The leading UK law firm for matters arising under the Points-Based System is arguably Penningtons Solicitors.
The material below is preserved here for archiving and reference purposes
7.2 Tier 4 of the Points-Based System caters for international students who wish to study in the
United Kingdom. Tier 4 has been implemented in phases, with the introduction of the main
policy changes on 31 March 2009. Tier 4 comprises two categories: Tier 4 (General) Student and
Tier 4 (Child) Student.
7.3 At present, all migrants who are granted entry clearance or leave to remain under Tier 4, the
student tier of the Points Based System, are tied to the specific education provider that is recorded
as their Tier 4 sponsor. The condition tying a student to their sponsoring education provider has
been added to all Tier 4 migrants who have applied to the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for entry
clearance or leave to remain since 5 October 2009. All students who are subject to this condition
need to apply to the UKBA to vary their leave, and cannot commence study at a new sponsoring
institution until receipt of the decision approving the application. Failure to comply with this
condition can lead to criminal prosecution and / or curtailment of leave.
7.4 The principle of sponsorship – whereby those who benefit most directly from the contributions
migrants make to the United Kingdom (employers and education institutions) are expected to
play their part in ensuring the UK’s migration system is not abused – is an integral part of the
Points Based System. The new Highly Trusted sponsor licence introduced for Tier 4 sponsors
on 6 April 2010 is a further segmentation of the existing sponsor rating system designed to
identify 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. Those holding a “Highly Trusted sponsor” licence are granted additional freedoms and
offered new services to recognise their previous track record of good compliance.
7.5 Under Tier 4, a student’s leave is based on the sponsorship of their Tier 4 licensed sponsor.
Section 50 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 allowed a condition to be
added to a person’s leave to enter or remain in the UK restricting his or her studies in the
UK. This is to ensure each Tier 4 student is linked to an individual educational institution. The
condition tying a student to their sponsoring education provider was added into the Immigration
Rules in Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (Cm 7701), and has been added to all Tier
4 migrants who have applied to the UK Border Agency for entry clearance or leave to remain
since 5 October 2009.
7.6 All students subject to this condition now need to apply to the UK Border Agency to vary their
leave before being able to change institutions. This allows the UK Border Agency to maintain
accurate records of where migrants are studying and check that the institutions to which they
wish to move are bona fide and are willing to take on the sponsorship of the students under
Tier 4. Tier 4 students cannot currently start studying at their new sponsor institution until they
receive a positive decision on their application. This restriction applies to students who are
changing institutions for any reason, including those who are progressing from study at one
institution to higher level study at another.
7.7 Since the introduction of this new condition, the education sector has reported that except for
those students who have been able to secure premium appointments at Public Enquiry Offices
(PEOs) where decisions are typically taken that day, postal applications have not in many cases
been processed in sufficient time to enable students to start new courses in line with course
start dates. There is a growing concern that in the peak student surge period over the summer,
UKBA’s operational capacity to deal with these applications will be under significant pressure.
7.8 The following changes to the Immigration Rules are therefore being made to the Tier 4 (General)
and Tier 4 (Child) categories:
• Students who are applying to the UK Border Agency under Tier 4 for permission to study
at a different sponsor will be permitted to commence study at that sponsor before receiptof UKBA’s decision on the application where that education provider is a “Highly Trusted
• This arrangement is restricted to students applying to study at a Highly Trusted Sponsor
institution because such institutions will have already demonstrated that they have a high
proportion of compliant students with low drop-out rates in order to qualify for a Highly
Trusted Sponsor licence.
• To ensure consistency of approach, an amendment is also being made to paragraph 323A(d)
(ii) removing the power for UKBA to curtail a student’s leave where that student studies
at a Highly Trusted Sponsor institution other than the institution named on the student’s
7.9 A further change to the Tier 4 (General) category is also being made to make it a requirement that
students must provide evidence of having passed a UK Border Agency-approved secure English
language test at a minimum of B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for
languages where they meet the following criteria:
• The student is from a non-majority English speaking country;
• The student is applying to study in the UK on a course below degree level (excluding those
on foundation degrees, Scottish HNDs or English language courses);
• The student holds a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies issued to them on or after
7.10 This change builds on the previous position where the sponsors of such students were required
to make their own assessment of the English language level of the student. The use of an
independent test is seen as an advance on this as it should help ensure that sponsors are not
duped by students offering false or fake documents to prove their English language ability.