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 can sponsor international students to study in the UK. Some types of institution (academies and state-funded schools) are not eligible to apply for a Tier 4 licence. Read the sponsor guidance to find out if your institution is eligible.

How to apply for a Tier 4 licence

Check that your education provider or institution meets the sponsor requirements in the sponsor guidance and is ready to comply with them.

  1. Decide who will fill the sponsor management roles within your institution.
  2. Estimate the number of confirmations of acceptance for studies (CAS) you are eligible apply for in the first year of your licence.
  3. Apply online and pay the fee.
  4. Send UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) the documents listed in sponsor guidance appendix A.
  5. If your application is approved, you’ll be given probationary sponsor status and emailed a login for the sponsorship management system. This is an online tool which lets you carry out your day-to-day sponsorship activities.

When you successfully apply for a Tier 4 licence, UKVI will give 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 Tier 4 sponsor. You must apply for a basic compliance assessment after 12 months. This is to assess whether you meet the core requirements to remain a Tier 4 sponsor.

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 at the following address:

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

UKVI will consider your application. They may want to visit your institution before deciding whether to approve your sponsor licence application.

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.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 in the ‘Key Personnel and others involved with your organisation’ section in the sponsor guidance.

Estimate how many Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) you need

A CAS is a virtual document, similar to a database record. When you want to sponsor an overseas student, you should 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 at your institution
  • 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 enter or remain in the UK
  • you accept responsibility for reporting on the student throughout the period of your sponsorship

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:

  • new students who you want to sponsor
  • existing students who you expect to apply for an extension, if you applying for an extension to your existing Tier 4 sponsor licence or are taking over another Tier 4 sponsor and taking over sponsorship of their students

You may request a CAS allocation of 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 current educational oversight report. As set out in our sponsor guidance, UKVI will consider a range of factors in order to reach a decision when deciding your CAS allocation.

Be prepared to meet your sponsorship duties

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

You must show that all of your sites meet acceptable 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, specified in the Tier 4 sponsor guidance, in your most recent inspection
  • be recognised as an overseas HEI offering short-term ‘study abroad’ programmes in your own premises in the UK

You can find out more information in the ‘Educational Oversight requirement’ section in document 1 of the Tier 4 sponsor guidance.

As a Tier 4 sponsor, you must comply with the guidance for sponsors and fulfil all your sponsorship 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 passport and Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and give them to UKVI when it asks for them. For more information see sponsor guidance Appendix D.

UKVI will monitor your compliance with your sponsorship 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 breached the illegal working regulations

Where there has been a breach of sponsor duties, UKVI will consider the nature of the breach and may take compliance action against you. This may include revoking your sponsorship licence if the breach is serious.

Tier 4 sponsor status

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

The sponsor guidance explains how to apply for a basic compliance assessment.

Tier 4 premium customer service

The Tier 4 premium customer service is designed to:

  • offer your organisation support in sponsoring all overseas students
  • develop a relationship with you and a long-term understanding of your requirements

The Tier 4 premium customer service for sponsors contains more information on this service.

Published 22 January 2014
Last updated 28 January 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated content.
  2. Updated sponsor licence information
  3. Fee change introduced.
  4. First published.