How to get a UK student sponsor licence for educational institutions

International study is a valuable market for the UK economy.

In fact, international students contribute £20 billion to the economy through tuition fees, living costs and other spending. That’s a lot of money, so it’s not surprising plenty of education providers want to jump on board.

But not every educational institution can accept international students.

As part of the student visa application process, students from overseas have to be sponsored by a licenced school or university. That means only places with the licence can enrol students from abroad.

The licence is known as the Tier 4 Sponsor Licence and educational institutions have to meet certain criteria to apply for it.

So, how does it work and who can apply? Let’s find out.

Who is the Tier 4 Sponsor Licence for?

Right now, international students means people from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) that want to come to the UK to study. If you want to enrol students in this category then you will need to be a licenced sponsor.

For example, an English language school that wants to teach students from overseas would need a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence. The same applies to universities and colleges.

However, some British academies and state-funded schools are not eligible, which means they can’t enrol international students.

How does it work?

Today, there are 1,154 institutions across the UK with the licence, ranging from independent schools to universities and privately funded colleges.

But there is more to the application process that just deciding you want a student sponsor licence. There are a range of eligibility and suitability conditions that applicants have to meet.

Here are some examples:

  • Comply with immigration rules.
  • Be a genuine education provider.
  • Have processes in place to meet sponsor duties.

The examples above are just a quick overview but there is much more involved.

We recommend that before applying you check out the full government guidance document that has extensive information about the conditions. It can be found at the UK government website here.

Responsibilities of a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence holder

As with most visa categories, becoming a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence holder comes with responsibilities and duties.

After all, it involves the welfare of mostly young people from around the world that may not have been to the UK before. The school or university will be their first point of contact and where they start to build a new life.

That’s why it’s important to be clear on what is expected of you as a holder of a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence.

Again, the government guidance on this is extensive, but some of the responsibilities are listed below:

  • Make sure that your sites pass the Tier 4 educational oversight inspection.
  • Be a recognised overseas Higher Education Institution for study abroad programmes.
  • Tell UK Immigration and Visa (UKVI) if a student doesn’t start the course or takes a long leave of absence.
  • Record personal details of students like passport and Biometric Residence Permit.

Educational institutions seeking a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence also need the following four roles within their staff:

  • Authorising officer for the sponsor management system (SMS).
  • Key contact for communicating with UKVI.
  • Level 1 user for day-to-day management of the SMS.
  • Level 2 user with restricted access to the SMS.

To make sure people are following the rules, UKVI regularly monitors licence holders. This includes an initial 12-month transition period after an approved application. The institution then has to pass a basic compliance assessment to get the full Tier 4 Sponsor Licence.

So, now you know what is expected of Tier 4 Sponsor Licence holders, let’s move onto the application process.

How to apply for a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence

Before getting started on the application, official advice from the UK government is to check you meet the requirements and that you can comply with them.

If the answer is yes, then you can start the application process.

First, select the staff to fill the sponsor management roles (explained above).

Next, decide how many confirmations of acceptance for studies (CAS) you would like to apply for. This is just for the first probationary year of the licence.

Then you need to collect the supporting documents and get ready to apply online.

The application process is expected to take around 20 minutes and the fee is £536. Decisions are usually made within four weeks.

Further reading about UK visas

As you can see from information in this article, there is a lot to consider when applying for a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence.

To help you with the process we highly recommended that you read the government guidance before you apply. That way, you will have a clearer idea of your responsibilities as a licence holder.

You can find the link below, along with other useful information about international students in the UK.



Article Created By Hayley Maguire

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