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Tier 4 Sponsorship Revised in Second New Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules

10th May 2011
By Gherson in Immigration Law
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Just two weeks after the "overhaul" of the structure of the Immigration Rules covering Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the Points Based System contained in Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules HC 863, a further Statement of Changes: HC 908, which makes significant changes to the Tier 4 regime governing students' entry to the United Kingdom was laid before Parliament on 31 March 2011.

The changes are the first stage in the implementation of the announcement made by the Home Secretary Theresa May on 23 March 2011, following the consultation on reform of the Tier 4 student immigration system which ran from 7 December 2010 to 31 January 2011.

In accordance with the tenor of the government's announcement the main targets for these changes are students studying courses at below degree level whose Tier 4 Sponsors are not subject to inspection by public bodies, such as Ofsted. In other words students sponsored by colleges which operate within the private further and higher education sectors and the English language sector.

The Home Secretary announced on 23 March 2011 that all such private colleges must acquire "Highly Trusted Sponsor" status by April of 2012.

A prerequisite for such status will be accreditation by one of the public bodies listed in the new Tier 4 of the Points Based System Sponsor Guidance. Depending upon where in the UK the college is located, these bodies are:

* Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) for Higher Education;
* Ofsted;
* The Bridge Schools Inspectorate;
* Schools Inspection Service;
* Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education;
* Estyn;
* Education and Training Inspectorate;
* Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).

The new Guidance makes it plain that the previous system of accreditation by the following bodies will come to an end.

* Accreditation UK
* The Accreditation Service for British Language Schools (ABLS)
* The Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC)
* The British Accreditation Council (BAC)

* The Church of England Inspectorate Ministry Division.

By the new Statement of Changes, from April 21 2011 until 5 April 2012 any private colleges which are not yet Highly Trusted Sponsors will be subject to an interim limit on the number of Certificates of Acceptance for Studies which they may issue to migrants who wish to come to the UK to study with them.

During this period such colleges will be able to issue no more than the same number of Certificates of Acceptance for Studies which they issued and which resulted in the grant of entry clearance to a Tier 4 General Student between 1 March 2010 and 28 February 2011.

This limit will not apply to students sponsored by Tier 4 Sponsors who acquire their Highly Trusted status on or after 21 April 2011, by independent schools or by any Tier 4 Sponsor which is already subject to inspection by one of the public bodies listed above.

Changes to Appendix A of the Immigration Rules will from 21 April 2011 require that anyone studying at degree level or above will have to have a command of the English language at least to level B2 of the Common European Framework. For students studying at below degree level a command of the English language at level B1 will be required.

The language requirements are reinforced by a new criterion contained in Immigration Rule 245ZV whereby somebody who has been assigned a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies stands to have his or her application for entry clearance refused if he or she fails to demonstrate the same degree of command of English indicated in that Certificate at an interview in connection with the application.

The Statement of Changes also contains transitional provisions relating to those who are already in the UK as Tier 4 (General) Students, and alterations to the Immigration Rules' General Grounds for Refusal to accommodate the modifications to the regime.

This is only the beginning of the promised overhaul. As indicated in the previous article - "Student migration overhaul: post study work will go but not until 2012" regarding the government's intended changes to the student immigration regime anyone who may be affected by these provisions is strongly encouraged to seek professional legal advice.

For professional legal advice on immigration or work permit in the UK, contact the Gherson team.
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