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Student Sponsor Licence: How to Sponsor a Student

If you are an educational institution looking to gain the significant benefits that international students can bring, you will need a Student Sponsor Licence.

For more information about the Student Sponsor Licence, including details on how to apply, eligibility criteria and compliance assessments, reach out to one of our legal advisers and receive bespoke advice. Call IAS at +44 (0)333 305 9375, or contact us online

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    What is a Student Sponsor Licence?

    Under UK immigration law, educational institutions require a Student Sponsor Licence to enrol international students.

    The licence gives education providers the right to offer a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to prospective international students, a virtual document required for those students to apply for a Student Visa.

    A Student Sponsor Licence is needed to sponsor both international adult and minor students.

    The process of applying for the Student Sponsor Licence, as well as the responsibility of enforcing it, is overseen by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the Home Office.

    Sponsor Licence Criteria And Requirements

    To obtain a Student Sponsor Licence, you must fulfil certain requirements.

    An education provider must meet, and continue to comply with the following:

    • Lawfully operate in the UK, complying with all rules and regulations, and demonstrating acceptable educational quality standards.
    • Considered eligible to hold a Student Sponsor Licence.
    • Capable of carrying out its duties as a sponsor.

    Our immigration team can help educational institutions sponsor students. Get in touch with us.

    How to Apply for a Student Sponsor Licence

    Obtaining a Student Sponsor Licence involves a number of decisions that must be made before submitting an application.

    You should determine which employees will hold sponsor management roles and have access to the Sponsor Management System (SMS) –  the online system through which day-to-day management of sponsorship duties is conducted.

    It is also vital to be clear which education sites will be used to teach international students. This can be multiple sites if necessary as long as your application makes this clear.

    For the first 12 months of sponsoring students you will be regarded as a Probationary Sponsor and you should have a clear estimate of how many CASs you plan to allocate in this time period.

    Once you have made these decisions you can apply for a Student Sponsorship Licence online, submit supporting documentation and pay the appropriate fees.

    You may wish to consider reaching out to an immigration specialist if you are unsure about the application process.

    Documentation Needed for Student Sponsor Licence

    Educational institutions are required to present a number of supporting documents with their Student Sponsor Licence application.

    You must supply paperwork showing:

    • The institution is based in the UK.
    • Operating lawfully in the UK.
    • VAT registered with HMRC
    • Proof that a fire risk assessment has been conducted.
    • Evidence of local planning authority consent to operate the relevant type of organisation at their trading address.
    • Validation of compliance with educational occupational rules

    Applying without proper documentation is a key reason why applications for the Student Sponsor Licence fail.

    Our sponsorship experts at IAS can ensure you have all the required documents in order and give you the best chance of succeeding in your application. Inquire today, at +44 (0)333 305 9375, or contact us online.

    Other Student Sponsor Licence Considerations

    Members of staff

    Applicants for the Student Sponsor Licence must ensure that their staff are suitable for the sponsorship management roles. There are 4 positions which must be filled.

    1. Authorising officer. This senior and competent person will take responsibility for the junior members of staff who manage the day-to-day tasks of the SMS.
    2. Key contact. It is the job of this individual to handle all communication between the educational institution and UKVI.
    3. Level 1 user. This individual will conduct all day-to-day management of the institution’s licence using the SMS.
    4. Level 2 user. Another SMS user, but with restricted access to the SMS. A Level 2 user may require the consent of the Level 1 user to perform certain tasks.

    Whilst these are 4 distinct roles that could all be handled by different members of staff, UKVI leaves it to the education provider to decide how many people they should be distributed. All 4 roles could be handled by a single, dedicated, sponsorship officer.

    There are a few things to consider when determining whether members of staff are suitable to occupy those roles.

    Members of staff must:

    • not have an outstanding criminal conviction
    • have a clean UKVI record with no reports or complaints made against them.
    • be permanently based in the UK.
    • not subject to a debt relief restriction order.
    • be permanent faculty members, not a consultant contracted to the education establishment for a single job.

    Failure to comply with these requirements may result in the Student Sponsor Licence being denied or, if already granted, revoked.

    Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

    When applying for a Student Visa or Child Student Visa, overseas students are required to present a unique CAS number. A CAS number confirms that the student has a place with an educational institution which is a licensed sponsor.

    When presenting a student with a CAS, an education provider is taking on responsibility for that student throughout the sponsorship period.

    When applying for a sponsor licence, you must estimate the number of CAS you expect to present to prospective students in your first year of sponsorship. There are several rules of which to be aware when you figure out this estimation.

    Firstly, you may only request an amount of CAS up to 50% of the current student body (which should be comprised of UK nationals). However, if the educational institution is a newly founded independent school, a reasonable CAS allocation (based on estimates of the expected student body) will most likely be granted.

    Secondly, evidence is required to support the request, and you will need to submit a business plan. UKVI will then use information from your Educational Oversight body in order to reach a decision on the appropriate CAS allocation.

    Processing Time, Cost and Validity of the Licence

    There is an application cost of £536 to apply for the Student Sponsor Licence.

    You can expect to hear whether your application was successful within 4 weeks. UKVI will write to you detailing their decision.

    If successful in your application, UKVI will assign Probationary Sponsor Status which lasts 12 months. During this period, it is essential that education providers consistently demonstrate that they fulfil all of their obligations as sponsor licence holders.

    Once past this probationary period, you must apply for a Basic Compliance Assessment, which ensures that the Sponsor Licence Holder meets the criteria for remaining a student sponsor. If this assessment is passed, the Student Sponsor Licence will be granted and is then valid for four years.

    Student Sponsor Licence Holder Duties

    As a sponsorship licence holder, there are a number of duties that you must perform. UKVI holds the position that sponsorship status is a privilege, not a right, and fulfilling your duties is a key part of maintaining that privilege.

    Failure to uphold sponsorship duties means risking the loss of the sponsor licence or being denied a sponsor licence renewal.

    A sponsor licence holder must:

    • act honestly in all dealings with the Home Office.
    • act with integrity as a genuine education provider and cooperate fully with Home Office requests.
    • comply with all aspects of immigration rules and sponsor guidance, ensuring that all overseas students are properly complying with immigration regulations.
    • ensure that the public is accurately informed of their current sponsor status. All marketing aimed at recruiting overseas students must feature accurate information.
    • ensure proper behaviour of students, for example, UKVI must be contacted if a student fails to arrive for their course
    • maintain proper records and keep copies of a sponsored student’s passport and Biometric Resident Permit.
    • ensure children are properly safeguarded when sponsoring a child student and ensure child safety policies and procedures are in place.

    UKVI will make checks to ensure these duties are being fulfilled. They may make visits with short or no notice and request documents for inspection.

    Our team has helped hundreds of employers obtain a sponsor licence. Enlist our team for help today!

    What is a Basic Compliance Assessment?

    A Basic Compliance Assessment is an assessment undertaken by UKVI which aims to determine the extent to which the sponsor is complying with certain requirements such as having a visa refusal rate of under 10 per cent with a minimum enrolment rate of 90 per cent. There must also be a course completion rate of 85 per cent for sponsored students.

    You must apply for a Basic Compliance Assessment through the SMS and also pay a fee. The SMS will provide details of when the assessment must be completed.

    If the Basic Compliance Assessment is failed the Home Office may revoke the Student Sponsor Licence. There are 20 working days in which the sponsor can bring evidence to overturn the decision.

    IAS can help you ensure your educational body is ready for assessment. We can assist you in getting your affairs in order prior to assessment and help gather the appropriate paperwork. To inquire about assistance with the Basic Compliance Assessment, give us a call at +44 (0)333 305 9375.

    What is the Benefit of Sponsorship Status?

    The benefits of sponsorship status are the benefits of being able to enrol international students at your educational institution.

    Not only do international students bring a diverse range of talent that enriches the academic culture, but they frequently make a substantial financial contribution, significantly boosting the institution’s revenue.

    Further, the institution’s global reputation often gains an increase with the recruitment of overseas talent, possibly resulting in a cumulative effect.

    How IAS Can Help?

    We understand that running any kind of educational institution is a complicated business.  However, obtaining a Student Sponsor Licence is an essential part of managing many modern educational establishments.

    IAS is a firm of professional and experienced immigration lawyers who have spent years assisting individuals and organisations with UK immigration law.

    With our sponsor guidance, we will assist you at every stage of the Sponsor Licence application process, making sure that all necessary documentation is in order.

    Our experts can assist you in all dealings with the Home Office, helping you apply for your annual Basic Compliance Assessment and ensuring that you meet all requirements to pass it.

    We can also help you ensure you meet all your sponsorship duties, minimising the risk that your sponsorship might be revoked.

    Contact us today at +44 (0)333 305 9375 or make an inquiry through our website for bespoke advice.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    No. Only certain educational institutions can sponsor students to study in the UK. These institutions include higher education institutions, independent schools, language schools and colleges.

    It is important to note that state-funded schools and academies cannot sponsor international students to study in the UK.

    No. Applying to become a sponsor for child students is the same process as applying to become a sponsor for students.

    However, applicants should be aware that there are additional duties associated with child student sponsorship.


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