George Shirley, Deputy Director of PBS Sponsorship at the UKBA, confirmed at the annual UKCISA conference that a pilot ‘premium sponsorship’ scheme for Tier 4 sponsors is being introduced from July 2012 and will run until March 2013. Mr Shirley confirmed that the scheme is designed to provide enhanced relationship management.

Penningtons understands that the UKBA is currently writing to a number of Tier 4 sponsors, predominantly HEIs, inviting them to take part in the pilot.

Speaking at the UKCISA conference, Mr Shirley stated that the aim of the pilot is to determine if a premium service:

  • can be delivered effectively by the UKBA; and
  • is in demand by Tier 4 sponsors.

He said that there will be no charge for those testing the scheme during the pilot phase. However from March 2013 it is likely that there will be a fee for this service although that is something UKBA is still to consider. Charges will depend partly on how many Tier 4 sponsors wish to participate in the scheme.

Mr Shirley said that premium sponsorship will include access to:

  • a senior account manager;
  • a licence manager; and
  • 2-3 administrative assistants.

The senior account manager, along with the relevant licence manager, will establish and maintain the relationship with institutions they oversee through one or two visits each year. These will be meetings to discuss operational and policy issues and will not be inspections/audits. All senior account managers will have a direct link in to policy development.

The licence manager and his team of administrative assistants will be dedicated to a few Tier 4 sponsors and will have more regular contact with each of them (daily if necessary). Mr Shirley said that this team will liaise with sponsors on any issues including HTS statistics, CAS allocations, curtailments/confirmation of valid leave and will liaise with ECOs where necessary.

He said that premium sponsors will receive a monthly update on their HTS statistics and this may be in the form of actual statistics or more detailed information about individual CAS, ie who has been refused, etc. The exact detail of these monthly reports will be agreed between licence manager and sponsor.

Mr Shirley said that for those who accept an invite on to the scheme, the first monthly update will be available in August 2012.

He also said that compliance teams will still be based locally and there will be a close relationship between the licence managers and the compliance teams. The licence manager will be made aware of any upcoming inspections by the local compliance officers, and any issues highlighted as a result of an inspection. The licence manager will then be able to discuss these in detail with the sponsor.