Many Tier 4 Students are currently affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Breytenbachs has sourced information from the Home Office to provide some guidelines for Tier 4 students and Tier 4 Sponsors.
Absence from Studies
The Home Office has confirmed that they will not take any action against Tier 4 Sponsors, who continue to sponsor Tier 4 students who are absent due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This rule applies to Tier 4 students who are not able to attend their studies for more than 60 days.
The absences must be due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Possible reasons related to Covid-19 might include that the student is unwell, need to isolate, or is unable to travel due to travel restrictions.
The Tier 4 sponsor can continue to sponsor the student without having to report the Covid-19 related absences to the Home Office.
We do not know when these special provisions will come to an end.
Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies
Where a Tier 4 sponsor has issued a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) and the sponsored student has not yet applied for a visa, the Home Office will recognise that the start date for the studies in question may have changed.
The Home Office will not automatically refuse such cases, but only said that they will not automatically be approved. This concession should, therefore, be approached with a degree of caution, and every case will be considered on a case by case basis by the Home Office.
Breytenbachs strongly suspect that one will have to provide solid evidence to demonstrate that the CAS only became invalid as a direct result of the restrictions and issues caused by Covid-19.
Tier 4 Students and Distance Learning
Tier 4 Sponsors are permitted to continue to sponsor existing Tier 4 students who are continuing their studies through distance learning. The student may be in the UK or overseas.
The Home Office also permits sponsors to continue sponsorship for new students who have been issued with a Tier 4 visa, but are distance learning because they have been unable to travel to the UK due to Covid-19. Sponsors do not need to report to the Home Office, where students have moved to distance learning as a result of the virus.
These concessions are due to remain in place until the end of May 2020. Breytenbachs foresee a high probability that this date could be amended as the pandemic progresses.
International students, who have not applied for a Tier 4 Student visa yet, but wish to commence a course via distance learning, do not require sponsorship under Tier 4 as they do not need to travel to the UK.
Tier 4 Students withdrawing permanently
Sponsors must still report any student who has permanently withdrawn from their studies, or who have deferred their studies for reasons unrelated to Covid-19.
Sponsoring a student who is waiting for their Tier 4 application to be decided
The Home Office has confirmed that Tier 4 sponsors may allow students to start their studies before their visa application has been decided, where the following requirements are met:
- The Tier 4 educational body in question must be registered as a Tier 4 sponsor (not including Tier 4 Legacy Sponsors); and
- The student has a CAS; and
- The student has submitted their application for the Tier 4 visa, and the application was made in time (i.e., before the expiry of their previous visa); and
- The course that they start is the same one listed on the CAS; and
- If a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate is required, then the student must have this document.
It is important to note that if the migrant does commence studies under the above provisions and their Tier 4 visa application is ultimately refused or rejected as invalid, then the sponsor must terminate their studies.
Sponsors should also note that their reporting duties must still be met and that these duties commence from the point that the CAS is issued and not from the date that the Tier 4 visa application is approved.
How Breytenbachs can assist
The Home Office provisions are very encouraging. However, it is essential to note that the information provided thus far does not give precise detail. As such, the Home Office may release further details shortly, which limits the scope of the concession the Home Office has made. We would recommend that you contact your consultant at Breytenbachs if you wish to take advantage of the above provisions so that we can discuss them with you further and ensure that an appropriate and cautious approach is pursued.
To arrange a consultation with Breytenbachs to discuss your immigration matter, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org