Tier 4 Sponsorship License

What are you getting?

EXTENSION extensions after 4 years

ENROLLMENT enrol non-European students


  • Sponsorship licence can be obtained by a school, college, university or a similar educational institution

  • Sponsor child students aged 4-17

  • Visa-free entry in 174 countries

  • Sponsor students who are outside of the European Union

  • Licence is granted for 4 years

In order to become a licensed sponsor, the establishment concerned must be a genuine educational facility
operating legally in the United Kingdom.

Those students who wish to come to the UK to study must be eligible to do so, and must have a reputable
education provider who can genuinely provide adequate knowledge.

The educational facility will be expected to report any change no matter the size or scope about the
student to the Home Office via the SMS system.

Failure to follow this system can result in the cancellation or downgrade of the licence.

We can help you make a successful application.

Tier 4 Sponsorship Licence

You will need to apply for a Tier 4 Sponsorship licence if you wish to enrol students from outside the
European Union (or to be more precise the EEA and Switzerland).

A Tier 4 Sponsor is an education provider that offers courses of study to full-time students in the UK.
There are some exceptions (for instance not all institutions need a sponsorship licence to teach
short-term study students).

How to apply

You will need to appoint people within your business to manage the sponsorship process when you apply for
a licence.

The main tool for this is the Sponsorship Management System (SMS)

The relevant roles are:

  • Authorising officer – a senior and competent person responsible for the actions of staff and
    representatives who use the SMS
  • Key Contact – your main point of contact with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
  • Level 1 User – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS

The mentioned roles can be filled with just one person (or different people if you prefer).

It is also possible to appoint an optional level 2 user once you have your licence. This is an SMS user
with more restricted access than a level 1 (for instance, they will not be able to withdraw a
certificate of sponsorship).

You and your staffed will be checked whether anyone is suitable for these roles. You may not receive your
licence if anyone involved with this licence has:

  • An unspent criminal conviction
  • Been fined by the UKVI in the past 12 months
  • Broken the law
  • Been a “key person” at a sponsor that had its licence revoked in the past 12 months
  • Failed to pay VAT or other excise duty

You and your staff must be:

  • Be based in the UK
  • Not a contractor or consultant contracted for a specific project
  • Not be subject to bankruptcy
  • Not have a history of non-compliance with sponsor requirements

You must have at least one level 1 user who is your employee. You can have other level 1 or level 2 users
employed by third-party organisation contracted to provide you with HR services. Your level 2 user can
be a temporary member of staff supplied by an agency.

You can also allocate any of the roles to a UK-based legal representative. Apart from the authorising
officer role. Your representative must be qualified to give immigration advice or services.

To apply for a Sponsorship Licence you will need to provide at least 4 documents

Documents must be originals or certified copies.

When you successfully apply for a Tier 4 licence, UKVI will issue you a probationary sponsor licence.
This is a transitional period lasting 12 months whilst you demonstrate you can fulfil all of your duties
as a Teri 4 sponsor. You must apply for a basic compliance assessment after those 12 months

Your staff must be paid member of staff or office holders.

Estimation of Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

This is a virtual document, similar to a database record. After you complete the necessary
process you will be issued a CAS number which you have to give to the student for his/her visa
application form. This reference number is a way of confirming, that:

  • You want to sponsor an overseas student to study in the UK
  • To the best of your knowledge, that student meets the requirements of the rules for a valid CAS and
    will be able to make a successful application for leave to come to or stay in the UK

When you apply for a sponsor licence, you must apply for the number of confirmations of acceptance for
studies (CAS) you would like to assign in your first year.

The number must include:

  • Existing students who you expect to apply for an extension
  • New students you want to sponsor

You can request a CAS allocation for up to 50 per cent of your current student body. Your student body
must comprise UK, EU or Swiss nationals.

You must provide evidence to support your request, as well as your educational oversight report. As set
out in our sponsor guidance, UKVI will consider a range of factors in order to reach a decision on your
CAS allocation.


Before you apply you must have made certain preparations.

When applying for a sponsor licence, you must show that you meet the relevant eligibility and suitability
requirements as an education provider.

You must show that all your sites meet acceptable relevant education standards. You must either:

  • Have had a Tier 4 educational oversight inspection or a statutory education inspection, and you must
    have achieved the required rating
  • Be recognised as an overseas HEI offering short-term “study abroad” programmes in your own premises
    in the UK

As a Tier 4 sponsor, you must comply with the guidance for sponsors and fulfil your duties. For
example, you must contact UKVI if:

  • The student does not arrive for their course
  • The student is absent without permission for a significant period
  • The student leaves their course earlier than expected
  • The student is asked to leave the course

You will be required to keep proper records of the students you sponsor, including contact
details and a copy of their passport and BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) and give them to UKVI when

UKVI will monitor your compliance with your duties. It will:

  • Give you a suitable allocation of CAS, dependent on the size of your current student body
  • Make visits, pre-arranged or not, to check compliance
  • Issue civil penalties if it finds evidence that you have somehow breached the illegal working

Where there has been a breach of sponsor duties, UKVI will consider the nature of the breach and may take
compliance action against you.

When you have had a probationary sponsor licence for 12 months, you must apply for a basic
assessment in order to gain full Tier 4 Sponsor status. UKVI will revoke your licence if you do not
meet the requirements.

Frequently asked Questions – Tier 4 Sponsorship licence

I run a language school, do I have to apply for this licence

No, if you run a language school that offers short-term study courses (up to 11months) you may not need this licence. However, other accreditation is necessary.

I used to have a sponsorship licence but it was revoked. Can I apply again

Yes, you can apply again, however you will need to wait for the “cooling period” to end before you can do so.

How long is the sponsorship valid

If you are not downgraded or your licence is being revoked, it will be valid for 4 years. After that it must be extended.

My licence has been downgraded what should I do

You will be issued an “action plan”, you must send a response to the Home Office within 10 days or your licence will be revoked.

Can students leave and join a different educational institution

Yes, however they will need to reapply and you will have to keep records on the SMS that this happened.

Do I need this licence for European students

No, Europeans (just like British) students do not need to be sponsored.

Who can I place for reporting duties

You can place yourself or an employee that is working for you and knows how to do it.

Will the Home Office visit my place of work

It is possible that they might even come unannounced. It is advisable to keep standards of reporting high.