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Education briefing - A plague of incorrect BRPs causes chaos across the Education sector

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings

11-10-2019

September and October are important and busy enrolment periods for Tier 4 sponsors. Institution’s compliance teams had enough to content with this academic year with the added complication that the introduction of the e-gates has brought i.e. checking evidence of each Tier 4 student’s date of entry to the UK by alternative means where they have received no landing stamp.

However, in addition to this, Tier 4 students have been hit with a plague of incorrectly printed Biometric Residence Permits (“BRPs”) this year. From incorrectly spelt names to the more worrying, incorrect working rights, it is common for Tier 4 sponsors to spot a handful of incorrect BRPs each year. However, one university has reported identifying over 500 incorrect BRPs having been issued to their students this autumn. Institutions are being advised that the BRP errors team currently have a 4 week delay on processing corrections due to the volumes they are dealing with, leaving thousands of Tier 4 students’ with the incorrect working restrictions, or no ability to work, during that time.

Many sponsors incorrectly believe that the duty to report an incorrect visa rests solely with the student, which is partly correct in that PBS migrants’ also have a duty to report an incorrect BRP within 14 days of receiving the document. However, we have always advised our Tier 4 sponsor clients that, owing to their duty in paragraph 2.9 of the Tier 4 sponsor guidance for educators, they have a duty to notify UK Visas and Immigration (“UKVI”) if ‘it becomes aware that any of the students it is sponsoring has been granted leave with the incorrect conditions of stay, for instance if they have mistaffly been granted permission to work’.

Tier 4 sponsors are no strangers to having to make large volumes of reports to UKVI via the online sponsor management system (“SMS”). However, despite there being a positive obligation on sponsors to report incorrect BRPs, UKVI, rather unhelpfully never sought fit to include an option for this report under the “drop downs” available to the SMS users. Until now.

The extent of the disruption and sheer volume of incorrectly issued BRPs this year has led to the following message appearing to Tier 4 sponsors on the SMS:

“A new migrant activity reporting option has been introduced to SMS. Under 'Change in student circumstances' you can now report when a student has been granted incorrect conditions of leave, for instance work permissions, as set out at paragraph 2.9 of the 'Sponsorship Duties' guidance document. Please accept our apologies for this omission to date.”

In the past, sponsors have successfully challenged aspects of revocation letters regarding the failure to report incorrect BRPs, based on the failure of UKVI to provide a function to enable this report to be made. As such, this argument will no longer be of any use in defending a failure to comply with this sponsor duty.

Is it reasonable for UKVI to expect institutions to bear the administrative brunt and cost of UKVI’s mistakes? Resourcing the staff to not only spot where a Tier 4 student’s BRP has been issued incorrectly, but to make hundreds of reports via the SMS is a costly business. Furthermore, it is unlikely that by the sponsor making this report, something as helpful as a replacement BRP would automatically be issued, as the individual migrant themselves must trigger this process. This begs the question, why make two reports when you could just make one?

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