Important news from the UK Border Agency
28 January 2009

Update for Educational Institutions Sponsoring International Students

Last year the UK Border Agency began to roll out of the new Points Based System (PBS). In March 2009 the current student visa system will be replaced by Tier 4 for International Students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

If you want to bring students from outside the EEA into the UK to study or you wish to extend the stay of any of your existing non-EEA students, you will need to obtain a sponsor licence.

You should apply to the UK Border Agency to obtain your licence no later than 2nd February 2009.

The UK Border Agency will aim to process completed applications received by this date within 8 weeks to ensure that sponsors have their licence when Tier 4 opens.

Applications received after this date will be accepted by the UK Border Agency; however they cannot guarantee that the application will be processed in time for March 09 implementation date.

If you are not currently taking any foreign student applications, but plan to do so after March 2009, you will still need to obtain a sponsor licence. Failure to do so will result in any student applications for visas or extension of leave to remain being automatically refused.

Further information regarding Tier 4 of the Points Based System is available on the UK Border Agency website at:

Visa Waiver Test

We are coming to the end of stage 3 of the Visa Waiver Test - a six-month mitigation period for eleven countries where we are considering introducing a visa regime due to the risk they pose to the UK.  These countries are Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. During the mitigation period we worked with them to reduce the risk of illegal immigration, crime, security and other concerns. The Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary will make a final recommendation to a Cabinet committee on which ones require a visa regime in early 2009.

UK Border Agency Code of Practice for Keeping Children Safe From Harm

The UK Borders Act 2007 (Code of Practice on Children) was laid before Parliament on 12th December and shall come into force on 6th January 2009. Responses from the consultation we carried out during 2008 can be viewed here.

UK Work Restrictions Continue for Bulgarians and Romanians

The Government has decided that Bulgarians and Romanians will not get free access to the British labour market.  The decision was based on advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).  This ensures that we continue to correctly balance the need to protect the interests of British workers with the need for migrant workers.  You can read the full news story online at:

Identity Cards for Foreign Nationals

Seven centres where applicants can enrol their biometrics are now open at Croydon, Sheffield, Liverpool, Solihull, Cardiff, Glasgow and Armagh. The Armagh office will only open when demand is sufficient.  We are already seeing the benefits of the identity card in detecting identity fraud, illegal working and immigration, crime and terrorism. We have successful prosecuted 5 offenders who tried to seek leave to remain by deception. Information and guidance on Identity Cards for Foreign Nationals is online at

New International Director Appointed

Barbara Woodward will be joining the UK Border Agency in the New Year as International Director following the departure of Mark Sedwill. Barbara is currently Minister and Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Beijing. Her extensive experience in the Foreign Office including five years in Beijing as well as spells in London and Moscow means she is ideally placed to lead our International Group and to ensure that the Agency is established as a successful international organisation. Glyn Williams will be acting International Director till Barbara takes up post.   

New Visitors Visa Application Forms

We have launched new visitors Visa Application Forms (VAFs). They are more user-friendly and have the following features:

  • New forms are downloadable PDFs that allow applicants to type directly onto them before printing.
  • The applicant's signed declaration has been amended to take into account general grounds for refusal, and to enable us to perform verification and compliance checks.
  • There are 10 different types of forms which are much shorter and tailored for specific types of application.
  • The forms are laid out in eight similar sections, and a ninth asking questions specific to the type of application.
  • Key information such as the type of application, length of stay and date of travel is now on the front page.

We will still allow applicants to use the existing forms for a while before we withdraw them completely. We will launch new forms for other visa categories over the coming months and will eventually change to the one-line system visa4uk.

New Customer Service Standards

Ministers have now approved challenging and realistic customer service standards to replace the previous Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets. Unlike the old PSA targets, fixed by HM Treasury for three years, we have developed new standards that are flexible enough to allow us to meet both Agency-wide targets and our own requirements.

The new standards clearly indicate exactly how long a customer can expect to wait for a decision on their application - including commercial partner processing and transit times as we believe that this is what most really want to know. We believe that we can reduce customer enquiries to a reasonable level by improving the accuracy of the information we provide. The new standards are:

Straightforward cases: 90% to be completed in 5 working days

98% to be completed in 15 working days

100% to be completed in 60 working days

Non-straightforward cases: 90% to be completed in 15 working days

98% to be completed in 30 working days

100% to be completed in 60 working days

Settlement cases:  95% to be completed in 60 working days

100% to be completed in 120 working days

We will publish these standards in a Customers Charter and link them to performance data for each post or Visa Application Centre. We aim to publish the new standards on our websites and the first set of current performance data by mid-January 2009.

The standards have now been published. Please click here to view the article.

Applying for Registration (Summer Centres)

Summer centres should look into applying to be on the Register. Although the Student Visitor visa route is outside the Points Based System UK Border Agency have not confirmed whether there will be a separate list for ECOs when processing Student Visitor visas. We are therefore encouraging all summer centres to be listed on the Register to avoid having visas refused.

Information for Students

The student information pages on the UKBA website have been updated and now contain information for students applying for a student visa before the end of March 2009 and after the launch of Tier 4. For more information please visit Factsheets covering the different options under Tier 4 have also been uploaded as well as a whole section on the changes in the immigration system.

A sample visa letter to be used until the Sponsor Management System is in place is also available.


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