UK visas & immigration news

New service standards for applications made in the UK

Following feedback from customers and partners, UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) service standards have changed for applications submitted from 1 January 2014.

Processing times for straightforward applications are listed below. UKVI will be informing applicants where the application is more complex and a decision cannot be made within the timeframe. 

Applications received before 1 January 2014 will remain subject to the standards in force at the time they were submitted.

Processing times for applications made within the UK

Customers applying to remain in the UK on a temporary basis as: a spouse, workers, Tier 1 General and entrepreneurs, students, and organisations seeking to sponsor a worker

8 weeks (10 days  priority postal and same day premium)

Employers applying in the UK to update and maintain their license details

18 weeks

Customers applying in the UK to remain permanently (or naturalise as British) and applicants from Turkey and Croatia to live, study or work

6 months

New Tier 4 sponsor guidance

A new version of the sponsor guidance was published in December 2013. Click here to download a copy.

The Key changes are as follows:

1. Tier 4 rating where no CAS issued in 12 months period

It was confirmed in the October guidance that Tier 4 sponsors that have not issued any CAS (confirmation of acceptance for studies) during the qualifying 12 months period for the application or renewal of HTS (Highly Trusted Sponsor) will retain their current status.  The new guidance has expanded on this and states that sponsors will still need to submit an HTS application within the normal timescales. Current HTS sponsors will retain the status providing the other mandatory criteria are met. A rated sponsors will have the HTS application rejected and the fee refunded, but will remain on the RoS (Register of Sponsors) as A rated and retain the unused CAS.

2. HTS application and suspension of sponsor licence

The previous version of the Tier 4 sponsor guidance set out the position that a licence would be suspended where the sponsor could not meet the HTS criteria after holding a Tier 4 licence for 12 months.

The new guidance amends the consequences of not submitting an application or renewal for HTS status by the deadline. Rather than revoking the sponsor licence the Home Office will suspend the licence and allow sponsors 28 calendar days to make representations. If, following consideration of the representations made, a sponsor still fails to meet the criteria the licence will be revoked.

This amendment will hopefully avoid sponsors that fail to submit an HTS application form before the deadline from losing the sponsor licence altogether and having to go through the process of applying for a sponsor licence again.

The Home Office has 28 days to respond to the representations submitted by the sponsor.

3. Independent schools and pre-sessional courses

Independent schools are now allowed to add a non-Tier 4 sponsor as a partner institution where the partner will deliver pre-sessional courses only. The independent school is able to issue a single CAS to cover the pre-sessional course at the partner institution and the main course if the main course is not conditional on completing the pre-sessional. In addition the length of the pre-sessional and main course shouldn't be more than the maximum time allowed under the Tier 4 (child) route.

4. English language pre-sessional courses and CAS issued by Higher Education Institutions

The distinction between a pre-sessional course and an English language pre-sessional was introduced in the October 2013 guidance. The December 2013 guidance adds a restriction on the length of the English language pre-sessional for the issue of a single CAS.

Similar to other pre-sessional courses, the length of the English language pre-sessional will have to be no more than three months long and end no more than one month before the start of the main course (at degree level or above).

Under this provision students are able to start the pre-sessional with level B1 and the sponsor will need to withdraw sponsorship if students fail to reach B2 on completion of the course.

5. Joint venture agreements

The subparagraphs relating to Joint Venture Agreements have been re-inserted. The Home Office has confirmed that these were omitted in error in the October 2013 guidance.

REMINDER – Immigration stamps

The Border Force issued updated guidance to its staff in November 2013 as a response to confusing stamps being used for student visitors.

Staff have been instructed to grant students leave to enter on Code 3 with the endorsement "six months- student visitor". Further,staff are being advised NOT to use the handwritten annotations. This doesn't mean that schools should not accept students with the 'VST' or 'SV' annotations. The grant of code 3 to students should make it clearer that they are allowed to study.

Members should note that there is no mandatory requirement for Border Force staff to annotate visas. In cases where students are given the general visit visa stamp, the students should be allowed to study after having confirmed that they declared their intention to study. We would urge members to report any such cases to us so that we can take up the issue with the Border Force as and when necessary.

Here is an example of the correct stamp that should be issued to student visitors:

Student visitor stamp

Here is an extract of the background note to Border Force staff:

"Most passengers seeking entry in the various visitor categories are granted leave on Code 5N, including student visitors. However several education providers have complained that the endorsement does not make clear whether or not a student who wishes to enrol with them has permission to study in the UK, and have been turning students away, despite the fact that a Code 5N is not incorrect. Some establishments have also said they expect to see St or SV in the endorsement or some other such indication that a person has been granted entry in the student visitor category, despite the fact that such annotations have no legal basis. However to try and address the issue it has been agreed that student visitors should be given an endorsement which makes it clear they are allowed to study. A grant of Code 3 does not alter the conditions of leave but permits the officer to specify the purpose of entry."


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