Becoming a Tier 4 sponsor:
your essential guide

If you are an education provider – a university or college offering higher or tertiary learning – and you wish to enrol students from outside Europe, you will need to become a Tier 4 sponsor. You will be expected to fulfil certain requirements (see below) and maintain responsibility for your overseas students.

The current list of Tier 4 sponsors, located all over the country, has just reached 1,208.  The government’s guidance for Tier 4 sponsors begins:

‘Sponsorship is a privilege and not a right. Sponsors benefit directly from migration and are expected to play a part in ensuring that the system is not abused.’

International student fees can be as high as £18,000 per year for some courses, and each student is also required to have enough funds for their own maintenance during their stay in the UK. The higher charges subsidise domestic student fees, which are capped at around £9K.

What are the responsibilities of a Tier 4 sponsor?

First steps 

Your organisation will need to pass an inspection to prove that it is a genuine education provider and is willing to comply with all aspects of the immigration rules.

Key personnel

You must appoint certain members of staff to specific roles in overseeing  your Tier 4 activity. Some of these ‘key personnel’ will be given access to the government’s online sponsorship management system (SMS).  They include an authorising officer, a key contact, a Level 1 user of the SMS and a Level 2 user of the SMS.

Special duties  

You must agree to keep the SMS up to date. You are responsible for every sponsored student from the moment they start their course to its conclusion. You will also need to inform UKVI if a student fails to arrive, has a long period of absence, or leaves the course early for whatever reason. Failure to meet these requirements could incur a fine.

Maintaining ongoing compliance 

Your organisation must agree to regular monitoring, either remotely or face-to-face by a staff member of the Home Office.  As part of this compliance, the Home Office may make an announced or unannounced visit. Neither type of visit is a cause for concern.

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies  

You will need to issue a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to each sponsored student. This is a virtual document, unique to each holder, that shows that they have been sponsored and have met the requirements for a valid CAS.

When you apply for a sponsor licence, you must state how many CAS you would like to assign in your first year. This will include new students as well as existing students who will apply for an extension to their existing visa.

How Smith Stone Walters can help

Our dedicated team of trained professionals will be happy to organise a mock audit for your institution. We would look through all of your processes to ensure that you are maintaining ongoing compliance under the Tier 4 system. If we would identify any issues in regard to non-compliance, our staff will work with you to improve your systems. We will even provide in-house training to your key staff.

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