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New immigration rules for non-EU students

The Government has recently announced the “delivery plan” for Tier 4 (student tier) of the new points-based immigration system, which is due to open to migrant applications in March 2009.

Tier 4 of the points-based system is designed to clamp down on bogus students and bogus educational institutions. It seeks to ensure that only those students who genuinely wish to take up study in the UK can enter the UK and only those educational institutions that are genuine and bona fide providers can continue to recruit non-EU students.

How will the new Tier 4 be implemented?

Phase one: Sponsor registration

The register of sponsors has been open to colleges and universities since 28 July 2008. All educational institutions that wish to sponsor non-EU students should apply to the UK Border Agency for a sponsor licence as soon as possible, and no later than 2 February 2009 to ensure that their licence applications are processed in time for phase two of the Tier 4 implementation in March 2009.

Educational institutions that will not be recruiting new non-EU students after March 2009 but that have non-EU students currently enrolled on courses will still need to ensure they are licensed by the UK Border Agency. Any student visa applications or applications for an extension of leave to remain in the UK made after the end of March 2009 will be refused if the educational institution is not licensed.

Phase two: Policy implementation

From the end of March 2009, non-EU students applying to come to the UK will be assessed under the new points-based system. Students must provide evidence of sufficient funds to pass a maintenance test, as well as any qualification certificates or other documents used to obtain an offer from the educational institution.

Educational institutions that sponsor non-EU students will be required to comply with record-keeping duties, such as keeping copies of passports and up-to-date student contact details. Educational institutions will also be required to ensure that students comply with the terms of their visa.

Separately, all potential non-EU students should be provided with a confirmation of acceptance for study letter. As a minimum, the UK Border Agency recommends that these letters include:

• the potential student’s name, nationality and address in country of present residence

• the sponsor’s licence number

• course title

• course start date

• expected course end date

• the list of documents used by the sponsor to assess academic ability to complete the course

• the potential student’s passport number.

Phase three: Trial and implementation of the sponsorship management system

In autumn 2009, the UK Border Agency will trial the IT system designed to support the new sponsorship system. The system will enable educational institutions to issue confirmations of acceptance for studies to potential students, who must provide this when applying for a visa to enter the UK. The IT system will generate a unique confirmation of acceptance for study number for each potential student, which should be given to non-EU students instead of a confirmation of acceptance for study letter and be treated as a secure and confidential document.

It will also become mandatory for educational institutions to report to the UK Border Agency a student’s failure to enrol on a course, non-attendance or the discontinuation of a course.

Phase four: Full sponsorship management system

From February 2010, all potential non-EU students in and out of the UK will require a sponsor-issued confirmation of acceptance for study to apply to the UK Border Agency.

What should you do next?

All educational institutions that wish to recruit students from outside the EU, or currently have non-EU students enrolled on courses, should apply now to the UK Border Agency to obtain a sponsor licence.

Diane Gilhooley is HR expert in the education team at Eversheds.

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