UKBA announced recently the launch of the 'Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme' for education providers under the Tier 4 student visa scheme. Education providers can apply right away. The register of highly trusted sponsors will be available from Tuesday 6 April 2010.
Sponsors are rated according to their track record and procedures for monitoring overseas students. The UK Government has decided that education providers such as colleges and Universities must help more in enforcing immigration controls. To meet the requirements for the highly trusted sponsor scheme education providers must show that they have a track record in recruiting genuine students who comply with the UK immigration laws.
UK Immigration say that those accepted as highly trusted sponsors will find it easier to sponsor tier 4 student visas. This will also free up time to enable UKBA to spend more time on "enforcement activity" to make sure other sponsors comply with the Tier 4 sponsor requirements. UKBA has the power to suspend or revoke the licences of sponsors.
If you are granted a highly trusted sponsor licence you will be able to offer more courses to overseas students compared to other Tier 4 sponsors. You will also be able to offer other services and benefits such as a dedicated account management function and will be given greater flexibility when reporting student non-attendance.
Overall, it seems that it is worth applying for the highly trusted sponsor scheme if you qualify for this. However, there have been concerns raised that the Tier 4 sponsorship scheme overall puts too much of a burden on education providers to enforce immigration controls in the UK.