
‘From November, tougher rules will be imposed on universities and colleges who sponsor international students to study in the UK. Currently, educational institutions cannot enjoy highly trusted sponsor status if 20% or more of the individuals they have offered places to are refused visas. But that figure will be cut to 10% in November after a 3-month transitional period for colleges and universities to re-examine their admissions procedures before offering individuals places.’
If a sponsor is stripped of its HTS status, this in fact means that the Home Office can then revoke its sponsor licence (including across all Tiers where relevant). A revocation means that all sponsored students (and where relevant, workers who are sponsored under Tiers 2 and 5) must immediately cease to study/work.
We understand that the Home Office is considering the introduction of a discretionary assessment for small sponsors (i.e typically those that have issued less than 50 CAS in the previous 12 months) that fail the 10% rule. As we have previously highlighted, only 1 or 2 visa refusals can often trigger enforcement action for small sponsors and we urge the Government to ensure that the new measures are fair and proportionate both in relation to small sponsors and also for larger sponsors where it is clear that a failure to meet the new requirement was out of the sponsor’s control.
We strongly recommend that educational institutions that hold a sponsor licence embark on an immediate review of their general Tier 4 compliance systems and approach in preparation for these new changes.
In addition, we would also recommend that they:
a) provide extremely clear information to students to assist them in the visa application process; and
b) only issue CAS to students who have been carefully selected and vetted; and
c) ensure that applicants whose applications are refused apply for an Administrative Review of that decision.
Given that the Government has announced a three month period of transition before November 2014 (i.e August, September, October) we expect that new sponsor guidance concerning the new HTS regime will be introduced on or before 1 August. The Home Office may seek to test sponsors against the new 10% criteria during the transitional period.
We will be monitoring this new development closely and providing further detailed information for sponsors shortly.
Training course: Immigration law for universities and other education providers
Nichola Carter of Carter Thomas Solicitors and Judith Farbey QC of Doughty Street Chambers have designed a 3 hour training session entitled ‘Immigration law for universities and other education providers’ on behalf of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), the course will cover all the latest changes.
The Prime Minister has also announced plans to halve the period over which European migrants can claim benefits. The announcement states that ‘from November, European jobseekers will only be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance and other key welfare benefits for a maximum period of 3 months. This follows tough changes that were announced earlier this year to introduce a minimum 3 month delay to claiming benefits and to cut off benefits after 6 months unless the individual has very clear job prospects.‘
The new restrictions have been announced as the first measures of the Government’s flagship Immigration Act 2014 came into force, including:
- restrictions on the use of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to family life – by migrants to avoid deportation. In future, judges will be required to consider the ‘British public interest’;
- a new system of “deport now, appeal later” which, the Government states, is designed to help the authorities to remove foreign criminals. Convicted criminals wishing to appeal against the decision will only be able to do so from their own country;
- new powers to revoke the driving licences of those accused of being illegal immigrants. The Government’s announcement states that a total of 3,150 licences have been revoked since the introduction of the power earlier this month.
The full announcement can be reviewed here.
We are experienced in successfully challenging licence revocations. For legal advice on any of the issues announced today, please contact us.