UKBA is currently reviewing the HTS criteria. We will update sponsors when further announcements are made. Some key points for consideration are highlighted below:
- sponsors that currently hold an HTS licence must renew their licence on an annual basis. We understand that at the last Joint Education Task Force (JET) meeting, UKBA suggested that the HTS licence may be extended to four years in the future.
- under the current system sponsors can apply to renew their HTS status by submitting a new HTS licence application, within one month before the current licence expires. If sponsors do not apply to renew their HTS licence by the expiry date, the licence status will revert back to A (trusted). If the renewal is submitted before the expiry date, HTS status will continue until the new application is decided.
- Penningtons has been informed by UKBA that it refers to information which is held on the SMS when determining an HTS licence application. It is increasingly unlikely that sponsors will be required to submit an HTS spreadsheet by UKBA. As it can take UKBA several weeks to consider an HTS application, we would in any event suggest that sponsors consider submitting a complete HTS spreadsheet with their HTS application in order that they can demonstrate to UKBA that, at the time the application was filed, the data was accurate and correct. Preparing an HTS spreadsheet also enables sponsors to self-assess their eligibility for HTS status.
- when determining whether a sponsor meets the HTS criteria, UKBA will not only consider whether the requirements of HTS are met, but also whether the sponsor is tier 4 compliant. It is therefore important that before sponsors apply for HTS, an overall tier 4 compliance check is carried out. Please contact the immigration team if you would like us to carry out a pre-HTS compliance check or if you have any concerns in relation to your institution's general tier 4 compliance.
- there is currently no published acceptable percentage criteria for visa refusal rates; UKBA has advised Penningtons that it will not refuse HTS applications solely on the basis of high refusal rates. UKBA will, however, refer to a high refusal rate when an HTS application is refused for other reasons. The UKBA's position is that a high visa refusal rate may be indicative of poor recruitment procedures.
- in the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules issued on 22 March 2011, it was announced that independent schools would automatically be granted HTS until April 2012. Those independent schools that already hold HTS licenses will not need to re-apply for HTS. All sponsors that are registered as independent schools are however advised to seek clarification in writing from their HTS account manager confirming that they do not need to re-apply for HTS.
- there is no requirement to meet the new oversight rules before applying for an HTS licence.