On 17 July 2013, the Supreme Court, which is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, handed down judgement in the cases of R (on the application of New College London Limited) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent); R (on the application of West London Vocational Training College) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) [2013] UKSC 51R. Click here for the full judgement.

Both colleges were granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on one ground: the lawfulness of the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance. Both colleges had argued that, so far as the Sponsor Guidance contained mandatory requirements for sponsors, it had to be laid before Parliament under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971.

The Supreme Court dismissed both appeals, holding that the sponsor licensing system is lawful. This applies not only to sponsor licences granted under Tier 4, but also to licences granted under Tiers 2 and 5.

Penningtons has always advised sponsors that compliance and adherence to Sponsor Guidance requirements is key. Sponsors must ensure that they have systems in place to comply with their duties. Those who believe that they are complying with their duties, but find themselves subject to Home Office action, should seek legal advice immediately and should consider challenging the Home Office on its own interpretation of its guidance.

The Secretary of State is likely to continue to issue guidance changes 'with bewildering frequency' (as noted in the judgement by Lord Sumption), and Penningtons immigration team will continue to provide advice and training as required.

To read further analysis of the judgement and its effect on all Points-Based System Sponsors, click here.