It was reported in the news over the weekend, that an international student may be left with no choice but to return to Jamaica with no qualifications or money after her colleges Tier 4 Sponsorship licence was revoked. The student was expected to receive a Edexcel Level 5 qualification and paid the full tuition fee of more than £6000. Education providers wishing to enrol overseas students from outside the EEA are required to ‘sponsor’ them under Tier 4 of the Points Based System. Education providers will need to obtain sponsor licences from the Home Office.
UKCISA: our priority is to ensure little impact as possible on innocent students
Natalee Campbell, is a 20 year old Jamaican national who moved to the UK in October 2013 to do a 1 year course in health and social care management at at private institution Williams College UK. At the end of her second semester, she learned that her colleges Tier 4 sponsorship licence had been revoked by the Home Office. Her college which is based in Stratford, East London is no longer on the official register of organisations approved to sponsor students.
Campbell said that her along with other students were reassured by the college at first, but when she turned up to school on 22 June 2014, she was told that she could no longer continue with her course. However, she was told that the college had an agreement to transfer students to the English Language Adventure School (ELAS). Though, this would mean that Campbell would be forced to study a course at a lower level and would still be expected to pay a fee of £850. There was no mention of her getting a refund of the more than £6000 she paid upfront.
“They told me my only options were to either take this offer or receive a letter giving me 60 days to go back home or apply to another college – meaning I would have to pay the full tuition again.”
The international students were faced with a further blow when the proposed merger between ELAS and Williams College UK fell through. Campbell is now faced with the grim reality that she has to go home back to Jamaica with no qualifications and no money. This has angered a lot of people who have accused the Home Office of not protecting the rights of genuine students.
Back in June 2014 Immigration and Security Minister, James Brokenshire addressed the issue:
“We are setting up a working group with Universities UK, the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the National Union of Students to enable the sector to support those genuine students who may eventually need to find a sponsor.”
“[Our] priority is to ensure as little impact as possible on innocent students [and institutions]. We have highlighted our particular concerns that, with no fee protection scheme, students at private colleges that are entirely dependent on international students could be at most risk.”
Tier 4 Sponsor’s Responsibilities & Affect on Tier 4 Students
A Tier 4 sponsor licence should be obtained by educational institutions if they want to enrol students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). A sponsor licence is valid for four years unless revoked by the Home Office or the institution surrenders it before it expires. The four years runs from the date the licence is granted. To continue sponsoring students, the licence must be renewed after four years. If the licence is not renewed it will expire. If the license expires the educational institution will no longer be listed on the register of sponsors nor will it be allowed to continue sponsoring existing students or recruit new students.
All education providers should take their obligations on immigration compliance seriously. If the institutions Tier 4 Sponsorship licence is withdrawn all CASes or visa letters issued by it will become invalid and all outstanding visa applications will be refused. If students have already been issued visas but not yet traveled to the UK, they will not be allowed to enter the UK to start the courses. International students who are in the UK at the time their institutions licence is revoked they will have a limited period of time to apply to study at another educational institution or leave the UK.
Legal Advice for Tier 4 Education Providers & Tier 4 Students
It is imperative that Tier 4 Sponsors comply with their sponsor duties as failure to do so will lead to the Home Office revoking your sponsorship licence, suspend your licence pending further investigation or reduce the number of CAS you are allowed to assign.
If the Home Office has issued you with any of the above penalties, contact us so that we can review your case and provide you with expert legal advice on how to proceed.