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Tier 4 Sponsor Licence

If you are an educational institution and looking to enrol students from outside the EEA, you will need to apply for a Tier 4 sponsor licence. The Tier 4 sponsor licence allows holders to sponsor international students to come to the United Kingdom to study full time in their chosen institution. Importantly, a Tier 4 sponsor refers to an educational institution that offers full-time courses to students (including international students) in the UK.

The Home office has stressed that sponsorship is a privilege and not a right. This means sponsor licence holders who benefit from overseas student migration would need to do all they can to ensure that the system is not abused. Tier 4 sponsor licence holders are also expected to ensure that the student migrants applying to come to the UK via their institutions must be eligible to do so and the educational provider genuinely wishes to teach them. The granting of a sponsor licence is a statement of trust by the Home Office to the education provider; with this trust comes responsibility. The Tier 4 sponsor licence holder must act in compliance with the Immigration Rules and regulations in the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance. It is also important to note that Tier 4 licence holders would still need to apply for a Tier 2 licence to sponsor Tier 2 migrants.

How to Apply for A Tier 4 Sponsor Licence

To apply for a Tier 4 sponsor licence, you will first need to establish whether your educational establishment meets the sponsor requirements as laid out in the guidance. You also need to ensure that you meet the requirements as laid out in the section above. Once you have completed these steps, you will need to lodge an application online and pay the relevant fee.

As well as lodging the online application, you will also need to attach the documents that are required by sponsor guidance appendix A. These documents include the following:

  • proof that you are based in the UK
  • proof that you are operating and trading lawfully in the UK
  • proof that you have registered for VAT with HM Revenue and Customs where required to do so
  • a written record of a fire risk assessment conducted by a competent person
  • evidence to show that you have the relevant planning permission or local planning authority consent to operate the relevant type or class of organisation at your trading address
  • any documentation required to show that your sites, exceptional arrangements and/or partnerships, where applicable, meet all of the relevant requirements of the ‘Sites and teaching partnerships’

Eligibility Criteria/ Conditions for A Sponsor Licence

As you might expect, there are stringent criteria applied to those who wish to sponsor international students for their UK based study. As sponsor licence holders can help migrants come to the UK, the licence comes with significant responsibility.

UKVI layout the following eligibility criteria for institutions who wish to become Tier 4 sponsor licence holders:

  • You must be a genuine education institution that is operating legally in the UK
  • You must set appropriate education standards that have been approved by an appropriate education authority
  • Be a fit and proper establishment that is capable and eligible of catering to international students

As long as you fit these criteria, you can apply to become a Tier 4 sponsor licence holder who can sponsor international students wishing to study in the UK. If you need to establish whether your institution is eligible, get in touch today and speak to us about your query.

Please note that only higher education institutions can become Tier 4 sponsor licence holders; the route is not available to academies or state-funded schools (including those with sixth forms).

What Are the Sponsorship Management Roles When Applying for a Sponsor Licence?

When you want to become a Tier 4 sponsor licence holder, one of the most important considerations is who will take on the sponsorship management roles? You will allocate these roles to relevant staff members who will be in charge of the administration of the sponsor licence on UKVI’s Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

Below we have laid out the roles that must be nominated in order to comply with UKVI’s rules:

  • An authorising officer – this will be a senior, competent person who will be responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the SMS
  • A key contact – this staff member will be your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
  • A level 1 user – this person will be responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

While it may be prudent to have several people performing these roles, they can actually all be performed by the same person. It will be down to your institution to decide how these roles are allocated, but you must ensure all staff members who will use the system are eligible to do so. As well as level 1 users, you will also be able to nominate level 2 users after you have received your licence. These users are restricted from many of the functions of the sponsor management system.

Requirements Needed for a Sponsor Management Role

Staff members who take up roles on the SMS will need to be eligible to do so. The following criteria must be met in order for a staff member to be eligible:

  • Cannot have an unspent criminal conviction
  • Cannot have been fined by UKVI in the past 12 months
  • Has not been reported to UKVI
  • Have not broken the law
  • Cannot have been a ‘key person’ at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the last 12 months
  • Must not have failed to pay VAT or another excise duty

You and your allocated staff must also:

  • Be based in the UK most of the time
  • Not be a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
  • Not be subject to a bankruptcy restriction order or undertaking, or a debt relief restriction order or undertaking
  • Not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements

As well as the above, your allocated staff must usually be paid members of staff within your organisation. You can also opt to use external agents to assist. As long as your employee fits these criteria, you may add them to sponsorship management roles.

How Many Confirmation of Acceptance Can I Apply For? 

If you are a new educational establishment or just new to sponsorship, you will be wondering how many Confirmations of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) you can apply for during your Tier 4 sponsor licence application. The simple answer is that you can apply for up to 50% of your current student body if you are an established educational institution. If you are new, then the guidelines state that UKVI would consider any reasonable request. In practicality, this will need to be carefully tailored to the type and size of establishment that you have.

Once you have nominated your estimated number of Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) requests, your Tier 4 sponsor application will be considered. There are several factors that are taken into account when it comes to how many you will be allowed. They will base much of this on your individual situation and the number is difficult to predict. If you want to discuss your specific requirements, get in touch with our team of immigration solicitors today. We can help you estimate how many CAS requests that you may need based on the information you have. We can also help with the application process. So, if you need more information, get in touch today.

Related Article: Read ‘Sponsor License applications - Tier 2, Tier 5, Tier 4

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