Guest Blog - Immigration compliance for independent schools: Lessons to Learn from Universities?
Apr 17, 2015
Around 15,000 school students now hold a Tier 4 (Child) student visa, a significant percentage of all those in independent education.
Immigration compliance for schools is often perceived as low risk, but it remains important for schools to meet the sponsor duties imposed by the immigration authorities. The consequences of losing permission to sponsor pupils from overseas can be considerable.
The Minister for Immigration announced last year that three universities were to be suspended from sponsoring students. Fifty seven private further education institutions, including the London School of Business and Finance, had their licences suspended. The universities were found not to be complying with their duties as sponsors, in part because some of the students appeared not to be attending. There are some key points for schools to note from this experience:
- Some students had used a provider of English language tests, fully approved by the Home Office at the time, although subsequently found to be providing fraudulent results. Problems clearly arose with subsequent monitoring of those students;
- Issues appeared to result from universities who had established London campuses primarily to serve their international students. If you have such pupils away from the main school site, it is important the Authorising Officer is fully aware of their progress, attendance and activity;
- A feature of the suspensions of licences appears to have been that the universities could not convince the authorities that they would take the necessary steps to ensure compliance in future.
Independent schools should continue to be regarded as “low risk”, but I would suggest key immigration compliance actions now include:
- Review of arrangements for overseas pupils to ensure that the reporting duties are being met in full on each site which students attend;
- An audit of currently sponsored international pupils to confirm that the appropriate progress, is being made;
- In view of last year’s change that no more than 10% of potential students should be the subject of visa refusal, consideration of the arrangements currently in pace for this to ensure any risk of this is minimised.
We would suggest this would be an excellent time to conduct internal audits of immigration compliance and for all Tier 4 sponsors to ensure their institution is ready for such an inspection
Simon Kenny is a Senior Solicitor at Moore Blatch and specialises in immigration advice to schools, universities and companies.
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