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Inspection report finds chaotic Home Office practices in student cases

A recent report by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, revealed that the management of curtailment decisions in Tier 4 cases is inconsistent and the Home Office is unable to deal with the thousands of curtailment cases and Sponsors notifications it receives every month. You can see the full report here: A Short Notice Inspection of the Tier 4 Curtailment Process.

Although it identified some areas where things have improved since the last inspection in 2012, the report was critical of many current Home Office practices. Bolt identified several areas in need of improvement, for example:

  1. Caseworkers made legal and factual mistakes in their decision letters. In 20% of the cases examined by Bolt and his team, the wrong Immigration Rules were cited whilst 34% of curtailment letters contained factual errors;

  2. Cases were passed to Capita for enforcement action before the student’s leave to remain or the wrap-up period had expired;

  3. The Home Office did not clarify what changes in circumstances a Licensed Sponsor is expected to report via the Sponsor Management System (SMS) resulting in thousand of unnecessary notifications being sent to the Curtailment Team;

  4. The Home Office often failed to meet its internal 90-day target to deal with SMS notifications and in many cases that resulted in curtailment no longer being a feasible option because of the short period of leave left on the student’s visa;

  5. No feedback was provided by the Home Office to the Sponsors on their use of the Sponsor Management System and whether a SMS notification had resulted in the curtailment of leave.

Bolt’s main area of concern was the treatment of ‘Curtailment not Pursued’ (CNP) cases where curtailment of leave is not appropriate either because the student’s leave had already expired or because the days left on the student’s visa are less than the allowed wrap-up period. These cases are not closely monitored and there is no system in place to check whether the individual has left the country or has remained without valid leave and must therefore be removed.

This inertia seems to be in direct contrast with the much more active approach that the Home Office has taken in ETS cases. On the one hand, the Home Office is doing everything in its power to remove as many ETS students as possible on the basis of ‘unscientific hearsay evidence’, a practice that has recently been held unlawful by the Courts. On the other hand, it is letting as many as 71,000 students who have potentially remained in the UK without valid leave slip through the cracks of the system.

On the whole, the report highlighted the environment of terror and distrust that has developed around Tier 4 visas. The Sponsors over-report every single minor change in their students’ circumstances, such as failure to submit an assignment on time, for fear of losing their licence. At the same time, the Home Office caseworkers treat every student as a future immigration offender and compliant students are ‘tarred with the same brush as non-compliant students’.

The Home Office, in its response to the report, accepted or partially accepted all recommendations except one and the full response can be found here.

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