Sponsor Licence for Education Providers

Tier 4 Sponsor
Legally reviewed by: Sherena Lawrence

Student Sponsor Licence

In order to welcome students from overseas (including EEA nationals from 1 January 2021), UK universities, schools and other education providers first require the appropriate Student Sponsor Licence. There are two Student Sponsor Licence categories designed for these objectives. Firstly, for sponsoring Students and secondly for sponsoring Child Students. Our expert solicitors can help you obtain your Student Sponsor Licence and begin attracting talented students from around the world.

As an educator, you must be granted a Student Sponsor Licence before you’re allowed to sponsor and welcome foreign students who are going to be studying in the UK on a student visa. Upon obtaining a Student Sponsor License, an Education Provider gains a validity of four years, enabling them to sponsor international students.

Our business immigration can assess your requirements and eligibility for this type of licence before helping you to apply.

Moving forward we will also be able to assist you with your yearly assessments and help you unlock further possibilities under the sponsor licence program, including the possibility to be granted full privileges or to gain the status of a Highly Trusted Sponsor.

The Purpose of the Sponsor Licence

The sponsorship system is based on the premise that being allowed to sponsor foreign students is a privilege, not a right.

Education providers who benefit from a sponsorship licence have to take responsibility for it. It’s your job to prevent the immigration system from being abused.

By allowing foreign students to temporarily move to the UK under a sponsor visa, the system demands that they attend a school or university that is genuinely capable and willing to teach them.

Students who hold a student visa are allowed to study in the UK full-time or part-time for a specific period. The exact amount of time is set by the terms of the visa.

Sponsor visa holders are often given permission to work a certain number of hours a week in addition to their education. They are also usually allowed to extend their stay.

Applying for Your Licence

When you submit your application, the Home Office carries out a range of thorough audit checks to confirm:

  • The establishment is a legitimate educational institution maintaining acceptable standards of educational quality and operating in compliance with UK laws and regulations;
  • That the education provider is deemed eligible and fitting to possess a Student Sponsor License; and
  • Demonstrates the capability to fulfil its responsibilities as a Student Sponsor.

To ensure you are fully prepared we carry out our own selection of equally rigorous pre-audit checks before submitting your application.

By recreating those evaluations we can make sure you are well prepared and fully compliant with UK immigration law.

We will be by your side throughout your sponsor licence application from start to finish. We will take the difficulty out of the application process, helping you on your way to attract new foreign students.

OfS and Educational Oversight

All higher education providers who hope to become a sponsor need to be registered as an approved provider with the Office for Students (OfS) first, as this will ensure the ‘educational oversight’ required to be granted a Student Sponsor Licence.

After You are Granted your Student Sponsor Licence

The Basic Compliance Assessment

After you have been granted your sponsor licence you need to take the Basic Compliance Assessment every 12 months while holding a sponsorship licence. If you don’t apply for your yearly BCA in due time, you will be temporarily removed from the Register of Sponsors. You’ll then have 20 working days to respond to this removal.

During your yearly assessment, your core requirements will be looked at by the assessment team. You need to prove that you have a visa refusal rate of less than 10 percent, an enrolment rate of at least 90 percent and a course completion rate of at least 85 percent.

If you don’t meet these eligibility requirements you risk losing your sponsorship rights.

Becoming Eligible for Full Privileges

When you become eligible to offer the full privileges under a sponsorship licence, you also become eligible to assess prospective students’ English language abilities.

This privilege significantly speeds up application and enrolment processes.

To be eligible to offer these full privileges you need to have passed and held your ‘Basic Compliance Assessment’ (BCA) four consecutive years as a sponsor first.

Becoming a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS)

The UK’s student sponsor landscape has evolved, however excellent sponsors are still recognised. While the “Highly Trusted Sponsor” designation is retired, its principles still exist in the new streamlined system.

There are many reasons why an education provider would still want to be trusted even though the specific program or designation they were associated with (like the Highly Trusted Sponsor status in the UK) no longer exists. Some of the key motivations are, long-term reputation and trust, ethical and moral imperative, competitive advance, compliance and sustainability.

In conclusion, even though the terminology or specific benefits of a program like HTS has changed, the fundamental reasons why sponsors choose to be trusted remains strong.

Business Immigration Services

Legal Advice Regarding your Sponsorship Licence

Our expert solicitors offer some of the best education visa advice possible. We are accredited by the Law Society in Immigration and Asylum Law, so you can trust that our services are of the highest standards.

If you would like to discuss the individual needs of your university or school, get in touch with our team of immigration solicitors and we’ll provide the tailored visa sponsor guidance you need to move forward.

We're here for you.