David Cameron and Theresa May yesterday announced changes tightening up the UK’s immigration system. Of particular interest to Education Institutions is the Prime Minister’s statement that the refusal rate for HTS purposes will be cut from 20% to 10% from November 2014 following a 3 month transition period during which Colleges and Universities should re-examine their admissions procedures before offering individuals places.

Refusal rates

The current Tier 4 of the Points Based System Guidance for Sponsors states that in order for an institution to be considered as a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS), the institution’s refusal rate must be 20% or less. This means that of all the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) assigned and used by students to support an application for a visa, the total number of applications UKVI refuse must be less than 20%.

The Immigration Minister suggested in March 2014 that the threshold would be reduced in the near future. In light of the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday it has now been confirmed that from November 2014, the rate will be cut to 10%. The Prime Minister has explained that the reason for this change is to ensure that institutions perform proper recruitment checks on their students, and if 10% of those whom they recruit are refused visas, the institution will fail to renew their HTS.

This is of course likely to be of major concern to Tier 4 sponsors as loss of HTS status is likely to result in revocation of the sponsor licence. Consequently, all sponsored students would be required to cease their studies and return to their home countries.  Indeed, some education institutions have already raised concerns about the impact that this change will have on smaller institutions and could put some at risk of closure.

Therefore, we urge all institutions to urgently review their compliance systems and their approach to offering CAS’s to students as a matter of urgency. In particular, institutions should ensure that very clear information is provided to students to assist them in their visa application process and that CAS’s are only issued to those students who have been properly and carefully selected and appropriately vetted.