Late last month the UK Border Agency (UKBA) took high-profile action against London Metropolitan University to revoke the University’s Tier 4 sponsor licence and Highly Trusted Sponsor status. Following an audit conducted by the UKBA, claimed failures by the University to ensure compliance with the Immigration Rules and UKBA policy have led the UKBA to fully revoke the University’s licence.   The LMU is contesting those findings.

The alleged failures were multiple and even if ultimately found to be largely or entirely without merit, must count as an embarrassment for the LMU (though in that case no doubt much more severe embarrassment for the UKBA!).   According to the UKBA (a position strongly denied by the LMU), the University had not taken adequate steps to check that those enrolled should be there, nor to verify that they were actually participating in their courses anyway.  Failures to maintain sufficient records left the LMU largely unable to provide satisfactory answers to its enquiries, claimed the UKBA. 

Unless the LMU’s urgent legal challenge to the UKBA’s ruling succeeds, over 2,000 students currently sponsored by the University will therefore have their visas curtailed to 60 days, during which time they must find a new University to sponsor them or face administrative removal from the UK.   In that event it may also be that the loss of students could lead to redundancies within the LMU.  Even if some LMU students lacked the necessary permissions, as Press reports suggest, the UKBA’s  willingness to prejudice the positions of all the others concerned makes clear both its determination to enforce the relevant rules and that it will not be put off doing so by the impact on innocent third parties. 

Tier 2 sponsors must take note of this decision by the UKBA, as failure to comply with sponsor duties and responsibilities and/or failure to comply with any action plan put into place by the UKBA could lead to a similar revocation of a Tier 2 sponsor licence, leaving the employer unable to continue sponsoring any migrant workers. Employers take note. Whether or not the LMU’s counter-attack succeeds on the facts of this case, the message is clear – compliance is key!