Tier 4 update

On 4 March the UKBA published newly revised guidance on Tier 4. This was followed by a Statement of Changes published on 14 March, which makes a range of changes to the Immigration Rules, some of which affect the Tier 4 position.

Reporting duties

Many of the changes to the guidance are simply changes in terminology and/or formatting, rather than substantive.  However, there are some changes to the duties of sponsors to report to the UKBA when particular circumstances arise.

The guidance confirms that the duty to report missed contacts applies only where the student has missed 10 expected contacts and the sponsor has decided to withdraw sponsorship as a result.  It states that sponsors are no longer required to report cases where they have decided not to withdraw sponsorship even though a student has missed 10 expected contacts; however, the guidance makes it clear that the UKBA expects such cases to be ‘very rare’, and that sponsors must keep evidence of their decision as compliance officers will monitor these exceptions.  This seems to go beyond the fairly wide statement in the recent letter from the UKBA to various sector bodies which suggested that reporting would only be required where there had been a decision to withdraw sponsorship.  This probably supports the conservative view taken by many of our clients that they will continue to carefully monitor student attendance and to report where 10 contacts have been missed.

An additional duty has been added requiring sponsors to retain information on student appeals against refusal of leave decisions. The sponsor must make the UKBA aware if the student does manage to gain leave and their start date is then delayed.

PhD students


The Statement of Changes states that from 6 April, students who have successfully completed a PhD at a publicly-funded university may remain in the UK whilst being sponsored by the university on a Tier 4 visa for a further 12 months.  The move is designed to allow such students a longer period to find a job that would allow them to move into the Tier 2 route, to set up as an entrepreneur (Tier 1) or to gain practical work experience.


Whilst this will undoubtedly be an attraction for PhD students, and universities may benefit by employing their own PhD graduates, it seems unlikely that any university would wish to continue to sponsor a graduate who is not working for the university and over whom the university would therefore have little control.  It is not clear whether the full range of Tier 4 sponsor duties would continue to apply, but if they do then universities will rightly be wary of trying to monitor graduates who may have moved to a different part of the UK to seek work. This will presumably be addressed in (further) revised guidance to be published in due course.


Joanna Forbes

Senior Associate Solicitor

Education Team

For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP

DD: 0800 763 1310

M: 07725 241552

F: 0800 763 1710

International DD: +44 870 763 1310

E: joanna.forbes@sghmartineau.com

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