The higher education sector has been consulted in recent weeks over proposals regarding the implementation of the points based immigration database. There have been two sticking points in the discussions with the Home Office: the level of detail required of the qualifications used to assess an applicant’s academic merit and the evidence that is deemed acceptable by the Home Office as proof of payment of fees.
The compromise proposed by the UK Border Authority regarding the qualifications information was that institutions would only need to list the main qualification used to assess eligibility and who the qualification was awarded by e.g. undergraduate degree from Macquarie University. The feedback from the sector was that this compromise was acceptable and it is hoped that the Home Office will endorse it.
The feeling in the sector was that the proposals regarding the evidence of payment were less acceptable and would cause considerable difficulty. The Home Office is unwilling to accept online receipts as evidence of fees paid by prospective students and wishes to receive paper receipts to indicate that a certain proportion of fees or accommodation costs have been paid in advance of the visa application. Any amounts paid in advance can be counted towards the maintenance requirement. Requests were made for the Home Office to consider scanned receipts or to use online, e-mail or phone solutions offered by institutions to check the financial arrangements made with applicants. A decision is expected in the near future.
Whilst acknowledging that email receipts can be forged relatively easily, it would be ironic if institutions that engaged in the ‘e-Government’ agenda and moved many of their payments online may now have to revert to issuing paper receipts to satisfy the requirements of the Border Authority.