Monthly Archives: July 2010

Register of Tier 4 Sponsors – 23 July 2010

Differences against the Tier 4 Register 20 July 2010

From now on, Highly Trusted Sponsors will be dealt with on the Highly Trusted Sponsors List, whilst Tier 4 Sponsors Register posts will cover A-rated, B-rated and Trusted Sponsors.

The following schools and colleges were removed from the Register:

  • None

The following schools and colleges were added to the Register:

  • Metropolitan College of London

Download the Register of Sponsors Tier4: 23 July 2010

Damian Green’s Statement of Changes to the Immigration Points Based System

The Minister of State for Immigration (Damian Green): The Immigration Rules specify that the detail of how certain requirements will be applied will be set out in UK Border Agency guidance rather than in the Immigration Rules themselves. This is essential best practice as it enables the UK Border Agency to have the flexibility it needs to make minor changes whilst staying within the framework set out in the Immigration Rules.

However, on two particular points successful legal challenges have been brought to the extent to which requirements must be set out in the Immigration Rules rather than UK Border Agency guidance. The first is the minimum levels of courses that may be studied under Tier 4 (General). The second is the periods of time that applicants must have held available funds for.

In light of the court judgements I am bringing the detail of these requirements within the Immigration Rules. The requirements themselves are not changing, although in the case of English language courses, I am using this as an opportunity to re-introduce the minimum level for such courses which was in place before the judgement was handed down. By doing this, if the requirements do change in future, those changes will need to be laid before Parliament.

I am also making a further change to the Tier 4 (General) category today to make it a requirement for some students studying below degree level to provide evidence of having passed a UK Border Agency –approved secure English language test at a minimum of B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. This change builds on the previous position where the sponsors of such students were required to make their own assessment of the English language level of the student. The use of an independent test is an advance on this as it should help ensure that sponsors are not duped by students offering false or fake documents to prove their English language ability.

It is right that under the points based system, all students now need to apply to the UK Border Agency to vary their leave before being able to change institutions. This is essential so that the UK Border Agency can maintain accurate records of where migrants are studying and check that the institutions to which they wish to move are bona fide and are willing to take on the sponsorship of their new students under Tier 4. Consequently, Tier 4 students are unable to start studying at their new sponsor institution until they have received a positive decision on their
application.

The principle of sponsorship – whereby those who benefit most directly from the contributions migrants make to the United Kingdom (employers and education institutions) are expected to play their part in ensuring the UK’s migration system is not abused – is an integral part of the Points Based System. The new Highly Trusted sponsor licence introduced for Tier 4 sponsors on 6 April 2010 provides a further segmentation of the existing sponsor rating system designed to identify those sponsors who are achieving the highest levels of compliance with their sponsor obligations and whose students are showing the greatest compliance with the terms of their visa or leave. Those holding a Highly Trusted sponsor licence are granted additional freedoms and offered new services to recognise their previous track record of good compliance.

In recognition of the high levels of student compliance among Highly Trusted sponsors; I have agreed an additional freedom for their students which is being introduced by the change to the Immigration Rules for Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) students today. The change will allow the students of Highly Trusted sponsors to commence their studies with them before receipt of UKBA’s decision on their application.

In addition, for the avoidance of doubt, I am also making changes today to our general grounds for refusing applicants, (for example on the basis of submitting false documents), to make it absolutely clear that these provisions also apply to applicants who have overstayed their previous permission to be here.

Because of the urgent nature of some of these changes, it has not been possible in respect of some of them to follow the usual convention of laying them before the House for 21 days before they come into force. I regret that this has not been possible in this instance. The changes permitting students to change sponsors where their new sponsor is a Highly Trusted Sponsor and those made following successful legal challenges will come into force tomorrow, on 23 July

Border Agency again raises Minimum English level in spite of High Court Ruling

English UK are understandably “very disappointed” at the UK Border Agencies decision to raise the minimum English level back to B1 for all Tier 4 (General) student visa applicants.

Announced 22 July 2010 and effective from 23 July, all students studying a course below degree level – including English language courses – will have to demonstrate that they are proficient in English near A Level standard or B1 on the CEFR framework. English UK Chief Executive Tony Millns stands by his description of the situation as, “clearly absurd.”

Originally introduced by the previous Labour Government on 3 March 2010, this was overturned by Mr Justice Foskett, a UK High Court Judge, who ordered the UK Border Agency to return the minimum level to A1, allowing English language learners of a basic level to study in the UK.

“We’re very disappointed that the Border Agency has made this change without us having had the chance to meet the new Immigration Minister, Damian Green, and make our case with him,” said Mr Millns.

“A group of MPs who represent constituencies with high concentrations of language schools and myself are due to meet Mr Green on Monday. They are very concerned about the effect of this ruling on the local economy of their constituencies. When Mr Green was in opposition, he too was very supportive of our position and the detrimental effect this rule has on genuine students.”

High Profile Clampdown on Sham Weddings and Bogus Colleges, plus Radical Changes to the UKBA

Damien Green, the UK Immigration minister has drawn the battle lines against those who think the UK is soft touch. He said the Government was determined to send a clear message to those with no right to come to the UK.

The immigration minister is facing heavy criticism over his policy to return Iraqi nationals on charter flights and for paying asylum seekers in Calais waiting to enter the UK illegally £4,000 not to do so.

At the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Mr Green said, “Britain has been seen as something of a soft touch. One of the drivers of the new Government’s immigration policy is to send a message around the world that Britain is no longer a soft touch.”

He added: “We are going to do a lot of enforcement over the next few months on sham marriages, bogus colleges, illegal work. I think it’s very important that we not only clamp down on all that but clamp down very publicly. It’s all part of sending a message.”

The Immigration minister was also adamant about forging ahead with his controversial policies on Iraqi detainees. He told MPs, “I am absolutely unrepentant about returning people who have no right to be in this country to Iraq.”

He also confirmed that he would continue the Labour government’s policy of offering cash to immigrants wanting to smuggle themselves into the UK through Calais.

“It looks unpalatable but it is the least worst option,” he said. “That’s much better for the taxpayer.”

Of the UK Border Agency, Mr Green promised radical reform: “My feeling is that it’s better than it was but there’s an awful long way to go. We are looking at potentially radical changes to make it more efficient.”

Immediate Changes to Process of Switching Sponsor Introduced

From 23 July 2010, existing Tier 4 students who want to change to a sponsor with a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) licence will be able to begin their new course of study, at their own risk, while they are waiting for the UK Border Agency to make a decision on their application to change sponsor.

Students applying to change to an A- or B-rated sponsor are not permitted to begin their new course of study until they receive a positive decision from the UKBA on their application to change sponsor. To avoid unnecessary delays in beginning a course, the UKBA have put processes in place to prioritise applications made by students who want to change to A- or B-rated sponsors.

UKBA to Introduce Secure English Language tests in August

Some students applying under the Tier 4 (General) category of the points based system will be required to undergo secure English language testing from 12 August 2010.

Any student who will be studying a course in the UK below level 6 of the National Qualifications Framework will be subject to the test. Students’ sponsors will be required to ensure that applicants are competent in the English language at a minimum level of B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Students can demonstrate this to their sponsors in the following ways:

– Be from a majority English-speaking country; or
– Have completed a course as a child student in the UK lasting at least six months or ending no more than two years before an adult CAS would be assigned;
– Have achieved an English language qualification at CEFR level B1 or above from an approved test provider. Students must achieve a minimum of B1 in all the modules: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Students studying Foundation Degrees or English language courses will not be affected by this change.

Approved English Test Providers and Minimum Scores Required

TOEFL: Minimum B1 required

Listening – 13
Reading – 8
Writing – 17
Speaking – 19

PTE Academic: Minimum B1 required

Listening – 43
Reading – 43
Writing – 43
Speaking – 43

IELTS: Minimum B1 required

Listening – 4.0
Reading – 4.0
Writing – 4.0
Speaking – 4.0

ILEC and ICFE: Minimum B2 required

Listening – Weak
Reading – Weak
Writing – Weak
Speaking – Weak

CPE: Minimum C2 required

Listening – Weak
Reading – Weak
Writing – Weak
Speaking – Weak

CAE: Minimum C1 required

Listening – Weak
Reading – Weak
Writing – Weak
Speaking – Weak

BEC Vantage: Minimum B2 required

Listening – Weak
Reading – Weak
Writing – Weak
Speaking – Weak

BEC Higher: Minimum C1 required

Listening – Weak
Reading – Weak
Writing – Weak
Speaking – Weak

BEC Preliminary: Minimum B1 required

Listening – Weak
Reading – Weak
Writing – Weak
Speaking – Weak

FCE: Minimum B2 required

Listening – Weak
Reading – Weak
Writing – Weak
Speaking – Weak

PET: Minimum B1 required

Listening – Borderline
Reading – Borderline
Writing – Borderline
Speaking – Borderline

Students should note that the TOEIC testing system has been removed from the list of approved tests. From 12 August 2010 you will no longer be able to use a TOEIC test result to get a CAS from your sponsor and apply for a Tier 4 (General) Student visa.

Threat from bogus Students low despite what the Headlines Suggest

Recent research by a well respect company – Ernst & Young – shows that fears of bogus students – often caused by outrageous headlines – are unfounded and the risk of fraudulent international students is in fact low.

In major student destinations across the world, headlines whip up frenzy about the threat we face from bogus and fraudulent international students. The US, UK and Australia are popular study destinations and it is no surprise that the media has caused blind fear amongst their populations, with over 3 million students arriving in these countries each year.

It is a given that all parts of the international student recruitment chain must take steps to protect both national security and the reputation of each country’s education industry. All three countries share similar process for the detection and prevention of visa fraud. The US rejected more than a third of the total 490,000 applications processed and the UK a similar proportion of the 350,000 total applications. Yet Australia is the only country taking transparency of the visa process seriously, publishing detailed analysis of why students are refused visas. Given the similarities of the systems and processes in place, this data has provided good information on the scale and impact of supposed student visa fraud.

Evidence from Australia is clear: student visa fraud is limited and the processes and checks in place are fit for purpose. Of the 280,000 student visas issued for Australia in 2008, less than 0.5% of students had their visas cancelled for meeting their obligations as students, such as failing to attend classes regularly.

The Ernst & Young report, commissioned by DIAC – the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship – looked at 15 areas of risk, from document fraud committed by students, to collusion by sponsors and agents.

The report found only one risk category to be “significant” but was deemed so rare to be of little to no significance; fraudulent military service records.

Every other category of risk was found to be moderate or low risk and the report writers stated that, “…the visa issuing programme is operating in a risk environment with a moderate overall fraud risk profile”.

A report such as this would not be free of recommendations however, yet Ernst & Young could only suggest non-urgent areas on which to focus attention. They concluded that steps should be taken to improve Entry Clearance Officers’ abilities to assess English language qualifications and financial records. The report did highlight the role of education consultancies that are key in placing students on courses. Australia had already taken steps to build a network of trusted agents, who are given priority visa processing access.

DIAC commented on the report: “We are concerned about education agents engaging in fraudulent practices. In 2009 the minister announced enhanced integrity measures, including upgrading the interview programme in case loads that were identified as high risk to build up evidence of fraud and removing access to eVisa to some agents where there is evidence of fraud.”

Australia has a more country-specific approach to scrutinising visa applications, which the UK would do well to implement. Applicants from India, Mauritius, Nepal, Brazil, Zimbabwe and Pakistan face greater scrutiny when applying for an Australian study visa. In China, things are taken a little bit further, where only government registered agencies can place students on courses in Australia. You’d worry this could stifle business, but Chinese students accounted for 18% of Australia’s total international student population in 2008.

Agents place one in five international students on courses in the UK and the government is committed to improving the quality of agents. The British Council has been active in bringing together representatives to better co-ordinate policies in the main countries offering English language courses.

This will not be possible however, without greater transparency from immigration authorities. Whilst DIAC seems to have a relatively open approach, the Ernst & Young warned that data gathering methods relating to visa fraud could be improved.

But by far the most important lesson to learn from the DIAC approach is that fraudsters move with the times and are quick to target new areas of potential weakness once other avenues are closed. In 2008, 53% of visa refusals were for applicants applying to universities. In 2009, this fell to 39% and colleges appeared to be under greater attack, with 50% of applications rejected for fraud.

Ban on Bangladeshi Visa Applications to be Lifted Soon

Alan Duncan, the Conservative Minister of State for International Development has announced that the Bangladeshi visa ban is to be lifted soon, during a visit to the country.

Mr Duncan described the process of solving the problems that led to the UK student visa ban as being soon to be resolved during a meeting with Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Tier 4 (General) Student Visa ban first came into place in January 2010 and has caused much angst amongst Bangladeshi students. Mr Duncan is the first MP from the UK’s Conservative-Liberal coalition government and has stressed his Government’s desire to increase their ties with Bangladesh in a range of areas. Poverty reduction was a key policy for Mr Duncan, as well as development of Bangladesh in general and would be a focus of his government’s term.

Various challenges that Bangladesh now faces were discussed during the meeting: climate change, education, health, poverty reduction, sanitation and corruption. Dr Dipu Moni claims Bangladesh will be the most affected country of climate change and has tried to secure British help.
She apprised the British minister about various steps taken by the Bangladesh government for alleviating poverty and improvement of education and health sectors.

Referring to the government’s efforts to make the Anti- Corruption Commission more affective, she said the present government has been able to control corruption to a great extent.

Bangladesh’s foreign minister congratulated the new UK government on winning the election and expressed hope that ties between Dhaka and London would be strengthened in the coming days, months and years.

Register of Tier 4 Sponsors – 20 July 2010

Differences against the Tier 4 Register 19 July 2010

From now on, Highly Trusted Sponsors will be dealt with on the Highly Trusted Sponsors List, whilst Tier 4 Sponsors Register posts will cover A-rated, B-rated and Trusted Sponsors.

The following schools and colleges were removed from the Register:

  • London South Bank FoundationCampus Limited (name change)

The following schools and colleges were added to the Register:

  • FoundationCampus London (name change)
  • North West College London

Download the Register of Sponsors Tier4: 20 July 2010

Register of Tier 4 Sponsors – 19 July 2010

Differences against the Tier 4 Register 16 July 2010

From now on, Highly Trusted Sponsors will be dealt with on the Highly Trusted Sponsors List, whilst Tier 4 Sponsors Register posts will cover A-rated, B-rated and Trusted Sponsors.

The following schools and colleges were removed from the Register:

  • City Business Academy – was B rated before being removed today

The following schools and colleges were added to the Register:

  • CCP Group
  • Manchester College of Accountancy & Management
  • The Islamic College (Irshad Trust)

Download the Register of Sponsors Tier4: 19 July 2010