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Background information

The Home Office has introduced its new points-based immigration system. The system awards points to workers' from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) for skills that reflect experience, age.

For the education sector the Home Office claims there are two main aims and objectives to:

  • reduce the number of illegal students and educational establishments
  • keeping a tight reign on who can enter the country and when

The system has 5 levels/tiers in which foreign nationals are categorised:

  • Tier 1 Highly skilled individuals
  • Tier 2 Skilled workers with a job offer
  • Tier 3 Limited numbers of low skilled workers
  • Tier 4 Students
  • Tier 5 Youth mobility and temporary workers

For FE and HE institutions the new system will impact on highly-skilled staff (Tier 1); staff who are skilled workers with a job offer (Tier 2), students (Tier 4) and sponsored researchers (Tier 5).

Employers wishing to employ or teach non EEA nationals will need to apply to the Home Office – UK Border Agency for a Licence in order to become a Sponsored Organisation. Once granted a licence, they will have to issue to all non EEA workers a Certificate of Sponsorship and for students, a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. Both forms will contain details of the terms of the offer for either work or study.

From 27 November 2008 in line with the Tier 2 arrangements, HEIs wishing to employ staff from outside the EEA will need to have registered as licensed sponsors.

Organisations that are not licensed sponsors will be unable to bring staff into the UK once the new system is in place. The sponsor registration process requires an application to the UK Border Agency (UKBA).

Tier 4 which looks at student entry will go live at the end of March 2009. Colleges and universities wishing to teach international students must apply by 2 February.

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