Following recent criticism from the National Audit Office, the UKBA has come under further scrutiny today with the publication by the Home Affairs Committee (“HAC”) of its periodical report into the workings of the UKBA during the period of August to December 2011.
The HAC report is widely critical of the UKBA and has pointed out that the UKBA “is an integral part of the Home Office and is not a separate “Agency” with separate systems of accountability”. Effectively, the report calls on the Home Office to take more direct responsibility for the work of the UKBA.
On the student immigration front, there are two noteworthy recommendations in the report:
Firstly, referring to the term “bogus college”, the report states that “It is unacceptable that the “Agency” refuses to recognise a term which is widely recognised within both Government and Parliament”. The report recommends as a possible definition “an establishment set up to facilitate the entrance of a foreign national on a Tier 4 visa, for reasons other than study”.
Secondly, the report recommends that the UKBA makes all inspections to Tier 4 sponsors unannounced. In 2011, out of around 900 visits, half were unannounced. The report finds that “in the same period, 88 sponsors were found to be breaking the terms of their licence and had their licences revoked”.
Recently it has been reported in the media that Teesside University appears to have had its Tier 4 licence suspended, and should the latter recommendation of the HAC be implemented it will be interesting to see both how it works in practice and whether it results in increased instances of licences being suspended or revoked - and perhaps subsequent court challenges of the UKBA's decisions in that regard.