Over the last fortnight, we have considered some of the duties of a Tier 4 sponsor under the UKBA’s current framework, which has hopefully given a flavour of the wide ranging criteria which must be met by sponsors in assisting the UKBA in its objective of preventing abuse of the immigration system.  

The UKBA may take significant action if it considers that sponsors have not been complying with their duties, have been dishonest in their dealings with the UKBA or are a threat to immigration control in some other way.  As we noted in our previous posting on collaborative structures, sponsors with branches or partner institutions may also be affected by the UKBA taking action in relation to the branch/partner institution’s licence.

That action may take the form of revoking or suspending a licence, or reducing the number of CASs a sponsor can assign (thereby restricting the number of international students it can recruit).

The consequences of suspension are as follows:

  • No CASs can be assigned during the period of the suspension.
  • Existing students will not be affected in UKBA terms unless they need to apply for an extension of stay and the sponsor had not issued a CAS by the time the suspension was put into place.
  • If a student has already been granted a visa but not travelled to the UK, they will be permitted to start studying, should the student still wish to do so in the circumstances of their sponsor’s licence being suspended.
  • Sponsors must continue with sponsorship duties throughout the period of suspension (and practically, deal urgently and effectively with the points triggering the suspension).

The consequences of revocation are as follows:

  • Students’ permission to stay in the UK will be reduced to 60 days to find a new sponsor from the date of the Home Office’s letter informing them their leave has been curtailed.
  • Any CASs issued will be invalid.
  • If a student has already been granted a visa but not travelled to the UK, the visa will be cancelled and leave to enter the UK refused.
  • The sponsor must wait a minimum of six months to apply to rejoin the sponsor register.

The commercial and reputational value of Highly Trusted Sponsor status is significant and there is now an established body of caselaw concerning institutional challenges against the UKBA’s decisions to suspend and revoke licences.  The decision of the High Court in the recent preliminary hearing of London Metropolitan University’s challenge against the UKBA’s revocation of its licence meant that certain of the consequences identified above have been held in abeyance for its students pending the substantive decision on whether the decision was, in public law terms, reasonable and fair. 

Today marks the end of our fortnight long special focus on student immigration, but we will continue to post as and when there are further developments in that important case, or wider developments in this dynamic and fluid area.