What is a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence and Sponsor Duties?

International students provide a huge boost to the UK in terms of potential future talent and economic gain. In the year ending September 2019, official statistics show that there was 258,787 Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (“CAS”) issued for entry clearance Tier 4 visa applications and a further 40,042 for further leave to remain. In order for a non-EEA national to come to the UK to study, they must be sponsored by an educational provider who has a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence. There are two basic principles to being a Tier 4 sponsor; sponsorship is a privilege and not a right so those who benefit most directly from student migration (education providers) must help to prevent the system from being abused and those applying to come to the UK to study must be eligible to do so and must have a reputable education provider who genuinely wishes to teach them. Our business immigration solicitors in London specialise in Points Based System and sponsor licence applications and can not only apply for the sponsor licence but also carry out mock compliance audits in order to ensure that all of the vigorous sponsor duties are continually met. Please contact our team in order to arrange a consultation with us and find out more about our full range of services.

How can I apply for a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence?

Educational providers such as Higher Education Institutions and colleges can apply for a sponsor licence in order to sponsor Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) applicants from outside the EEA (from 2021 EU nationals will likely be included in this same process). However, academies and state-funded schools (including those with sixth forms) cannot hold a Tier 4 sponsor licence or sponsor students under the Tier 4 visa route. Tier 4 sponsors are held to the highest standard, and in order to successfully apply for a Tier 4 sponsor licence, the following requirements must be met:

  • The sponsor management roles must be assigned to trustworthy individuals within the academic institution. The 4 roles are briefly outlined as follows:
    1. Authorising Officer – this must be a senior and competent member of staff who is responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the sponsor management system (SMS)
    2. Key Contact – the main point of contact with the Home Office about the sponsor licence application
    3. Level 1 User – is responsible for all the day-to-day management of the sponsor licence using the SMS portal
    4. Level 2 User – an SMS user with more restricted permissions than the level 1 user

These roles can be fulfilled by the same person or a combination of different people, however they must all be ‘suitable’. Full guidance can be found in the ‘Key Personnel and others involved with your organisation’ section in the Home Office sponsor guidance.

  • Potential sponsors must estimate the number of CAS they are eligible to apply for in the first year of the sponsor licence;
  • The online application form must be submitted with the licence fee paid. Then the mandatory supporting documents for sponsors which are listed under Appendix A to the Immigration Rules must be provided to the Home Office.

Most applications for a Tier 4 sponsor licence are considered by the Home Office within 4 weeks.

What happens when the Tier 4 Sponsor Licence is granted?

If the Tier 4 sponsor licence application is successful, the educational provider will be given a probationary sponsor licence for 12 months whilst they demonstrate that they can fulfil all the Tier 4 sponsor duties. Sponsors must then apply for a basic compliance assessment (please see below) after this 12 month period as the Home Office will assess whether the core requirements can be met to remain a Tier 4 sponsor. As a Tier 4 sponsor, educational providers can then offer places to international students and issue them with a valid CAS in order for them to apply for a Tier 4 visa. A Tier 4 sponsor licence is valid for 4 years from the date it is granted, unless it is revoked or surrendered. A Tier 4 sponsor licence can be renewed and this must be done before the expiry of the licence otherwise the educational provider will be removed from the Home Office official register of licenced sponsors. This would mean that no new students can be sponsored and existing Tier 4 students would need to find a new educational provider who could sponsor them.

What is a Tier 4 compliance assessment?

As mentioned above, Tier 4 sponsors will need to apply for a basic compliance assessment after having the probationary licence for 12 months in order to demonstrate to the Home Office that all of the Tier 4 sponsor duties can be met. However, as per the Home Office guidance on compliance for Tier 4 sponsors, these basic compliance assessments need to be conducted every 12 months thereafter, in order to maintain the strictest standards. Failure to conduct these yearly assessments will cause the Home Office to commence revocation action in a similar way to the revocation of a Tier 2 sponsor licence for employers.

The basic compliance assessment must be made through the SMS portal and it is the sponsor’s responsibility to ensure that it is made on time. The ‘core requirements’ that the sponsor must have is (i) a visa refusal rate of less than 10 per cent; (ii) an enrolment rate of at least 90 per cent; and (iii) a course completion rate of at least 85 per cent. The Home Office will then decide each assessment on a case by case basis. The Home Office will then notify the sponsor of their decision in writing by either letter or email.

What happens if a Tier 4 sponsor fails the compliance assessment?

A Tier 4 sponsor will fail the basic compliance assessment in the following circumstances:

  1. Where they have used 50 or more CAS and one or more of the core requirements has not been met;
  2. If the Home Office is not satisfied that the sponsor should pass the assessment following a discretionary assessment or;
  3. If the sponsor does not send any evidence requested by the Home Office.

If a sponsor fails the basic compliance assessment the Home Office will begin revocation action which means the sponsor will be removed from the Tier 4 Register of Sponsors. Sponsors will be given 20 working days to make representations against the revocation decision. If a sponsor wishes to challenge the decision, it must be able to demonstrate that the decision was materially flawed based on the facts made available to the Home Office at the time that the decision was made. There is no right of appeal against this decision.

What are my duties as a Tier 4 Sponsor?

As with Tier 2 and Tier 5 sponsors, Tier 4 sponsors have a number of on-going duties which must be fulfilled. Some of the Tier 4 sponsor duties include but are not limited to:

  1. To act honestly in all its dealings with the Home Office. For example, a Tier 4 sponsor must not make false statements;
  2. To take responsibility for all its Tier 4 students while it is sponsoring them;
  3. To ensure that concerns about the conduct and integrity of Tier 4 students are treated consistently with other students, including taking appropriate action where students are found to have used deception to gain advantage in their studies; and
  4. To comply with all aspects of the Immigration Rules and sponsor guidance, and support immigration control, including by taking steps to ensure that every student has permission to study in the UK throughout the whole period of their study.

Sponsors also need to comply with record keeping duties listed under Appendix D to the Immigration Rules which include copies of the Tier 4 student’s passport and BRP, up to date contact details of the Tier 4 student and their record of attendance and absences. The full list of Tier 4 sponsor duties are detailed in the sponsorship duty guidance. Failure to adhere to all of the sponsor duties could result in the sponsor licence being revoked; in turn this would put the Tier 4 migrant’s leave in the UK in jeopardy.

Using our Immigration Solicitors in London to apply for a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence

Legal representatives, such as our specialist immigration and visa law firm, are qualified to advise you on immigration law and your immigration status. It is possible to instruct an immigration and visa legal representative to submit a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence application.

Caseworkers at the Home Office are trained to reject applications which are improperly prepared, for example by failing to provide the correct supporting evidence. In order to ensure your application succeeds, all necessary documents must be provided.

This can be a significant administrative task and you will need to submit the correct documentary evidence. The UK Immigration Rules are complex and a legal representative can help ensure that your sponsor licence application meets the Immigration Rules and requirements.

Successful Tier 4 Sponsor Licence applications with our Immigration Solicitors in London

Our team of solicitors and barristers are specialist immigration lawyers who act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meeting, we will be able to advise you in respect of your immigration status and the merit of your visa and immigration application before your matter even reaches the Home Office UK Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation of your immigration and visa application and ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.

We are based in the legal epicentre of London, just across the road from the Royal Courts of Justice in order to ensure we get the best results for our clients.  We are minutes away from the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, the Royal Courts of Justice and other central London courts.

Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation.

Contact our London immigration solicitors on 02071830570 or complete our contact form.

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