Updated Home Office guidance 16 June 2020: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students and Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors

17 June 2020

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors webpage and Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students guidance were both updated yesterday (16 June 2020). There are some welcome changes and new concessions. Here are the main changes:

Distance learning 

There is a new concession that Tier 4 sponsors can start sponsoring new students who will start studying through distance or blended learning in the 2020-21 academic year ‘provided they intend to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as circumstances allow’. It is not clear how the Home Office defines ‘academic year 2020-21’ (ie where it starts and ends), but this is a question we will put forward to them.

The distance learning concession will be in place for the duration of the 2020-21 academic year, but will be subject to regular monitoring and will be subject to review at the end of the 2020-21 academic year.  

There is a new instruction that a sponsor must withdraw sponsorship immediately if a student stops engaging with their distance learning, whether overseas or in the UK. 

The sentence ‘sponsors do not need to tell the Home Office when students have moved to distance learning’ has been removed from the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students guidance but, we presume erroneously, remains in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for Tier 2, 4 and 5 sponsors webpage.

There is confirmation that Certificates of Acceptance for Studies which have been issued under a concession before the date on which it is amended or withdrawn will be honoured. 

The heading ‘Extending a Tier 4 visa’ has been amended to ‘Applying for a Tier 4 visa’

There is clarification that the 28-day gap concession applies both to students who already hold Tier 4 leave and to those who are switching in to the Tier 4 route using the switching concession.

Normally, in order to apply for immigration permission within the UK, the Immigration Rules require there to be no more than 28 days between the end of the immigration permission and start of the course. The wording to explain this Rule is not entirely clear in this document, and we will highlight this to the Home Office.

Graduate route 

There is a new concession to allow students who are required to either continue their current studies, or commence a new course, by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, to remain eligible to switch into the graduate route on a concessionary basis if they spent some time studying outside the UK. 

There are two new requirements that need to be met for students to benefit from this concession:

  • to enter the UK before 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK; 
  • to have extant leave as a Tier 4 student or Student when the new route launches in 2021 and meet other eligibility criteria to be eligible for the route

Please continue to view our Covid 19 information for students webpage for an explanation of questions we can answer and questions we cannot answer yet.