Genuineness test

In July 2012, the Home Office introduced the 'genuineness test' for Tier 4 (general) students. Students applying to enter the UK under Tier 4 could be interviewed, and, if the entry clearance officer determines that they are not genuine, their applications could be refused under paragraph 245ZV(k) of the Immigration Rules. As a transitional measure, the Home Office did not include students refused entry on grounds of genuineness when calculating sponsors' Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) refusal rates.

The new October guidance ends this transitional arrangement. Any refusals from 1 November 2013 on grounds of genuineness (now including those refused under paragraph 245ZX(o) of the Immigration Rules) would be included in calculating a sponsor's HTS refusal rate.

Sponsor duties

The new October guidance makes it an explicit requirement for sponsors to carry out checks on whether the individual whom they wish to sponsor has valid permission to be in the UK.

Sites and branches

The new guidance confirms that, for Tier 4 purposes, a ‘site’, which is not a legal entity, is not a branch. For example, a university, which has campuses in a number of different places, has a number of sites; but these sites will not be considered branches unless they are separate legal entities. Likewise, a language school, which has two buildings under its control in different places, has two sites; but it does not necessarily have two branches. Any changes in operated sites must be notified to the Home Office and will automatically be included under the sponsor’s licence. A sponsor may apply for separate licences for each site, but it is not necessary to do so.

Being related to another entity via a joint venture agreement will no longer be accepted as a demonstration of common ownership or control when adding a branch to a sponsor licence under Tier 4.

HTS status

Where a sponsor has not assigned any Certificates of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) within the 12 months preceding the application date, but it continues to meet the other core measurable requirements, it will automatically retain its HTS status.

Penningtons has been instrumental in bringing about this change so that it reflects the business needs of our key clients.

Issuing a Single CAS for Pre-sessional and Main Degree Course

The new guidance confirms that, where a Higher Education Institution (HEI) is assigning a single CAS to a student to cover a pre-sessional English language course and the main course of study, the following conditions will need to be met:

  • the student will need to have demonstrated his or her ability to speak English at level B1 by providing a SELT; and
  • the sponsor needs to be satisfied that, upon completion of the pre-sessional English language course, the student will have reached level B2 and will proceed to the main degree course.

If the second condition is not met, then the CAS must be withdrawn.

HTS - Non-transferable

The new guidance now states that, where an education provider undergoes a change of ownership, the new owner will need to apply for a new sponsor licence, unless they already have one. Otherwise, the sponsor licence will be revoked.

This requirement is bound to cause controversy as it will impact the value of a business, which is being sold, but is unable to retain its HTS status. It also means that an education provider would need to resubmit an application for a sponsor licence with the same details already provided to the Home Office. It would then have to wait 12 months following grant of that licence before being able to apply for HTS.