Monthly Archives: February 2010

Register of Tier 4 Sponsors – 25 February 2010

Differences against the Tier 4 Register 24 February 2010

The following schools and colleges were removed from the Register:

  • None

The following schools and colleges were added to the Register:

  • None

Download the Register of Sponsors Tier4: 25 Feb 2010

Visa Fraud Uncovered at Gateway2UK Education

BBC’s Newsnight were able to purchase two forged visa letters which would be accepted by Embassies across the world as genuine, from a college rated A by the UK Border Agency. Both documents were bought for £200 or less.

Jump to the video.

Whilst this is old news in terms of a criticism of the system – the electronic Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies replaced visa letters on Monday – it is shocking behaviour from the people deeply involved with the college.

Under the old system, all student migrants to the UK had to be sponsored. The details of this sponsorship were details in a student visa letter, containing personal details and course details, as well as details of all money paid. This invitation to study in the UK is worth 30 of the 40 points required to get a UK student visa under Tier 4 of the Points Based System. The remaining 10 points is awarded for adequate funds.

The Newsnight team were tipped off about a secret office run by people connected to Gateway2K Education in Wembley Park, London. It was from this office that forged visa letters were being openly sold for cash.

Following covert surveillance over several evenings, several deals were seen to take place in plain view outside the block of offices. Many people came and went; cash was counted in full view and people left with white A4 envelopes.

The Newsnight team went further and undertook an undercover operation. They were able to purchase the two documents, one from a former administrator from Gateway2UK Education.

Having been able to identify one of the men involved in the scam – the former administrator – he was traced to India, where he didn’t even deny his involvement. Newsnight reports him as bitterly regretting being involved in the fraud, but he played just a minor role. In fact, he accuses the owner of Gateway2UK Education – Indian entrepreneur Darpan Shah – as the brains behind the scam.

Predictably, Darpan Shah has made a statement denying these claims, through his solicitor. He said that during his time as owner of Gateway2UK Education he had little control or involvement in its day-to-day running. He would not comment on the accusations of the former administrator traced to India.

Darpan Shah’s solicitor told the Newsnight, “Mr Shah would like to make it abundantly clear that he has played no part in the sale of bogus visa letters.”

Principal Knows Nothing

Despite Darpan Shah’s denials, he was owner of Gateway2UK Education for 25 days in January and remained a director at the college until 5 February 2010. Newsnight purchased the forged documents on 2 and 4 February.

Newsnight took the forged documents they purchased to the Principal of Gateway2UK Education at their Hayes Campus. To say that Principal Jeremy Coulton was visibly shocked was an understatement; he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights – couldn’t really get his words out! He said he had no idea visa letters were being forged.

After searching his own office, Jeremy Coulton found around 160 bogus applications; all received from a company in Baroda, India called Krish Immigration. This company is owned by Darpan Shah also.

Darpan Shah told Newsnight when asked about this coincidence, that he has “no operational control […] and no knowledge of fraud” at Krish Immigration. He said, “There has not been any allegation of wrong-doing previously,” adding that “Krish Immigration… prevents forgery and fraud”.

Darpan Shah claims that he has been unwittingly caught up in both the frauds in the UK and India. He argues that it is his business partners and former colleagues who have acted without his permission. He has now sold Gateway2UK Education to persons unknown.
Gateway2UK Education’s sponsor licence was rightly suspended when the scandal was uncovered. It was inspected on Tuesday, 24 February 2010.

Darpan Shah has close links to two other colleges in the UK, both of which have had their sponsor licences suspended pending a full and proper investigation by the UK Border Agency.

Whilst the UK Government has taken good steps to tighten up processes and restore control, in an industry worth over £8 billion a year, there will always be those trying to con and scam for a quick buck.


The Newsnight Report


New London College Responds to UKBA Tier 4 Suspension

New London College logoI believe everybody knows the current situation regarding the suspensions. There is nothing much we can comment about it until we know what the UKBA exactly wants to do.

Initially the submission was due to the non submission or the BAC Inspection Report for our new campus to the UKBA, but when the BAC has submitted it to them immediately, they have been asking for additional information whenever their deadline of 14/28 days approaches, and delaying the decision on reinstatement. We believe it is more to do with the clarity about policy rather than the colleges not playing the game rightly.

To blame the colleges for illegal immigrants is nonsence, as most of the terrorists or illegal immigrants have used the safer routes of Universities, rather than colleges. We have hardly seen any ‘No Show’ students (may be 2 out of 1000). All our students are genuine and are serious about their studies and are attending classes. We have one of the best facilities in the private sector, for which even our students would vouch for.

The UKBA should have foreseen high volumes before they could implement the PBS, but they have failed in implementing the policy in the right way.

Kind Regards

Vikram

Register of Tier 4 Sponsors – 24 February 2010

Differences against the Tier 4 Register 23 February 2010

The following schools and colleges were removed from the Register:

  • None

The following schools and colleges were added to the Register:

  • Birkbeck College, University of London
  • RIPA International
  • The English Study Centre

Download the Register of Sponsors Tier4: 24 Feb 2010

Anglian College Responds to UKBA Suspension

Anglian College London logoAnglian College London can confirm that it is one of the 140 or so colleges that have had their visa sponsorship rights suspended by the UK Border Agency.  We have not succeeded in obtaining any sane, meaningful explanation for this action out of the UKBA and the matter is now in the hands of our lawyers.

As an honestly run business that is dead serious about providing quality education and about obeying the law of the land, we bitterly resent any implication that we, or the vast majority of our students, have done anything wrong.  We regularly send out newsletters to our overseas recruitment partners explaining as much as wean find out.

At present Anglian College London has over one thousand places available for students to start in May on a variety of diploma courses, in new premises, well equipped with new computers etc, and with highly qualified lecturers ready to teach.  All this is sitting empty, while we are forbidden to sell these places to well qualified student applicants, many of whom have paid in good faith to come to us.  This is a huge scandal for which we can only apologise to our friends and customers overseas who areas much victims as all of us on the staff of Anglian College.

UK Colleges Blacklisted by the UKBA go to Court

Several colleges blacklisted by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) are set to fight to clear their names in court and to seek recompense for their suspension from sponsoring migrant students to study in the UK.

In the UK, the total number of blacklisted colleges by the UKBA stands at 142 and February 2010 saw the extreme step of outright suspending all applications from North Indian, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Much of the UKBA’s action to suspend and blacklist colleges in the UK surrounds the move from the old paper based system, to the more robust electronic Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies system, administered through the Sponsorship Management System. As part of a tightening up of the rules and migrating sponsors onto the new system, the UKBA has undertaken this systematic process of inspection and evaluation.

Many commentators have noted that it is likely the impending visa changes and tightening up of the rules on 3 March 2010 which has caused such a spike in visa applications.

An administrator from a college blacklisted by the UKBA has great concerns over the recent changes:

“There’s no doubt there were some dodgy colleges out there, but clearing them out would be easy with a ‘mystery shopper’ type inspection.

“Instead they are trying to turn colleges into arms of the state and rewarding the truly dodgy colleges, which will simply walk away with students’ money.”

A recent UKBA report on blacklisted colleges, following a meeting of key stakeholders, stated:

“A number of state schools currently remain suspended from the register whilst we clear up their licence issues. Not including state schools, this leaves 90 colleges that are currently suspended.”

All of these UKBA blacklisted colleges in the UK will need to be inspected and reviewed. This clearly creates an issue of length of process and potentially no income for colleges during their suspension.

Many unfortunate blacklisted colleges in the UK feel that they are being punished. Some have even claimed that they are getting into trouble for being open and sharing information with the UKBA: for example, reporting that a sponsor has disappeared. Some education providers have even claimed that the UKBA’s actions are too tough, as no student would want to work illegally in the UK given the state of the economy. However, I believe the opposite to be more likely, but that’s for another post.

The fact that the UKBA has been so indiscriminate in its approach – suspending large and small colleges alike – has drawn great criticism from within the industry. In fact, many within the industry had been warning the Home Office of the dangers of bogus colleges for years. In July 2009 there was even a Home Affairs Select Committee meeting called to examine the issue.

The problems have also created difficult situations for education agents around the world, having collected money and not being in a position to tell their clients when they will be able to begin their studies. Many students are often tied to the college if they’ve paid as they most likely won’t be eligible for a refund.

Schools Removed From the Tier 4 Register – Will my College be blacklisted or lose its Tier 4 sponsors licence?

In this the last post of our series on schools and colleges removed from the Tier 4 Sponsors Register, we’ll be looking at how the UK Border Agency withdraws a sponsor licence, why they may do so and what will happen to students.

An education provider will have their licence to sponsor student migrants under Tier 4 of the Points Based System immediately withdrawn if any of the following happen:

  • The school or college becomes involvement and ceases to operate
  • If the school or college loses an accreditation it needs to deliver courses
  • If the school or college – or connected person – is issued a civil penalty for employing an illegal worker and they are fined the maximum of £10,000
  • If the school or college fails to improve from a B rating to an A rating and/or fails to follow a Sponsorship Action Plan for 12 months or more
  • If anyone connected with the school or college is convicted of a criminal offence, the sponsor’s licence would normally be withdrawn :
  • Any immigration offence
  • Any people trafficking offence
  • Any offence which might mean the individual is a risk to immigration control

An education provider can also have their licence withdrawn if they are dishonest in any way to the UK Border Agency – I guess this goes without saying! For example:

  • Making false statements when applying for a sponsor licence
  • Making false statements about certificate of sponsorship issued e.g. stating a student has paid more fees than they have, issuing completion certificate despite poor attendance, etc
  • Offences relating to ability to run a business can also result an education provider losing their licence:
  • If any person connected with the sponsor is banned from being a company director
  • If any person connected with the sponsor files for bankruptcy
  • If any person connected with the sponsor is issued with a civil penalty and fails to pay
  • If the education fails to follow any instruction from the UKBA

The above lists of offences that can result in a sponsor having their licence permanently withdrawn are quite varied and widespread. So it does raise the question of what mitigating factors apply when the UK Border Agency makes their decision. We can’t speak for every individual case, but in general terms, if the sponsor’s breach of the rules is down to a rogue employee who was dismissed as soon as management became aware, the education provider is likely to be downgraded to a B rating.

The following list details instances where the UK Border Agency may consider withdrawing a sponsor’s licence, but may apply discretion:

  • If a school or college fails in any way in their role as a sponsor
  • Failure to use correct procedures that allow the sponsor to fulfil their obligations as a sponsor
  • If anyone connected with the sponsor is convicted of a serious offence
  • Migrants who have been sponsored have not complied with the immigration rules they are subject to
  • If anyone connected with the sponsor has been involved with another case of a sponsor licence withdrawal
  • A B rated education provider can also have their licence withdrawn permanently if anyone discloses the password of the Sponsorship Management System to anyone not authorised to use it.

An education provider may also have their licence withdrawn any of the following are true:

  • Students are continued to be sponsored despite twice failing a re-sit and/or repeating a course of study more than twice
  • If a work placement component makes up more than 50% of the total course
  • If students at any time are not taught on the sponsor’s premises
  • If a sponsor offers courses below the required level to students applying for a general student visa

Part 1: The Tier 4 Sponsor System: Sponsor Licences
Part 2: Tier 4 Sponsor Licence Ratings
Part 3: Help, my School or College is suspended from the Tier 4 Register of Sponsors!
Part 4: What happens to my College if its sponsor licence is suspended?
Part 5: My College is Suspended – Will it be blacklisted or lose its Tier 4 sponsors licence?

Register of Tier 4 Sponsors – 23 February 2010

Differences against the Tier 4 Register 22 February 2010

The following schools and colleges were removed from the Register:

  • Access College London
  • North London College of Business Studies
  • UKhelp4u Academy of English Language Limited

The following schools and colleges were added to the Register:

  • Regent Cambridge

Download the Register of Sponsors Tier4: 23 Feb 2010

UK Ban on Visas for Indian Students Lifted

The UK has lifted a ban on student visas for applicants from Northern India. The ban was introduced last month after a surge in applications from this region.

Pat McFadden, Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, said, “I am delighted to be able to announce today that from 1 March this suspension will be lifted for all students wanting to study higher education courses, whether foundation degrees, undergraduate or postgraduate.”

The suspension will remain in place for students wanting to study at lower levels, including short-term language courses.

Since the end of January 2010, all Indian Tier 4 (General) Student visa applications were suspended.

Register of Tier 4 Sponsors – 22 February 2010

Differences against the Tier 4 Register 19 February 2010

The following schools and colleges were removed from the Register:

  • None

The following schools and colleges were added to the Register:

  • Bablake School
  • King Street College

Download the Register of Sponsors Tier4: 22 Feb 2010