The UK Border Agency has published its guidance for Highly Trusted Sponsorship of students who wish to study full-time in the UK under Tier 4 of the points-based system. Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status is designed to ensure that education providers take their immigration compliance obligations seriously, recognising those who have a good history of compliance with their sponsor duties.
The guidance is aimed at education providers who:
- want to apply for a sponsor licence or highly trusted sponsor status under Tier 4;
- already have a sponsor licence under Tier 4; or
- have HTS status
The changes are designed to ensure that Tier 4 sponsor licences are only granted to education providers who can meet the standards the UKBA has set for highly trusted sponsors.
When Sponsors are first granted their licence they are awarded an “A” rating. They then have 12 months during which time they must prove that they are complying with all their sponsor duties. After 12 months they must apply for HTS and meet all the UKBA”s criteria, or their licence will be revoked.
Previously, it was possible for some Tier 4 Sponsors to be “B” rated. However, under the new guidance the UKBA will have two ratings only, which are “A” rating and Highly Trusted.
Mandatory requirements to qualify for HTS include:
- The education provider must have held a Tier 4 sponsor licence for 12 consecutive months. Unless applying to renew HTS status, the licence must have been A-rated for the six months immediately before applying
- A minimum of a 90% enrolment rate
- A refusal rate of under 20%
These changes are being made as part of the UK government’s reforms of the immigration system, to reduce the number of migrants entering and settling in the UK and eradicate non-compliance. However, they will have potentially adverse consequences for education providers, particularly those smaller, private colleges or universities who cannot afford the expense of an HTS application or fail to meet any of the stringent criteria. This, in turn, may negatively impact upon those international students applying for visa extensions if the institution”s licence is compromised.
If you are a Tier 4 Sponsor and would like detailed advice on how these changes may affect you, please contact us.