Our Tier 4 team has recently been dealing with a number of queries from sponsors where students' visas have been delayed. The process of recruiting students moves quickly. In the rush, education providers sometimes forget to address one or more key points which, if not addressed, can result in significant delays to the UK visa application process. To help education providers avoid these pitfalls, we have highlighted some areas which institutions need to remember. These include:

  • TB testing
  • Criminal convictions
  • Police registration
  • ATAS certificates
  • English language testing and ETS

TB testing

In general, applicants who are applying to enter the UK for more than six months from certain countries, are required to undergo screening at an approved clinic in order to confirm that they do not have active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB).

Education institutions should note that there are limited clinics which can issue TB certificates and that often appointments must be booked well in advance. Therefore, if a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) is being assigned close to the course start date, the institution should check UKVI's list early in order to see whether or not the potential student will need to undergo TB testing and whether the test can be done in time.

Criminal convictions

UKVI requires applicants to disclose all criminal convictions, including traffic offences such as speeding, regardless of when or where they occurred.

In line with this, UKVI has a wide range of powers as to whether it must or should refuse an application based on one or more criminal convictions. UKVI also takes into consideration the nature of the offence(s), the number of offences, and the individual's character, conduct, and associations.

Sponsors should, as part of their application process, request details of any previous criminal convictions. Any issues should be highlighted and discussed with the individual student prior to a CAS being assigned.

Police registration

For certain nationals, registration with the police in the UK is mandatory, and an individual's entry clearance endorsement or (biometric) residence permit should confirm this.

First, migrants required to register with the police must initially do so within seven days of arriving in the UK. Then, once a migrant has obtained a police registration certificate (PRC), the migrant must make sure that he or she retains and keeps the PRC up to date.

To keep a PRC updated, a student should report the following changes to:

  • the student's local police station:
    • any change of residential address within seven days of the change; and
    • any change of education provider within eight days of the change; and
  • the Overseas Visitors Registration Office (OVRO) in London or a Specified Registration Office (SRO) outside London:
    • visa/biometric residence permit within seven days of the change; and
    • name, nationality, passport, or marital status within eight daysof the change.

Education providers should make sure that migrant students’ PRCs are up-to-date as a failure to do so may affect application processing times and outcomes. For more information on police registration, please click here.

ATAS certificates

Certain students, depending on what they are studying, are required to obtain an ATAS certificate before they apply for their visas. Recently, there have been delays in the processing of ATAS certificates due to technical issues; in addition, there is no fast-track process. Therefore, the processing times for ATAS certificates need to be considered when assigning a CAS to a student who requires an ATAS certificate. Further information on how to apply for an ATAS certificate and an update on the recent processing issues can be found here.

English language testing and ETS

Following recent events concerning Educational Testing Service (ETS) and international students who have taken TOEIC English language tests, sponsors must make sure that they ask all prospective students whether or not they have previously taken a TOEIC test. This is important, regardless of whether or not the institution relied on TOEIC results. Where a student has previously taken a TOEIC test, this is likely to cause delays in the processing of the application or could result in the application being refused if UKVI has information which confirms that the TOEIC test was taken fraudulently.

Planning ahead

Planning ahead is essential to making sure that a UK visa application goes ahead smoothly and that students are able to arrive in the UK in time for their course start dates. By remembering to address promptly TB testing, potential criminal convictions, police registration, ATAS certificates, and TOEIC tests, this can potentially avoid unnecessary delays and the need to report students enrolling late.