Student Sponsor Licences

The Student sponsor route is the main way an international student can enter the UK to study full-time or (in some circumstances) part-time. As an education provider, you need a Student Sponsor Licence before you can enrol international students. Our specialist immigration solicitor is on hand to provide the guidance and support you need to obtain or renew your Licence and ensure compliance with your legal obligations.

This system of sponsorship applies to higher and further education institutions who seek to enrol international students on their rolls. For those who already have a sponsor licence in place, it is important to continually keep this under review to ensure that recruitment processes are compliant with the Home Office rules and that sponsor duties are not being breached.

Further to the UK’s exit from the European Union, Tier 4 (General) student visas and Tier 4 (Child) student visas have now been replaced with Student visas (for over 16s) and Child Student visas (for over-16s and certain 16 or 17 year olds). As of 1 January 2021, academic institutions need a Student Sponsor Licence to bring any non-UK or non-Irish national to the UK to study. EU/EEA nationals must now meet the same immigration requirements as non-EEA nationals.

At Chattertons, we have specialist immigration solicitor, Kate Hollyer, who can help you navigate the new immigration rules and skilfully guide you through the process of obtaining, renewing and retaining your Sponsor Licence.

For advice about sponsoring students via the Student and Child Student routes, get in touch with our specialist immigration solicitor by contacting your local Chattertons office or filling in our online enquiry form. We have offices in Boston (Main Ridge West and Wide Bargate), Bourne, Grantham, Horncastle, Lincoln, Newark, Sleaford, Spalding and Stamford.

Why choose Chattertons for advice about Student Sponsor Licences?

We are proud to offer bespoke immigration advice to businesses across the East Midlands, Lincolnshire and the wider surrounding area.

Kate Hollyer is our resident immigration law expert with nearly a decade of experience specialising in this area, including many years working for a leading London immigration firm. Kate is a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, a professional association for specialists who have dedicated their careers to representing individuals and businesses in immigration matters.

As well as providing general advice about obtaining a sponsor licence and sponsoring students, Kate can advise on the various risks and opportunities of enrolling students from overseas, support your key personnel, and help you comply with your ongoing legal obligations.

Your sponsor licence can be revoked if you do not consistently meet your obligations under the Home Office Sponsor Guidance and the Immigration Rules, so having ongoing expert advice can be invaluable.

Clients often ask us…

How does the student sponsorship route work?

If you want to enrol adult or minor students from overseas (including from outside the European Economic Area), you need a student sponsorship licence. This can be obtained from UK Visas and Immigration (formerly the UK Border Agency) which is part of the Home Office.

The full requirements for becoming a Student Sponsor can be found within the Government’s Sponsor Guidance, however, the basic requirements are:

  • The education provider applying for the licence must be:
    • A genuine education provider able to meet sufficient educational quality standards and which is operating lawfully in the UK
    • Eligible to hold a student sponsor licence (see below)
    • Capable of carrying out its sponsorship duties
  • Educational oversight (ensuring the education provider can demonstrate sufficient educational quality standards) must continue throughout the entire period of sponsorship (this is referred to as the Student Educational Oversight requirement)
  • The education provider must supply all relevant documents, including proof that they operate in the UK
  • The education provider must allocate key personnel, ensuring their staff are suitable
  • The education provider must apply for the number of Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) they need to assign in the first year.

Student sponsors are expected to comply with the Immigration Rules and the Sponsor Guidance during the application process and while they act as a sponsor for overseas students. When a Sponsor Licence is first granted, you will receive Probationary Sponsor status, which means you are required to demonstrate compliance before you can be trusted to become a full sponsor. Failing to comply with the Rules or Guidance could result in the application being rejected or the licence being suspended or revoked.

Who is eligible to sponsor students from overseas?

It is up to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to decide whether an education provider is eligible to be a Student Sponsor. Decision-makers will take all relevant factors into account, such as whether the provider is able to meet the Student Educational Oversight requirement and characteristics of the key personnel responsible for running the organisation.

Examples of education providers which may be eligible include:

  • Higher education providers (HEP) – institutions required to register with the Office for Students (in England)
  • Independent schools
  • Publicly funded colleges
  • Faith-based further education institutions
  • Private providers, such as Steiner and Montessori further education institutions

How do you apply for a Student Sponsor Licence?

Given the complexity of the requirements, our specialist immigration solicitor can handle the application process entirely on your behalf, ensuring that the key requirements are met.

The application must be submitted online through UKVI along with the application fee (which is currently £536). UKVI may want to visit your institution during their consideration of your suitability. Most applications are processed and dealt with within 4 weeks.

How long does a Student Sponsor Licence last?

An initial probationary sponsor licence lasts for 12 months and, once complete, an assessment can be undertaken to obtain a full student sponsor licence. A student sponsor licence is valid for four years from the date your application is successful, unless you choose to surrender it or it is revoked.

You must renew your Sponsor Licence before it expires, otherwise you will not be allowed to continue sponsoring students.

What happens if your Student Sponsor Licence application is refused?

There is no right of appeal if your application is refused. It is therefore essential that you get all the details right the first time.

You can reapply six months after the date of refusal and must pay another fee and provide fresh documentation. It is vital to address the reasons why your application was refused before applying again. We have experience working with organisations who have previously been rejected, providing the support and guidance they need to successfully become a Student Sponsor.

Get in touch with our specialist Student Sponsor Licence solicitors

For advice about sponsoring students via the Student and Child Student routes, get in touch with our specialist immigration solicitor by contacting your local Chattertons office or filling in our online enquiry form. We have offices in Boston (Main Ridge West and Wide Bargate), Bourne, Grantham, Horncastle, Lincoln, Newark, Sleaford, Spalding and Stamford.