Sponsors that receive a compliance visit notification should be prepared for UKVI’s officers to review, amongst other areas, the processes they have in place for ensuring that sponsored students meet English language requirements, where required.
Generally, where a Secure English Language Test (SELT) has been relied upon, compliance with this duty is fairly straightforward. A copy of the SELT should be kept on the student’s file pursuant to Appendix D of the Sponsor Guidance (‘evidence assessed as part of the process of making an offer to the migrant’). We also recommend that sponsors verify the SELT and that a copy of the verification is kept on file.
If the sponsor is a HEI and the student will be studying at degree level or above, the sponsor can carry out its own assessment. Pursuant to paragraph 5.12 of Document 2 of the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance, the sponsor must (unless the student is a ‘gifted’ student) ensure that the student is proficient to level B2 in speaking, listening, reading and writing, unless exempt due to disability.
Crucially, a clear record of how the sponsor carried out the assessment must be retained on file for inspection by HEAT, if requested. During the peak CAS assigning period, checking that this evidence is suitably clear and robust can be overlooked. As it is likely that this is one of the areas HEAT may focus on during the next phase of compliance visits, we recommend that sponsors ensure that suitable evidence is on each sponsored student’s file where a HEI own assessment has been carried out.
Independent schools – Tier 4 (Child)
Having a particular level of English or possessing a SELT is not a mandatory requirement in Tier 4 (Child) applications. However, many schools require the student to pass an English language test – often the school’s own test – as part of the assessment process.
In such cases, where students are required to demonstrate that their English is at a certain level before a CAS is assigned, the sponsor must keep a record on file of the evidence used to make the assessment pursuant to Appendix D of the Sponsor Guidance. This may be, for example, in the form of a record of a Skype test, a written test or a personal statement for example. The student should be advised to include all the evidence assessed by the sponsor in order to issue the CAS with the Tier 4 visa application.
Schools can expect UKVI’s officers to review all evidence relied on to issue a CAS during an inspection and it is advisable to take a moment to ensure that this is on file in an organised manner along with the other documentation as referred to in Appendix D.
We provide legal advice and assistance to universities, independent schools and other Tier 4 sponsors. If you require assistance, please contact us.