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Inspection report on Tier 4 (Student) system

A recent inspection by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has found that the quality of the decisions made by the UK Border Agency for Tier 4 applications was good, but improvements were needed in the way the Agency licensed and managed Tier 4 sponsors.

A Tier 4 visa can be issued overseas for new entrants into the UK or existing migrant students can apply for an extension to their leave while in the UK. The inspection covered two overseas posts, Beijing and New Delhi, as well as the Temporary Migration Unit based in Sheffield.

The Chief Inspector found a number of examples of good practice and effectiveness, including:

  • Overall decision-quality on Tier 4 applications was good, and requests for sponsorship licenses were carefully considered before being granted;
  • Beijing consistently met its performance targets and, following significant improvements, so was New Delhi;
  • Verification of documents was being carried out effectively in all locations, and standardised refusal templates were also in use;
  • A robust process was in place for assessing sponsor applications for Highly Trusted Status; and
  • The Agency had commissioned a project to examine the whole appeals process, in order to improve service delivery in general.

However, the Chief Inspector was concerned to find:

  • A lack of published performance standards for sponsorship applications, resulted in some taking over six months to process;
  • There were no targets in place to manage notifications to the Agency from sponsors that students were, for example, not attending courses. At the time of inspection, a backlog of almost 153,000 such notifications had accumulated; and
  • Despite significant improvements being made to the structure and management of the work carried out by Compliance Officers, their lack of any powers to arrest meant they could take little or no action if they encountered someone who was in breach of immigration laws.
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.


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