In order to learn more about how the industry can best manage the Tier 4 student visa changes in the UK, ICEF Monitor sat down with immigration law specialist Mark Taylor, Executive Director of The Taylor Partnership Ltd. based in the UK.
In July of this year several changes were made in the UK, which have been having a strong impact on students, educators and agents alike.
UKBA agents are conducting interviews to determine how genuine a student is, as well as judging the English language skills of the applicants. A recent statement from home secretary Theresa May explains that this process will be extended in 2013:
“We will extend radically the UK Border Agency’s interviewing programme. Starting with the highest-risk countries, and focusing on the route to Britain that is widely abused, student visas, we will increase the number of interviews to considerably more than 100,000, starting next financial year.”
“From there, we will extend the interviewing programme further across all routes to Britain, wherever the evidence takes us. I believe this new approach will help us to root out the abuse of British visas, and improve the integrity of our immigration system.”
Under these procedures, an entry clearance officer can deny a student entry into the UK if the interview doesn’t go well, even if the student has a visa. As a result, the UKBA has created what Taylor refers to as a “culture of arbitrary decision making” with consequences such as:
- uncertainty amongst staff managing Tier 4
- uncertainty amongst students seeking to come to the UK
- easy to make mistakes
- risk of suspension / revocation of Tier 4 license
In addition, the burden of administration is an added cost to schools, which now have to raise costs to students/parents to cover those costs.
As a way to cope with all of this, Taylor offers advice regarding visa applications and explains that “the relationship between the agent and the school is paramount to success.”
In the second part of our interview, Taylor explains how Tier 4 sponsors can better manage the recruitment process. He also reveals the biggest reason for visa denials and offers sound advice on how to prepare students for visa interviews.
“Schools must take a pro-active role in working in partnership with agents to make sure the students are equipped properly, and prepared for the interview with the immigration officer.”
In Taylor’s opinion, there “must be some level of credibility within the market itself, and it has to be regulated but rather than letting the UKBA regulate it, it has to be industry regulated.”
Most failed applications are as a result of poor supporting documentation (especially bank statements); most rejections are either because students didn’t have original bank statements or not enough funds in the account for the right time frame. According to regulations, “there must be sufficient funds in the bank account for 28 consecutive days within 28 days of the date of the application.”
The final segment of our interview turns the focus towards educational institutions and the actions they can take to gain insulation through compliance.
Taylor emphasises that those working with overseas students should appreciate its commercial value and use it to force change:
“This is an enormous business – worth over 55 billion pounds to the UK economy – and if you’re not handling it like one, then you’re making an enormous commercial error.”
Taylor also points out that agents can play a key role, too. For instance, if a UK-based educational provider doesn’t have a full understanding of Tier 4, then agents may be wise to advise their students to apply elsewhere, rather than risk a visa rejection.
Schools need to allocate resources adequately, have systems in place to maximise the success of an application, be prepared for UK Border Agency inspections, be thorough, and be organised. And agents shouldn’t be afraid to challenge schools on their compliance efforts. He summarises: “The ongoing co-operation between agent and school is crucial for the benefits of all concerned.”
For more background on the visa and immigration changes in the UK over the last few months, please see the following articles: