Guidance

Apply for a Tier 4 sponsor licence

How to apply for a student sponsor licence.

Apply for a Tier 4 sponsor licence if you want to enrol students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

A Tier 4 sponsor is an education provider that offers courses of study to full-time students in the UK. There are some exceptions, read the sponsor guidance to find out if your institution is eligible.

How to get a sponsor licence

Check the education provider or institution meets the sponsor requirements in the sponsor guidance and is ready to carry out the sponsor duties.

  1. Decide who will do the sponsor management roles within your institution.
  2. Decide how many confirmation for acceptance for studies (CAS) certificates you would like to apply for.
  3. Apply online and pay the fee.
  4. Send UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) your documents listed in Sponsor guidance appendix A.
  5. If your application is approved, you’ll be given an ‘A rating’ and emailed a login for the sponsorship management system.

When you successfully apply for a Tier 4 sponsor licence, UKVI will give you an ‘A rating’. This is a transitional rating for 12 months. You must apply for highly trusted sponsor (HTS) status after 12 months.

Apply for your licence

You apply for your licence online. It should take about 20 minutes.

You’ll need to pay a fee when you apply online. The licence application fee is £536.

Print off the submission sheet and send it with your supporting documents to UKVI.

Sponsor casework operations
Sponsor applications team
UK Visas and Immigration
PO Box 3468
Sheffield
S3 8WA

UKVI will review your application. They may want to visit your institution.

Most applications are dealt with in 4 weeks.

When UKVI have made a decision, they will write to tell you if you’ve been successful.

Contact

If you have a question about your application, contact:

Education providers’ helpline Educatorshelpdesk@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk Telephone: 0300 123 4699

Sponsorship management roles

When you apply for your licence you’ll need to allocate these 4 roles to members of your staff:

  • authorising officer – a senior and competent person who is responsible for the actions of staff and representatives who use the sponsor management system (SMS)
  • key contact – your main point of contact with UKVI about your institution’s application
  • level 1 user – responsible for all day-to-day management of your licence using the SMS
  • level 2 user – an SMS user with more restricted permissions than a level 1 user

These roles can all be filled by the same person or by a combination of different people.

Check staff are suitable

You and your staff must pass UKVI checks to fill these positions. You may not get your licence or you may lose it if any of these people have:

  • an unspent criminal conviction
  • a fine issued by UKVI in the past 12 months
  • been reported to UKVI or broken the law

They must also:

  • be based permanently in the UK
  • 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

In most cases they must also be a paid member of your staff or someone who has an unpaid but official role, eg a statutory appointment, an appointment by internal constitution or trust deed.

You can read the full guidance on appointing ‘Allocate key personnel’ section in the sponsor guidance.

Estimate how many Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies you need

When you apply for a sponsor licence, you must give UKVI an estimate of the number of Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) you expect 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

A CAS is a virtual document, similar to a database record. You complete a process that produces a unique CAS reference number, which you give to the student. A CAS is your way of confirming, as a licensed sponsor, 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

Be prepared to meet your sponsorship duties

Before you apply you must have certain things in place.

When you apply for a sponsor licence, you must show that as an education provider you either:

  • have a current and satisfactory full inspection, audit or review with an appropriate body
  • offer short-term ’study abroad‘ programmes in your own premises in the UK overseas providers

We call this educational oversight. You can find out more information in the ‘Educational oversight’ section in the sponsor guidance.

You must comply with certain duties. For example, you must contact UKVI if a student:

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

You must keep proper records of the students you sponsor, including contact details and a copy of their biometric residence permit (BRP) and give them to UKVI when they ask for them. For more information see Appendix D.

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

  • set a limit on the number of CASs you can assign and review your performance after you have assigned a certain number
  • make visits, pre-arranged or not, to check compliance
  • issue civil penalties if they find evidence that you have breached the illegal working regulations

If UKVI consider that you have not been complying with your duties, have been dishonest in your dealings with them or you are a threat to immigration control in some other way, they will take action against you. This action may be to:

  • revoke or suspend your licence
  • reduce the number of CASs you can assign

Highly trusted sponsor status

When you’ve had a sponsor licence for 12 months, you must apply for highly trusted sponsor status (HTS) status. UKVI will revoke your licence if you do not meet the HTS requirements.

The sponsor guidance explains how to apply for HTS status.

HTS status shows that you’re being compliant your sponsor duties and your students are meeting the standards of their visa.

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.