18 November, 2021
Schools, colleges and universities can have a variety of visa types amongst students and staff. If a teaching organisation holds a licence to sponsor students and workers, it is required to adhere to the strict rules to maintain its licences. Inspections and audits are resuming and therefore organisations must be prepared to evidence their compliance at any time.
Types of visas found in teaching establishments
As the name would suggest, a Student visa, or Child Student visa, is granted to students on certain courses with approved sponsors. Teachers, professors and researchers may hold a Skilled Worker visa and be sponsored by a university for example in a role that is deemed to meet the required skill level. This would mean that the entity holds a sponsor licence and complies with sponsor duties.
Additionally, there are visas that do not require sponsorship and mean that an individual can work in any role such as a spouse visa issued to a British citizen's spouse or long-term partner, a Graduate visa, a dependant visa and a UK ancestry visa. There are also individuals who have been granted indefinite leave to remain or enter the UK and do not require sponsorship.
Records must be kept on file of any visas, along with their expiry dates, and follow-up checks carried out to ensure that the individuals do not work or study without the correct permissions in place.
In most circumstances, a Student visa holder has to study on the course or in the institution by which the confirmation of acceptance of studies is issued. Students are usually restricted to 10 or 20 hours of work during term-time, but can work full-time outside of term.
Individuals on Skilled Worker visas are restricted to the type of work they can do, namely they are only permitted to work in the role for which they are sponsored. Sponsors must report any changes to salary, work location, weekly hours' work and job description as part of their compliance duties.
Inspections and audits
The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) has confirmed that routine inspections will resume in autumn 2021. ISI is an Educational Oversight body which is authorised by the Home Office to assess Student sponsors to ensure that they meet the acceptable standard of educational quality. The standards must be met throughout the duration of the sponsor licence and inspections can happen at any time.
The Home Office is now carrying out audits again as restrictions lift and this can be an unannounced visit. The Home Office will check all the documents and right to work/study checks and it has ability to revoke a licence or downgrade a licence should it deem it necessary. There can also be financial and criminal sanctions for employers should illegal working be found. The documents that Student sponsors and Skilled Worker sponsors are required to hold on file for each individual are contained in Appendix D: keeping documents - guidance for sponsors.
To remain compliant with the laws on illegal working, internal audits of records held for each person (and not just those requiring a visa) can be useful to show where an organisation is falling foul of the rules. Our team can assist with auditing files and can provide training to those responsible for right to work/study checks to ensure they know what to look out for and how to monitor expiry dates in the event that the Home Office and ISI come knocking.