September/October is a very busy period for Tier 4 sponsors. To compound this, compliance teams at Tier 4 sponsors have an additional complication this year, caused by the introduction of e-gates at the border.
E-gates enable students to fast-track through Immigration, thereby no longer receiving a landing stamp to evidence their arrival. With no stamp in the passport, Tier 4 sponsors must find alternative evidence of the date students arrived in the UK (for example boarding cards), as this is a key aspect of complying with the reporting aspect of their sponsor duties.
To make matters worse, Tier 4 sponsors have noted a significant increase in the number of Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) that have been issued with errors. Some students have been left unable to work, or with onerous restrictions on working, until the error is corrected. As the BRP errors team currently has a four week turn around before students receive their replacement BRP, this could adversely affect those students needing to work to support themselves. Other errors include misspelt names.
It is important to note that the onus is not just on the student to report an error on their BRP. The Tier 4 sponsor guidance also places a duty on the sponsor to notify the Home Office of any errors of which it becomes aware.
The Home Office recently made a change to the Sponsor Management System which seeks to simplify the process for Tier 4 sponsors to notify the Home Office of such errors, with the introduction of a drop down under the “Change in Student Circumstances” section. However, it is important to note that whilst there is an obligation to report errors via the Sponsor Management System this will not generate a request for a replacement BRP. This must be done by the student themselves.
Although the new changes to the Sponsor Management System might claim to relieve some of the procedural issues surrounding the notification, it means there is no longer any excuse for failing to do so and therefore in practice it places a more onerous obligation on the sponsors, with a failure to report each and every error resulting in a failure to comply with their sponsor duties. Given the current issues with regards to the number of errors on BRPs being issued, the risk of failure to comply with this duty is now magnified for sponsors.
This article is from the October 2019 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals.