Sponsors of Tier 4 UK visa applicants have been reminded that they must apply to the appropriate body for inspection and review.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) released a statement explaining that inspections and reviews of educational bodies and organisations are to take place throughout 2012 to ensure that each group is suitably placed to vouch for UK visa applicants in its care.
Full details of the oversight bodies can be found on the UKBA's website; they include the Quality Assurance Agency for privately funded higher education and pre-sessional providers, the Independent Schools Inspectorate and the School Inspection Service.
Educational establishments will be required to prove to the relevant body that they can confidently make judgements in the management of the quality of learning and academic standards. If this is done successfully and the Tier 4 sponsor has obtained highly trusted sponsor status, it will no longer be subject to the interim limit of UK visas in this category.
In addition to the changes coming in for the sponsors, UK visa applicants looking to move to the country through the Tier 4 route will be subject to a number of changes themselves come April of this year.
From this date, work placements will be restricted to one-third of the course, expect when the course is at degree level, the sponsor is a higher education institution or the student is on a study abroad programme.
There will also be a time limit on the visa, restricting the time students can spend at degree level to five years, with exemptions made only for longer courses and doctorates.
But perhaps most controversially, the Tier 1 post-study work route will be closed from April for students coming to the country through Tier 4. The Tier 2 work permit route of the points-based system, however, will remain open for sponsored graduate employment.