Limitations on Tier 4 immigration sponsorship

   
   

Immigration Sponsorship and limitations on Immigration Sponsorship

The University of Nottingham is a recognised immigration sponsor under Tier 4 of the Points Based System   and, as such, is required to comply with the UK Visa and Immigration requirements as outlined in the T4 Sponsor Guidance.  Failure to comply with these requirements could result in the University’s Sponsorship Licence being suspended and/or revoked.

The Sponsor Guidance outlines the responsibilities/duties of an immigration sponsor in terms of issuing CASs to prospective students (including current students requiring a visa extension).  We must only assign a CAS to a student who we believe will:

  • meet the requirements of the Tier 4 category under which the CAS is assigned; and
  • comply with the conditions of their permission to stay in the UK

While the University is obliged to follow the requirements outlined in UKVI Sponsor Guidance when acting as an immigration sponsor, the institution is under no legal obligation to issue CASs to individual students and we reserve the right to withhold a CAS and/or withdraw immigration sponsorship where this is justified in light of University and/or UKVI policy or where deemed necessary based upon the facts of an individual case.  Where immigration sponsorship is withdrawn this may result in a student record being suspended/interrupted or even closed where it is not possible to continue on a course in the absence of immigration sponsorship.

In order to meet the requirements of the Tier 4 category students must:

  • have the academic ability (including appropriate English language qualification) to study the proposed course
  • be making academic progress
  • have the funds in place to study on their course
  • intend to study the course 

Academic Ability

Academic/English language qualifications are checked against University requirements. 
Information on Admission policies and requirements can be found in the Quality
Manual

 

Academic Progress

Academic progress must be shown for international students undertaking further studies in the UK.  All proposed studies must be completed within permitted UKVI time limits.*

Applicants and higher level studies – Academic progress is usually demonstrated by moving up a level on the NQF/CEFR scale (e.g. Foundation to UG degree, UG degree to PGT degree).  The Home Office requires qualifications to be successfully completed for progress to be shown.  This means that the full qualification must be completed rather than parts of the qualification.  Further investigation of individual cases will be required if progress is not being demonstrated in this way to establish if a CAS can be issued.

Applicants and same level studies (successfully completed) - Applicants seeking to undertake a subsequent course at the same CEFR/NQF level as their previous course which they successfully completed must provide a strong and valid academic justification for repeating studies at the same level.  Cases will be considered by the Head of PG or UG Admissions in liaison with the University’s Visas and Immigration Process Manager where necessary and will only be accepted for the purpose of issuing a CAS if it is clear that the new course is related to the previous course, (e.g. connected to the previous course, part of the same subject group or involves deeper specialisation) or the student’s previous and new course combined, support the student’s genuine career aspirations.

Applicants and same level studies (failed) Where applicants have taken a previous course at the same level on the NQF scale as the new course for which they are applying, but they failed all or part of the first course or left with a lower qualification than aimed for (e.g. a PG certificate or diploma) a CAS should not be issued.

Applicants and same level studies (incomplete but successful to date) Where applicants have withdrawn having successfully completed more than 33% of their original course a CAS should not be issued.  Where applicants have withdrawn having successfully completed 33% or less of their original course a CAS should not normally be issued unless there is evidence (retained as part of the Admissions file) that the applicant is outside the UK and a strong and compelling case can be made to justify issuing a CAS in these circumstances. Any CAS issued must note that the visa application will be made overseas.  Cases will be considered by the Head of PG or UG Admissions in liaison with the University’s Visas and Immigration Process Manager where necessary.

Failure to disclose previous studies on an application may lead to any CAS which has been assigned being withdrawn.

Applicants and lower level studies – Where applicants are going backwards in terms of academic progression according to the CEFR/NQF scales a CAS must not be issued.  

Current students and resits/repeats - Current students undertaking re-sit examinations or repeating certain elements of their studies in attendance can be regarded as making progress and may be eligible for a CAS if their attendance is academically necessary, they had good attendance on the course to date and can complete the course within UKVI time limits for studying in the UK.  Where one or more of these requirements is not met a CAS will not be issued.  Students with a status of ‘resit in attendance’ will be required to attend all failed modules where the modules are running.

The length of time permitted for a re-sit in attendance/repeat of studies should not exceed the period originally allowed by the University for that element of the studies (e.g. 3 months for a Masters dissertation to start no later than the beginning of the second semester and to end by 30 April if the students receive results in November/ 12 months for writing up a PhD thesis).  These time limits are based upon an expectation of sufficient academic progress being made during time spent in the UK.

Students will only be granted one resit with attendance/repeat of studies period (eg, 3 months for an extension to a Master’s dissertation and 12 months for an extension to the thesis pending period ideally approved in 6 month blocks).

Where students are unable to study on a full time basis for health reasons but remain in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa, this time will count towards the University’s maximum permitted time for immigration sponsorship.  However, if students leave the UK, the time spent overseas will not count towards the University’s maximum permitted time for immigration sponsorship. 

If extra time is approved by an academic school, the University will only act as an immigration sponsor for the student to remain in the UK for the length of time originally allowed for that element of the studies and this will be counted backwards from the new expected completion date. 

For PhD students in thesis pending, we will not be able to act as an immigration sponsor beyond 24 months unless and until the student submits their thesis and needs to be in the UK to attend the viva.  Where corrections are required we will act as an immigration sponsor for the student to remain in the UK to complete the corrections up to a maximum period of 12 months. We will not act as an immigration sponsor under Tier 4 beyond this. Any time spent overseas will not be discounted from the 12 month period and we will not extend immigration sponsorship for extensions to resubmission.

Voluntary Course Transfers:

Current students and course transfer requests (successful completion to date/higher level studies) - Transfers on to courses at a higher level on the CEFR/NQF scale can be approved (subject to ATAS requirements/sponsor approval, UKVI time limits and consideration of the link between the previous course successfully completed in the UK and the new course as appropriate).  If the new course cannot be completed within the duration of the existing visa a CAS can be issued but the student will, in most cases, need to apply for a new visa from overseas. Students in the UK on visas applied for on or after 6 April 2016 will need to make a new visa application from overseas at time the transfer is implemented regardless of whether the course can be completed within the existing visa.    

Current students and course transfer requests (successful completion to date/same level studies with progression) - Transfers on to the next stage of a same level course on the CEFR/NQF scale can be approved (subject to ATAS requirements/sponsor approval, UKVI time limits and consideration of the link between the previous course successfully completed in the UK and the new course as appropriate).  If the new course cannot be completed within the duration of the existing visa a CAS can be issued but the student will, in most cases, need to apply for a new visa from overseas.  Students in the UK on visas applied for on or after 6 April 2016 will need to make a new visa application from overseas at time the transfer is implemented regardless of whether the course can be completed within the existing visa.   

Current students and course transfer requests (successful completion to date/same level studies - backward transfers) – Where students request to transfer having successfully completed more than 33% of their original course the transfer should not be approved.  Where students request to transfer on to an earlier stage of a same level course having successfully completed 33% or less of their original course the transfer can be approved (subject to ATAS requirements/sponsor approval,  UKVI time limits and consideration of the link between the previous course successfully completed in the UK and the new course as appropriate).  If the new course cannot be completed within the duration of the existing visa a CAS can be issued but the student will need to apply for a new visa from overseas.  Students in the UK on visas applied for on or after 6 April 2016 will need to make a new visa application from overseas at time the transfer is implemented regardless of whether the course can be completed within the existing visa.   

Current students and course transfer requests (successful completion to date/lower level studies) – Transfers to lower level studies (e.g., MEng to BEng/PhD to MPhil) can be approved if the new course can be completed within the duration of the visa and the study conditions attached to the visa are not affected (e.g., the student does not have dependants). Students in the UK on visas applied for on or after 6 April 2016 will need to make a new visa application from overseas at time the transfer is implemented regardless of whether the course can be completed within the existing visa.   

Current students and course transfer requests (failed or downgraded (including ordinary degree)/backward transfers) – Where students request to transfer having failed all or part of the first course or having been downgraded to a lower qualification/ordinary degree the transfer should not be approved.

Involuntary Course Transfers:

Current students and course transfer recommendations - Course transfers following exam board recommendations may involve students downgrading from one qualification to another (e.g. NQF 7 to NQF 6).  These requests will be automatically processed but will have immigration implications which students are notified of in the letter confirming the transfer. If the new course cannot be completed within the duration of the existing visa a CAS can be issued but the student will need to apply to extend their visa from overseas.  Students in the UK on visas applied for on or after 6 April 2016 will need to make a new visa application from overseas at the time the transfer is implemented regardless of whether the course can be completed within the existing visa. 

*UKVI has strict  restrictions on the length of time that international students can spend in the UK on a student visa issued under Tier 4 of the Points Based System and the progression requirements need to be read in light of these time restrictions:

2 years on a student visa for studies below degree level (excluding time spent on a child student visa).

5 years on a student visa for studies at UG and PGT level (with exceptions for certain longer courses)

8 years where a student has completed a course in the UK leading to the award of a PhD, postgraduate research qualification or research master’s degree

Where a student will be unable to finish a new course within these time limits a CAS should not be issued.  Time limits are calculated based upon the length of the visa issued not the length of the course itself.

 

Funding

Applicants - Tuition fee deposits apply to self-funded PGT and Foundation applicants to demonstrate willingness and ability to pay.  Deposits are compulsory for these groups and can only be waived where the applicant receives full funding for tuition fees from a recognised sponsor (as confirmed by the International Office) or where the applicant will receive US loans (again, as confirmed by the International Office).

Additional checks of financial evidence are not routinely made.  However, where an applicant receives a visa refusal on financial grounds the University will not issue a second CAS unless the applicant can confirm that appropriate funding and evidence of that funding is in place.  Refusals must be managed by an Immigration Advisor and financial evidence must be checked by the Adviser before a new CAS is issued.

Current students - Checks of financial evidence are made for all current students (including low risk nationals) extending their visas (either from within the UK or overseas) to ensure that sufficient funding and evidence of it is in place before a CAS can be issued.  Where students have an outstanding debt to the University or an approved third party accommodation provider a CAS will not be issued.

Where current students have previously been suspended for unpaid tuition fees the University reserves the right to ask for either part of all of any future fee liability before a CAS is issued.

 

Credibility

The intention of applicants is assessed by reference to their studies to date (whether within or outside the UK and including any incomplete courses) and the personal statement on their application form.  It is also assessed by the use of tuition fee deposits for foundation and postgraduate taught masters applicants.

Where an applicant or students receives a visa refusal on credibility grounds, we would require the decision to be challenged via the Administrative Review route.  We would not normally issue a second CAS following a refusal on credibility grounds.

For applicants moving from other institutions, their immigration history (including previous refusals) will be considered as part of an assessment of their credibility when determining if a CAS can be issued.


Where applicants and current students extending their visa do not meet the academic ability, academic progress, funding and credibility requirements outlined above the University will not assign a CAS and act as an immigration sponsor.  If a CAS has already been assigned when it becomes clear that an applicant or student does not, in the opinion of the University, meet the requirements, the University will withdraw the CAS or notify the Home Office that immigration sponsorship is being withdrawn if the CAS has been used to make a visa application.

In order to comply with the conditions of their permission to stay in the UK, students must observe and follow the Immigration Rules.  Where students are unable to meet the requirements of the rules the University should not issue a CAS unless and until the situation has been remedied and, where appropriate, the student has returned home to make an application overseas.  Examples of situations which would fall under this heading and where a CAS should not be assigned include:

Situation

Notes

Where students have overstayed on their previous visa for more than 28 days (but less than 90 days) without having submitted an in-time application to the UKVI

 

 

 

 


Where a student has overstayed on their previous visa for more than 90 days the University would not act as an immigration sponsor under Tier 4 for the student in the future.

Please notify the Visas and Immigration Team as soon as possible if a student falls within this category. An assessment  will be carried out of the circumstances, but, we will usually endeavour to support students in the UK who make valid but out of time applications before the 28 day period has expired (although our advice is not to overstay and to return home before their leave to remain expires)

We will usually support students who make in time applications which are returned/refused where they can resubmit a valid application via the Visas and Immigration Team  within 28  days from the date of the refusal notice (excluding University holidays but including weekends)

Where students have remained in the UK in breach of immigration regulations (e.g. during a period of suspension)

Where a student remains in the UK in breach of immigration regulations for more than 90 days, the University would not act as an immigration sponsor under Tier 4 for the student in the future.

 

Where a student is suspended or re-sitting
without attendance and will be inactive for a period of more than 60 term-time days.  Where students have January and May re-sits without attendance one CAS will not be issued to cover both exam periods.  Students will be required to return home  after the January exams and
re-enter the UK for the May exams either on a short-term study visit visa or on a Tier 4 student visa (if progression or completion is possible)

 

Where a student is waiting for an academic
offence hearing or an academic appeal but has no academic attendance requirements

 


This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other scenarios where students are unable to comply with the conditions of their visa/meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules.

Timing/practicalities

There are situations where it will not be possible to issue a CAS for practical reasons such as those outlined below:

Insufficient time for a visa application to be processed and for the student to join/rejoin the course before the official latest/final date for registration

Where the visa application is likely to be refused either because it is outside of the Immigration Rules (e.g. a student visitor applying to extend under Tier 4 from within the UK, or an over-stayer of more than 90 days who returns home but will receive a ban on entering the UK) or because the evidence to be included by the applicant is unsatisfactory and would result in a refusal

We are unable to assign a second/subsequent CAS for the same course where a visa refusal has been issued and the problem/issue has not been resolved

We are unable to assign a CAS if the original visa covers the original period of studies (excluding the additional period for graduation) where the request is received within the final four weeks of the course

We are unable to assign a CAS if a student extends the period of their studies and the new completion date falls before, on or within two weeks of the end date of their current visa.


This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other scenarios where it will not be practical to issue a CAS.

Withdrawing immigration sponsorship

In certain circumstances (outlined below) immigration sponsorship will be withdrawn by the University either by withdrawing an assigned CAS or by reporting to the UKVI against a USED CAS.  

If the University becomes aware that an applicant/student is unable to make a successful visa application after a CAS has been issued

If an applicant/student fails to disclose key information relating to their application to study at the University or their immigration status in the UK which comes to light after a CAS has been issued. 

If an applicant/student acts in breach of the Immigration Rules and/or the conditions of their permission to stay in the UK, or if there is reason to suspect that this might be the case. This includes non-attendance and ongoing poor
attendance. 

If a student is suspended as a result of unpaid tuition fees

If a student suspends their studies voluntarily for a period of more than 2 months 

If a student withdraws from their studies or the course is terminated

If there are any other relevant circumstances, such as the student moving into a different immigration route, or the course being completed sooner than expected.


This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other scenarios when the University will withdraw immigration sponsorship.

Extenuating circumstances 

It is important to note that although Extenuating Circumstances may be accepted from an academic point of view to justify an additional or repeat period of study this does not guarantee that immigration sponsorship will be extended to cover this.  Each case will be considered on its merits and in light of the nature of the ECS.

Curtailment of leave and re-instating immigration sponsorship

Where leave is curtailed as a result of The University of Nottingham withdrawing immigration sponsorship on the grounds of a breach of the Immigration Rules/conditions of permission to stay in the UK, the University will not automatically re-instate immigration sponsorship (by issuing a new CAS) if/when a student is ready to return to their studies.  Consideration will be given to the nature of the breach, the reason for it and the action taken by the student to remedy the situation, when determining if a new CAS can be issued.  

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The original version of this document was approved by the University’s Panel lawyer and University Executive Board in May 2012 (v1). Subsequent modifications must be approved by the Registrar.

Version 6/August 2016

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