In this article we look at the recent developments affecting schools sponsoring international students, and discuss some of the anticipated changes that may come into force after Brexit.
Errors on student Biometric Residence Permits
There has been an increase in the number of academic institutions reporting incorrectly printed Biometric Residence permits issued to their students by UK Visas & Immigration at the start of the academic year.
It can take up to four weeks to request a corrected BRP, with the onus on the sponsor to notify the Home Office if the conditions issued on the BRP are incorrect, for example the duration of leave granted, or if permission to work has mistakenly been granted.
Education providers are advised to report errors as soon as they become aware of them using the Sponsor Management System under the ‘Change in student circumstances’ section.
Amendment to Tier 2 Resident Labour Market Test– Addition of ‘Teaching Vacancies’
There have been changes to the Immigration Rules affecting the acceptable methods of advertising vacancies for Tier 2 teaching positions.
When sponsoring teaching staff on a Tier 2 visa, a school must advertise the position in so that it will satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test. Sponsors must normally advertise on two approved recruitment websites for a continuous 28 day period.
Schools in England are now able to use The Department of Education ‘Teaching Vacancies’ service on GOV.UK to advertise teaching positions to the resident labour market as one of the permitted methods of advisement.
Short Term Students and the use of eGates
Since May it has been permissible for some students to enter the UK using passport eGates, which eliminate the need for queuing to have their passports inspected by an Immigration Officer.
In addition to British citizens, the eGates are open to citizens of any EU country, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the USA. As non-EU nationals require Immigration permission to be in the UK, they are automatically granted leave to enter as a Visitor under Appendix V of the Immigration Rules when going through an eGate, unless they have some other form of leave to enter such as a Tier 4 visa valid at the time of entry.
This can cause an issue in the case of non-visa nationals coming for short term study courses of up to 6 or 11 months, if they are not aware that they are required to enter specifically under the Short Term Study route, and not as a Visitor. A Non-Visa national (NVN) is any non-EEA national who does not need prior permission to enter as a visitor as per Appendix 2 of Appendix V to the Immigration Rules.
Visitors are only permitted to study courses for up to 30 days, and study cannot be the main purpose of the stay in the UK. Students entering under the Short Term Study route are permitted to study longer courses up to 6 months or 11 months. If the student enters as a visitor and studies for longer than 30 days, they would be in breach of the conditions of their stay in the UK, and the educational institution at risk of enforcement action where they are a Tier 4 licence holder.
The Home Office has issued guidance on situations where a student has entered the UK as a visitor, rather than the short term study route:
“If a NVN presents at your institution with a visit stamp from a Border Force officer, or no stamp as they have entered through an e-gate, you can enrol that student and allow them to begin their studies. However, you must advise the student that they will need to leave the UK before they have completed 30 days of study and request an STS stamp from a Border Force officer on their return to the UK. You will be required to obtain a copy of the STS stamp they receive on entry on file to allow them to continue their studies.”
A similar problem can arise where a Tier 4 visa holder enters the UK prior to the validity of their visa, for example to do some tourism before the commencement of their course. They may inadvertently enter as a Visitor and would have to leave the UK and re-enter during the validity of the visa to ensure that they are in the UK on the correct permission.
There is no application route to convert visit leave into short-term study leave, so it is best to advise students to ensure their passports are stamped by a UK Border Force Officer on entry, and to make it clear what the purpose of entry is to attend a short term study course.
Announcement of two year post study work visa
In September the Government announced plans for a new two-year post-study work visa to be introduced after Brexit as a way of facilitating international students into the labour market.
Due to launch for the 2020/21 intake of students, the proposed visa will allow graduates two years to find skilled work. After the two years, they will be able to switch onto the skilled work visa if they find a job which meets the skill requirement of the route.
Similar visa routes have previously been implemented before, most notably the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa, and it is understood that it will enable such students to take employment without needing to be sponsored and without restriction on the type of work they can do.