On 28 November 2014, the Home Office issued new guidance for Tier 4 sponsors, effective immediately. A number of changes were made and we highlight some of the key ones below.
Requirement to report concerns of illegal working
A new paragraph 90 of document 2 has been added to the guidance. This requires sponsors to ‘report their concerns’ to UKVI about students who are working illegally in the UK or who are otherwise breaching their conditions of stay.
The guidance includes a link to the ‘report an immigration crime’ page of www.gov.uk.
There is already an existing requirement contained in paragraph 76(i) of document 3 requiring sponsors to report anything that suggests a sponsored student is breaking the conditions of his or her permission to stay within 10 days via the SMS. The new requirement therefore appears to concern non-sponsored non-EEA students.
The Home Office is likely to take action against students who are the subject of such reports and is also likely to expect sponsors to have withdrawn sponsorship of the student, unless there are, for instance, exceptional circumstances or a genuine mistake has been made.
Sponsors should carefully consider the potential ramifications of reporting students to UKVI. Current and prospective Tier 4 students should be made aware that sponsors have such a duty and a clear structure should be put in place for staff to report their concerns initially to a senior member of staff who can then consider whether or not the requirement to report has been triggered.
Adding a new branch or partner institution
Sponsors wishing to add a new branch or partner institution to an existing licence will now be assessed by the Home Office to ensure that they have systems in place that will enable them to meet their duties. The Home Office will also check that they have complied with the immigration rules in the past.
Evidence sought by the Home Office may include:
- contractual agreements;
- evidence of the structure and operational management of the entity being added;
- plans for how the entity being added will be populated and evidence of a sufficient level of planning permission.
The new requirements can be found in paragraph 25 of document 3.
Sponsors are also reminded of the requirement in paragraph 25 (previously set out in paragraph 24) that they must notify their approved educational oversight body where branches/partner institutions have been added.
In-year CAS allocation reviews
A new power has been introduced as outlined in paragraph 199 of document 1 which enables the Home Office to carry out interim reviews to reconsider a sponsor’s CAS allocation. This could see the number of CAS reduced where, for instance, the Home Office considers that a sponsor has not complied with all of its duties or believes that students enrolled by the sponsor are a threat to immigration control.
Duty to provide information about third parties involved in recruitment
Paragraph 73 of document 3 now includes further details as to the information sponsors are required to give to the Home Office concerning third parties.
Sponsor are required to give details of ‘any third party, in the UK or another country, that helped them to recruit international students’. This data must be emailed to SCOC@UKBA.gsi.gov.uk and the Home Office has reiterated that failure to provide this information may result in action being taken against the sponsor.
Powers to revoke
New discretionary and mandatory powers to revoke a licence have been included in paragraphs 165 and 167 of document 3.
Limitation on deferral of studies
Under paragraph 76(f) of document 3 the Home Office has limited the period that a sponsor may continue to sponsor a Tier 4 student who has deferred their studies to 60 days other than in exceptional circumstances such as serious injury or illness.
This is an overview of some of the main changes and sponsors are of course urged to review the new guidance in full and take steps to ensure full compliance.
If your organisation needs legal advice on these or any other issues relating to the sponsor licence system, please contact us.