The UK Border Agency has released a new application form and guidance document for the Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme. The changes “clarify some of the questions that the sector has raised around required information and reflects changes to the current operation procedures”. The Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme, which was rolled out under Tier 4 in April 2010, is expected to be extended to Tier 2 License holders later this year.
What is the Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme?
The aim of the Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme is to streamline the application process for Sponsors and to allow the UK Border Agency to concentrate limited on site immigration audit bandwidth on high risk and poorly performing sponsors. By identifying up front ‘those sponsors who are achieving the highest levels of compliance with their sponsor obligations and whose students are showing the greatest compliance with the terms of their visa or leave’ the UK Border Agency can dedicate hard pressed resources to more important areas of the Immigration system while ensuring satisfactory compliance targets are met.
Who is the Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme available to?
Initially the Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme will only be rolled out to Tier 4 Sponsors however the scheme will be expanded later this year in order to deal with sponsors under Tier 2 and Tier 5. Only those Tier 4 Licensed organisations that have held an ‘A Rated’ Tier 4 license for the last 12 months will be able to apply under the new scheme. This is due to the fact that the UK Border Agency will look at the prior performance of a sponsor in order to determine suitability.
The Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme is a further segmentation of the existing sponsor rating system. Once introduced sponsors will either be considered:
- Highly Trusted Sponsors (the highest level of Sponsor Segmentation – Greater freedom and streamlined processes)
- A Rated Sponsors (standard level of sponsor licensing. Sponsors meet all UKBA requirements)
- B Rated Sponsors (sponsors fall below the requirements for sponsor licensing. They must work towards an ‘A Rated’ License)
Why become a Highly Trusted Sponsor?
Those organisations holding a ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’ License will be granted additional freedoms and offered new services to recognise their previous track record of good compliance. Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsors will be able to:
- Offer courses at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 3 and Equivalent
- Offer courses below degree level that include work placements
- Assign additional Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) certificates to students that have already undertaken two re-sits providing the re-sit has been approved by the internal panel and board who authorise re-sits in exceptional circumstances
- Undertake a more flexible approach to reporting student non attendance of the 10 expected contacts requirement
- Benefit from a dedicated Account Manager who will manage a portfolio of sponsors and will act as a single point of contact with the assurance of at least one annual visit per year and the option for further services
Dedicated Account Managers
One of the key benefits of securing Highly Trusted Sponsor status is the fact that sponsors receive a dedicated Account Manager who is capable of providing expertise and understanding of the differing tier requirements. The Account Manager attends annual site visits in order to ensure everything is running as it should and all of the sponsors concerns are dealt with. On approval of the status the Highly Trusted Sponsor received a dedicated email address and contact telephone number for the Account Manager.
The UK Border Agency’s Dedicated Account Managers:
- Build relationships with sponsors in order to address concerns and provide a high quality services
- Undertake presentations in order to increase awareness of UK Border Agency services
- Help to ensure that sponsors are attracting genuine international students to the United Kingdom
- Help sponsors address any queries that they may have
- Identify trends and options for regional or national forums
- Maintain and develop the relationships with sponsors
- Be responsive to customer needs and intervene where issues arise
- Escalate any concerns appropriately within the UK Border Agency
- Assist the sponsor to maintain their Highly Trusted sponsor licence
Highly Trusted Sponsor Criteria & Application Fees
In order to apply for a Highly Trusted Sponsor License an organisation must pay the £400 application fee and submit a full online and paper based application to the UKBA. Applicants will be assessed against the following nine criteria in the 12 months immediately preceding the application:
- Sponsors must have a minimum of six months as a Tier 4 ‘A Rated’ Sponsor
- Sponsors must have recruitment practices in place to ensure as far as possible only genuine students are accepted and issued with Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
- Sponsors must not have been issued with a civil penalty in the last three years and any civil penalty issued prior to that must have been paid in full
- Sponsors must have in place practices to minimise the number of refusals of leave for migrants applying with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). In the future the UKBA may publish a target percentage rate for refusals however at the moment refusal information for a particular location does not exist
- Sponsors must ensure potential students are vetted thoroughly before issuing a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The UKBA expects no more than 2% of the total number of students issued with entry clearance to have not enrolled within 1 month of the course commencing
- Sponsors must take all reasonable steps to ensure that students attend and complete their course of study. The UKBA expects no more than:
- 1% of those ceasing their course within 33% of the course duration
- 2% of those ceasing their studies within 66% of their course duration
- 3 % of those enrolled who have failed to complete their course
- Sponsors must ensure that no more than 5% of the total number of students sponsored who have been granted leave under Tier 4 must have failed to enrol or failed to complete the course
- Sponsors must ensure attendance or progression monitoring is completed in accordance with their sponsor duties
- Sponsors must not have had any serious concerns raised following a UKBA inspection in the previous 12 months
If an organisation applies for Highly Trusted Sponsor Status but is refused the sponsor retains their existing license unless in the course of the application process the UKBA spot an area of non compliance that may lead to a license downgrade or removal.
Highly Trusted Sponsor Approvals
If the UK Border Agency chooses to approve a Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor application the organisation applying for the status will be placed on the UKBA’s list of Highly Trusted Sponsors and details will be published on the UKBA website. Once approved the organisation is provided with the contact details for the dedicated Account Manager.
At present application times are unknown as the system is new however it is expected that processing times will be published in the future. Sponsors are advised to submit an application as soon as possible in order to avoid any delays in processing. Sponsors that wait may be delayed as a heavy volume of applications is expected.
Duration of HTS Licence
Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) licenses will be valid for 12 months from the date of approval. If a sponsor wishes to reapply for a license it must reapply with the appropriate application fee before the current license expires. In the event that the license expires the sponsors status is downgraded to ‘A Rated’.
Applying for a Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor License
If you are a Tier 4 ‘A Rated’ Sponsor (and have been for the last 12 months or more) and you wish to apply for a Highly Trusted Sponsor License Commonwealth Contractors may be able to help. We partner with OISC Registered Private Immigration Firms who specialise in licensing applications and can help to ensure that your application is successful. Our Partners can also help to ensure that any individual Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) certificates issued to prospective students are issued in the correct manner and that all students meet current Tier 4 (Student) criteria.
Commonwealth Contractors is a collection of highly skilled professionals from the Commonwealth and beyond. We partner with OISC Registered Immigration Partners capable of professionally representing a Tier 1 Visa Application / Extension and Tier 2 Licensed Consultancy & Associated Trust Partners who may be prepared, where required, to sponsor a doctor on a Tier 2 Visa (formerly UK Work Permit).
To find out more call Commonwealth Contractors now on 0330 390 9021 or Submit your details now and we will get right back to you. Please be prepared to send a copy of a recent CV so that we can pass to interested partners.