Following our news item on the reduction of the HTS refusal rate to 10%, the UKVI has now published the HTS assessment criteria in the new Tier 4 sponsor guidance. Below is a summary of the key points which will apply to Tier 4 sponsors making an HTS application from 1 November 2014.

HTS CALCULATION

The mandatory criteria has been amended as follows:

  • The refusal rate will be reduced to 10%. To calculate the refusal rate, UKVI will only consider the CAS data from 1 August 2014 which means that some sponsors will be relying on a data set covering less than 12 months. This is a transitional measure covering the period from 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
  • The enrolment rate remains unchanged at 90%. To calculate the enrolment rate, UKVI will consider the CAS data set covering the 12 months immediately preceding the application date.
  • The course completion rate remains unchanged at 85%. To calculate the course completion rate, UKVI will consider the CAS data set for those students due to complete in the last 12 months immediately preceding the application date. However, the UKVI has made the following clarifications:
    • Students who have deferred their studies and have temporarily left the UK can be excluded from the course completion rate
    • Students who have switched immigration category or sponsors or who have left the UK from the course completion rate will need to haveactually been granted leave or left the UK to be excluded from the course completion rate.

Please note that the core measurable scoring criteria have been removed. This means that sponsors applying on or after 1 November 2014 will only need to meet the mandatory requirements set out above. Consequently, the 'near miss' provisions have also been removed as there is no scoring system. Sponsors that fail to meet any of the mandatory requirements will be suspended and subsequently revoked unless discretion can be applied as set out below.

DISCRETION

The UKVI has now added a paragraph on when they may apply their discretion when assessing an HTS application. Prior to this the UKVI applied a 'holistic approach' which was not defined or specified in the guidance to sponsors who were deemed to be 'small users'. The new criteria applies to those who have not issued any CAS or those who have issued less than 50 CAS in the last 12 months. The discretionary assessments will be conducted on a case by case basis, taking into account the Sponsor’s circumstances. The factors the UKVI stated they will consider may include but are not limited to:

  • Reasons for visa refusals
  • Reasons for students failing to enrol/complete their course
  • Sponsor’s compliance with their general sponsor duties
  • Sponsor’s suitability and eligibility to hold a sponsor licence eg educational oversight
  • Sponsor’s previous history with UKVI eg if previously investigated by UKVI
  • Sponsor’s potential threat to immigration control eg if systems are perceived to be weak.

Given the tightening of the HTS criteria, it is more important than ever that sponsors ensure that their recruitment practices and systems are robust and assist them to maintain their HTS status.