PBS Information for Staff Members
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Points Based System?
All non-EU foreign nationals whose primary purpose is to come to work in the UK or to study for six months or more are now required to score points in different eligibility categories in order to be granted a visa to enter the UK borders. There are five tiers – student visas are Tier 4.
2. Why has PBS been introduced and why are Universities being asked to help manage the process?
The government introduced PBS to help better manage migration to the UK. Universities are being asked to help monitor compliance in recognition that they benefit significantly through the recruitment of international students.
3. What are the duties on the University?
The University has a licence which allows the institution to recruit both students and staff. The student licence (Tier 4) is separate to that of the staff licence (Tiers 1, 2 & 5). However, when assessing compliance the licensing body, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has the right to scrutinise activity under both licences.
4. Can the University lose its licence and what would be the impact?
Yes, the University could lose its licence through poor management of international students, poor recruitment practises, poor student progression rates and through attracting a high level of students who fail to enrol on their programme of study. The impact would ultimately be a prohibition on recruiting international students.
5. What are the duties placed upon the University?
The University must:
• Report to the UKBA any Tier 4 students who fail to enrol on time without explanation.
• Report to the UKBA any students who miss 10 consecutive contact points without the School’s permission.
• Report to the UKBA any Tier 4 students who cease studies permanently/temporarily unless this is considered an authorised absence.
• Report to the UKBA any student for who we withdraw sponsorship for any reason.
• Report to the UKBA any significant changes to the sponsored student’s situation. For example, if their course length shortens, or they change their course.
• Report to the UKBA any students we reasonably believe to be in breach of their visa conditions.
6. Who reports students to the UKBA?
The Key Contact (Head of Student Affairs). Reports are only made after full consultation with the student, where this is possible, the School and International Student Support.
7. How many points does a student need to get?
An international student needs to gain 40 points in order to obtain a visa. 30 points are given if the student is in receipt of a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) and 10 points if the student can prove they can support themselves financially whilst in the UK.
8. What is Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)?
A CAS is a virtual document issued to international students who accept an unconditional offer. A CAS is only valid for 6 months from the date of issue. It contains the student’s nameand personal details such as nationality and date of birth , course details, start and end dates, sponsorship which is being provided by the University and any fees paid in advance.
9. How does a student use the CAS to get a visa?
Some students can apply for their visa online and then post their supporting documents, however the vast majority must attend an appointment at a UKBA office in their home country. The Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) opens the virtual CAS issued by Queen’s on the Sponsorship Management System. The ECO will consider this alongside the student’s financial and other supporting documents before deciding to issue a visa. NB: Queen’s is never told whether or not the student’s visa application is successful. We only know for certain once the student enrols on their course using the correct visa documents.
10. Who is responsible for PBS compliance at Queen’s?
There are a large number of people responsible for the compliance of PBS legislation at Queen’s:
PBS Steering Group - Oversees the implementation and monitors the PBS Risk Log. The Group is chaired by Ellen Douglas-Cowie.
Authorising Officer - Wilma Fee, Director, Academic and Student Affairs, is the Authorising Officer and as such is responsible for all activity by Queen’s staff on the UKBA Sponsorship Management System.
Key Contact - The Key Contact between UKBA and the University is the Head of Student Affairs.
Admissions / INTO / International Office / Registry
- All these named offices have access to the UKBA Sponsorship Management System to issue CAS -online.
International Student Support - ISS is responsible for the operational implementation of PBS including documentation.
Schools - Schools are responsible for monitoring the attendance of Tier 4 PBS students and contacting the ISS in the first instance to raise any concerns about a student’s participation.
Students - Tier 4 students are fully aware of the duties placed on both their sponsor and them as individuals to comply with the legislation.
11. How do Schools know which international students are on Tier 4 visas?
Schools managers are regularly sent updated lists of Tier 4 students by ISS with guidance notes.
12. Why does the list keep getting longer?
Throughout the year, more students will - enrol at Queen’s. These are normally January starts such as Study Abroad students and PGR students who may start throughout the year. Additionally, current students who by extending their present visa are now required to apply under Tier 4 and are therefore moved onto the PBS list.
13. Why are not all international students on Tier 4 visas?
Tier 4 was introduced in March 2009. Students who were granted a visa prior to this are not on Tier 4 PBS visas and therefore not subject to the reporting duties. Some students may also have other types of visas such as Student Visitor or Dependant visas, and are not subject to reporting duties. There are also some international students who also have an EU passport and therefore do not need entry clearance to enter the UK.
14. How do Schools monitor attendance of international students?
The PBS Steering Group agreed that the 10 contact points students were required to participate in would be academic contacts such as seminars, lectures or meetings in relation to research supervision. A number of Schools are already monitoring the attendance of all students as part of their student progression strategies. Other Schools have put in place mechanisms where PBS students are asked to ‘sign in’ to the School Office on a monthly basis.
15. What do I do if an international student wants to withdraw/change load/change their programme/take an authorised absence/temporary leave?
The primary decision must be driven by academic criteria. However, international students whether or not they are on a Tier 4 visa must be referred to ISS to discuss the immigration implications.
16. Can a PBS student leave the UK without being reported to the UKBA?
Yes, it is up to the School to decide if a student is taking an authorised absence. Authorised absence does not need to be reported to the UKBA unless it changes the end date of the student’s course or research – in which case it is more likely to be a ‘leave of absence’ or a temporary withdrawal. ISS is currently working with the Qsis team to see if a new programme action can be included on a student record to distinguish between an authorised absence and a ‘leave of absence’.
17. Can International students cross the border to Ireland to study or carry out research?
Ordinarily no, as their visa will most likely only cover the UK. Ireland is a different legal jurisdiction with different immigration legislation and therefore many international students will need to apply for a visa before travelling to the Republic of Ireland. Students must be referred to ISS for further instruction before crossing the border – this is also true in relation to leisure trips.
18. Can School staff give immigration advice?
NO – the only staff who can legally give immigration advice to international students are the advisers in International Student Support .
19. Can the School contact the UKBA directly about a student?
Direct contact with the UKBA about an individual student should only be made by ISS.
20. What one thing do I need to remember about PBS?
That any issue pertaining to a Tier 4 student’s enrolment – whether it is a late start date, failure to enrol, change of course, temporary or permanent withdrawal or failure to participate, is an immigration issue and must be referred to ISS.
21. Where can I get further information?
International Student Support
International and Postgraduate Student Centre