An update on the latest UK Home Office immigration rules and guidance, effective from 6 April 2017


On 6 April 2017 the latest changes to the UK’s immigration system came into effect.

Key changes include:

  • The introduction of a skills levy for Tier 2 Sponsors
  • The expansion of criminal record checks for certain job roles
  • Failure of basic compliance assessment is now a serious breach of sponsor compliance for Tier 4 sponsors
  • UK NARIC statements can be used to demonstrate English language proficiency at the appropriate level rather than at just C1

Skills levy

This will be levied on employers who employ migrants in skilled jobs. Set at £1,000 per employee per year, with a reduced rate of £364 for small or charitable organisations.

Criminal records checks

A criminal record certificate requirement has been extended to Tier 2 skilled worker applicants in the education, health and social care sectors.

Tier 2 applicants from non-EEA countries in these employment sectors now need to present a criminal record certificate. This is also the case for any adult dependants of the applicant.

A list of the job roles that are subject to this requirement can be found in the Tier 2 section of the UKVI website.

Failure of basic compliance assessment is now a serious breach

Tier 4 sponsors should be aware that failing their basic compliance assessment is now considered a ‘serious breach’.

A serious breach can lead to a ‘Compliance Track 2’ process which, in the majority of cases, will mean that the sponsor will be removed from the Tier 4 Register of Sponsors whilst UKVI investigates.

It is therefore imperative that Tier 4 sponsors ensure that they make fully informed decisions, with thorough record-keeping, about their international applicants for study.

A range of UK NARIC services for organisations is available to help universities, colleges and schools understand more about international education systems and international qualifications.

UK NARIC also offers training to support Tier 4 sponsors.

More information about Tier 4 and information for Tier 4 sponsors is available on the UKVI website.

UK NARIC statements for English language

Presenting their qualifications that are at least comparable to UK Bachelor level (with UK NARIC statements evidencing the comparability) has been one of the ways in which migrants to the UK can demonstrate their English language proficiency.

The 6 April 2017 changes to the immigration rules have extended the use of UK NARIC statements to all CEFR levels. Previously, UK NARIC statements could be used to demonstrate only CEFR level C1.

This means that UK NARIC statements can now be used to demonstrate the appropriate level of English language skills to support applications to UKVI for – work; study; family; settlement; citizenship; and naturalisation.

There is more information about using UK NARIC English language statements for immigration purposes on other pages of this blog.


UK NARIC launches new On-site Support and Training days


UK NARIC has launched a new training service – On-site Support, delivering tailored training and hands-on support to teams and small groups of staff at their own offices. Our new service was launched in Wales, with the first subscriber member requesting a support day being Swansea University.Singleton Abbey The training was delivered at the beautiful Singleton Abbey (pictured) on Swansea’s campus. 20 staff from Swansea’s undergrad admissions, postgrad admissions and marketing teams took part in a tailored day that included Tier 4 compliance and ensuring best practice in counterfraud measures. Feedback was positive:

“Pleasant, easy going instructors delivering at a level that was easy to understand”

“Examples of actual documents were helpful”

“Tier 4 Compliance – importance of recording and keeping records of evidence of qualifications and any guidance notes relating to them”

“Be vigilant when checking applications”

On-site support days can be completely tailored and customised to suit particular needs. A series of ‘Fast Modules’ on core topics has been developed which serve as building blocks for a day’s programme, but these can be also be flexed and tailored to suit requirements. For information on UK NARIC’s training solutions or updates on our latest schedule of half day workshops and full day seminars, go to our website.


Immigration Update – April 2014


Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information.

 

 

The latest changes to the Immigration Rules have come into effect from the 6 April 2014. Below is a summary of some of the changes that have been made:

  • Expanding the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) category to include leading talent in the digital technology sector, who are endorsed by Tech City UK;
  • Tier 2 applicants will be granted leave to remain for five years. This means that they can go on to apply for settlement without having to reapply for further leave to remain after three years;
  • Applicants for Tier 4 visas from Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates will be given more generous documentary requirements and the exemption from the genuineness test will end;
  • Removing ring-fencing of MBA graduates for Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) applicants as well as restrictions on applicants’ graduation dates;
  • The salary and maintenance thresholds for sponsoring dependents will be changed with effect from 1 July 2014;
  • The Government Authorised Exchange is a new scheme with Tier 5 for overseas government language placements. This category will enable language teachers to carry out teaching placements at UK institutions;
  • The Home Office will no longer grant B-rated licences for applications under Tier 2 and Tier 5.

There are also a number of minor changes, clarifications and technical amendments including a change to the minimum salary thresholds set out in the codes of practice for Tier 2 and 5 workers. The updates represent a 0.9% increase.

You are advised to visit the Home Office website to ensure that you receive the most up-to-date information


UK NARIC helping with Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor Compliance


Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information.

 

 

Universities and colleges across the country need to comply with strict guidelines to bring students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to study in the UK.  There have been high profile suspensions of universities and colleges which have failed to comply with these guidelines resulting in significant damage to the reputation of the institution as well as having a meaningful effect on revenues.

There are no hard and fast rules on how education providers can ensure they can keep their Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status, but it is apparent that demonstrating good practice in the recruitment of international students is an important step in the right direction.

Working with institutions and the Home Office UK NARIC has been able to identify the following areas as being important steps in being able to help institutions keep or achieve HTS and thereby achieve compliance.

Compliance is the Key

In order to bring students to the UK from outside the EEA universities and colleges need to have HTS status.  HTS is something that is “given” to education providers by the Home Office.  Having, and keeping, HTS is the main aim of all education institutions that engage in the recruitment of international students.

The best way to gain and maintain HTS is to be compliant with the Home Office’s sponsor requirements.

There are numerous criteria to which institutions have to comply and we feel that it is useful to highlight four areas:

  • Adopting best practice
  • Ability to follow a course
  • Counter fraud
  • English Language Proficiency

Adopting best practice

Education providers in the UK need to clearly demonstrate that they are using tried and tested processes to identify and evaluate potential students from outside the EEA.  The Home Office are not going to tell higher education institutions or colleges how they should market themselves or whether they are over-estimating the abilities of an individual; but they do want to see that there are policies and procedures and that the institution is following good practice.

Policies and Procedures

When it comes to evaluating applicants from outside the EEA institutions need to show that they are being consistent.  Universities and colleges need to be able to demonstrate that they have a system in place.  Using UK NARIC’s data is one way of doing this.  All UK NARIC’s members are entitled to a “Membership Certificate”.  This does not mean that UK NARIC accredits the institution (if you become aware of any institution claiming to be accredited by UK NARIC please let us know!), it simply confirms that the institutions is a member of UK NARIC and therefore has access to our data and services.  The Membership Certificate clearly shows that the institution is using “an independent authority” to help them evaluate the qualifications of international applicants.  If you are a member of UK NARIC and you would like to order a Membership Certificate please contact your Account Manager.

There are a number of other criteria that can be used to demonstrate good practice and we could fit many blog articles with them.  However, it is worth highlighting a couple more:

Staff development: Make sure that relevant staff are kept up-to-date with the latest developments in education internationally.  This can be done through Newsletters; there are a number of relevant newsletters available (QAA, UUK’s International Unit, AUA, UK NARIC).  Additionally, staff could attend training courses and conferences.  UK NARIC runs a number of professional development courses that have been designed for this purpose; additionally UCAS, UKCISA and many other organisations run courses and conferences throughout the year.  Finally, it is important to keep up-to-date with immigration policy; UK NARIC is now running events that are specifically design to help higher education professionals to do this.

Admissions Policy: An Admissions Policy should set out the way in which an institution evaluates applicants.  It should be readily available and it should provide information on the sources of information staff should use to make decisions.  Which sources of information does your institution use: internal databases? UK NARIC? Any other sources?  These should all be listed.  Additionally, if your institution has particular policies on an institution, country or region this should be detailed in the Policy.  The Policy should cover how you deal with Agents and what relationship you have with Agents.

Ability to follow a course

Under Tier 4 institutions should only issue a CAS once they are satisfied that a student both intends and is able to follow the course of study concerned.

The key point here is being able to assess an individual’s ability.

This can be done through the applicant’s previous qualifications, their performance in an admissions test or through interview.  If an institution is using previous qualifications to assess an applicant’s suitability, then they need to “confirm any qualifications the student already has which make them suitable for the course” on the CAS, i.e. use UK NARIC’s data.

Assessing a student’s suitability is very important.  It is the way in which institutions can be sure they have a committed student; but how can institutions be sure that the qualifications are genuine?

Counter fraud

We have covered education fraud in another article in this blog, and it is important that higher and further education institutions develop systems and processes to combat education fraud (in fact it should be covered in the Admissions Policy!).

The Home Office’s view on fraud is:

“We would encourage Sponsors to take all reasonable steps to verify the authenticity of a document; it is in the Sponsor’s interests to do so

Rooting out the non bona fide applications before issuing a CAS would save them from paying a CAS fee for a student who won’t enter the UK.

If an institution repeatedly sponsors applicants with non bona fide documents it may affect their Sponsor rating and could ultimately lead to their removal from the register.”

Therefore, it is vitally important that institutions wishing to gain or maintain HTS have a way of finding out whether a qualification is bogus.  Members of UK NARIC are able to use the Counter Fraud Service which will provide members with the knowledge needed to be able to make better judgments about whether a qualification is legitimate.  There is also the Degrees of Deception publication and a training course.

English Language Proficiency

There have been examples of when students have used bogus English language qualifications to enter the UK. The Home Office has established criteria for those wishing to study in the UK. There are a number of different ways in which applicants can show that they meet the different levels that have been specified, please refer to the Tier 4 guidance policy.

Tim Buttress, June 2013

 

 

Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.


Application Trends – English Speaking Africa


The 2009 figures from UNESCO showed that there were 3.3 million outwardly mobile students across the world.

The regions with the largest number of mobile students are East Asia and the Pacific, North America and Western Europe, while the regions with the lowest number of mobile students are Latin America and the Caribbean, the Arab States and Sub-Saharan Africa. For each of these six regions, North America and Western Europe are the top destinations. Taking a closer look at the UNESCO figures for English speaking African countries, the UK is second most popular destination; South Africa being the first.

In terms of UK NARIC assessments, the region as a whole also accounts for around 10% of the total number undertaken every year. The number of assessments we have undertaken for applicants from these countries (plus the overall ranking) over the past four years highlights some interesting points:

Country 2008
assmts
2008
rank
2009
assmts
2009
rank
2010
assmts
2010
rank
2011
assmts
2011
rank
Botswana 25 97th 11 112th 9 123rd
Cameroon 126 42nd 154 39th 105 43rd 140 42nd
Gambia 7 125th 10 120th
Ghana 591 17th 534 18th 480 17th 250 17th
Kenya 142 40th 161 38th 126 39th 120 145th
Liberia 1 168th 5 141st
Malawi 15 108th 11 112th 9 123rd
Namibia 3 143rd 7 135th
Nigeria 1680 6th 1587 7th 1295 6th 1469 5th
Sierra Leone 52 63rd 52 69th 35 78th 28 92nd
South Africa 2109 5th 1987 4th 1374 5th 1220 8th
Tanzania 26 85th 28 94th 21 95th 30 88th
Uganda 103 46th 123 45th 94 45th 148 40th
Zambia 50 67th 84 52nd 52 56th 47 70th
Zimbabwe 440 20th 443 20th 242 27th 265 30th
Total 5319 5193 3857 3757

The total number of assessments has fallen by nearly 30% over the past four years (5319 in 2008 and 3757 in 2011). In terms of individual assessments, both Nigeria and South Africa have been in the top ten for the whole period. However, whilst numbers from Nigeria have held relatively steady, those from South Africa have declined by nearly 50% in these four years.

It is nonetheless still the case that these two countries account for around 71% of all applications made from this region.

Qualification level of migrants

The table below shows the breakdown of the level of South African and Nigerian qualifications submitted during 2011:

Nigeria South Africa
Qualification level Examples % Examples %
Below Level 3 on the UK Qualifications Framework (QCF) Senior School Certificate, The West African Senior School Certificate, Nigeria Certificate of Education, Advanced Certificate in Secretarial Studies 34% N2 Engineering Studies, N3 Certificate in Engineering Drawing, National Certificate : Business Management 38%
A level and Sub-Degree Equivalents (QCF Levels 3, 4 and 5) Registered Nurse, Diploma in Computer Education, Higher National Diploma in Electrical Electronics 17% National Certificate N5 in Business Management, National Diploma in Industrial Engineering 14%
British Bachelor level Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) (1990) 42% Bachelor of Arts, Baccalaureus Legum 40%
Postgraduate Postgraduate Diploma in Education, Master of Science in Mathematics, Doctor of Philosophy 8% Post Graduate Certificate in Education, Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Master of Education, Philosophiae Doctor (Chemistry) 7%

The spread of qualifications from these countries is very interesting; nearly half are above Bachelor level, but a considerable proportion are below Level 3 on the UK QCF, in contrast to the overall average.

Tim Buttress, February 2013


What is a Statement of Comparability?


Please note that since this article has been published immigration guidance has changed. Please see our post UK NARIC’s Visas and Nationality Service launches on 6 April which contains more up-to-date information.

 

 

Since the introduction of the UK NARIC blog in November 2011, the most popular article we have written is ‘How a UK NARIC Statement of Comparability can help’ . Following on from the popularity of the article, here at UK NARIC we thought it a good idea to expand on the points made and further explain what a Statement of Comparability is, what is can do, how it can help; and perhaps equally importantly, what it is not and cannot do.

What is a Statement of Comparability?

Let’s start at the beginning – the purpose of the Statement of Comparability. The idea is that an individual from overseas comes (or is interested in coming) to the UK to study, gain employment or migrate. In order to do this, they need to prove to the admitting institution / potential employer / UK Border Agency* that they have a certain level of education or expertise. However, understanding the level of the qualifications the individual holds and what they can bring to the table is often the first stumbling block: here at UK NARIC, we can provide an assessment and compare the overseas award to a suitable and fair level within the UK national qualification framework. This will then allow the admitting institution / potential employer / UK Border Agency to understand, in more familiar terms, how the award compares to a UK level of education. The document we provide that contains this comparability, together with details of the awarding body, year of completion and title of award, is the Statement of Comparability.

Is UK NARIC’s decision final?

The comparability itself is merely our expert opinion derived from our considerable knowledge and experience which has been developed in close co-operation with universities in the UK as well as other NARICs and relevant authorities. It is not, as is often mistaken, a legally binding decision. A Statement provides details of the professional rights the qualification confers in the country of origin and forms the first stage in a two-stage process of professional recognition. Professional recognition in the UK is conducted by competent authorities such as the Teaching Agency and the Engineering Council.

Can UK NARIC provide a translation?

Usually, in order for UK NARIC to provide a Statement of Comparability, we request both the original language documents as well as certified translations. However, for certain languages, we can offer our Translation Waiver Service (TWS). The purpose of this service is to allow individuals to send solely the original language documents, thus removing the additional time and expense of certified translations. The full list of languages that are covered under the TWS can be found on the UK NARIC website. It is really important to clarify that the TWS is NOT a translation service – the idea is purely to save individuals time and money by allowing them to send their awards in the original language only.

Does the Statement of Comparability expire?

Another question we are regularly asked is whether the Statement of Comparability has an expiry date. The answer to this is no – it does not! However, as our information is reviewed on a rolling basis, it is possible that an assessment may change over time: new information or evidence may come to light that means we have to review a certain award or even an entire education system. The assessments provided are as accurate as possible, but are based on data available at the time of assessment only.

More information about a Statement of Comparability can be found on the UK NARIC website.

October 2012

 

 

*Please check the Home Office website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information.


Recognition of Joint Programmes


As Erasmus Mundus Programmes and joint programmes in general are increasingly gaining popularity, several projects and initiatives have been launched to explore solutions to the common problems associated with joint degree offerings: accreditation and recognition.

Through our partnership in the JOQAR Project (Joint programmes: Quality Assurance and Recognition), UK NARIC is actively involved in the on-going work that aims to facilitate  joint degrees in these two areas.

JOQAR (2010 -2013) plans to achieve its aims by developing multilateral recognition agreements between accreditation bodies; establishing a European Coordination point for external quality assurance and accreditation; raising awareness about the ENIC-NARIC network’s expectations regarding the design of the degree and the content of the Diploma Supplement.

In the scope of the project, the JOQAR Recognition Team is currently developing a set of guidelines for higher education institutions that will provide recommendations and examples of good practice regarding the award of the degree certificates and the Diploma Supplements to graduates of joint programmes.

UK NARIC will present the findings and the intermediate outcomes of the project during the three Bologna Regional Workshops organised by the British Council in October-December 2012.

For further information on JOQAR project please visit the project website.

 

Tim Buttress, September 2012