In order to recruit international students, an independent education provider needs to obtain a Student sponsor licence. We take a closer look at the application criteria and how to maintain your licence once you have one.

There are a different set of criteria to meet for a Student sponsor licence, compared to a worker sponsorship licence.

If you are an established school, you would already have had an Educational Oversight inspection, and passed it. This is a requirement before you apply to UKVI for a Student sponsor licence.

An education provider can apply for a licence in two categories:

  • Student: This route is for students aged 16 or over who come to the UK for their education.
  • Child Student: This route is for students aged 4-17 who come to the UK for their education. Child Students may only be educated at independent schools.

A Student sponsor licence is valid for four years from the date it is granted, unless it is revoked or surrendered.

A sponsor must apply to renew its Student sponsor licence before it expires, or it will be removed from the Register of Student Sponsors and will not be permitted to continue sponsoring existing students or to recruit new students.

Steps to getting your Student sponsor licence

Step 1: Register online with your school’s name and email address.

Step 2: Complete the application form, pay the fee online and submit the application.

Step 3: You will then be taken to a submission sheet page. This must be printed, completed then sent to UKVI with your supporting documentation. The following must be sent to validate your application:

  • The original submission sheet (not a certified copy), signed and dated by the authorising officer (all pages must be sent) and,
  • All of the mandatory documents listed on the submission sheet (originals or certified copies).

These must all be sent together within five working days of the submission of the application, or the application will be rejected and the fee refunded.

Step 4: UKVI will process the application and make any necessary checks and then notify you of its decision.

Step 5: If a Student sponsor licence is granted to you, your school’s name and status will be published on the Register of Student Sponsors.

How to pass a Basic Compliance Assessment 

A sponsor must apply for a Basic Compliance Assessment (BCA) every 12 months. Applications can be made up to one month before they are due but must be made by the date they are due, or the sponsor’s licence will be revoked.

When you initially apply to UKVI for your Student sponsor licence, you will be given Probationary Sponsor status. When you pass your first BCA you will be upgraded to full Student sponsor status, which will be valid for four years.

To pass a Basic Compliance Assessment your school is required to have:

  • a visa refusal rate of less than 10% and, 
  • an enrolment rate of at least 90% and, 
  • a course completion rate of at least 85%  

Your visa refusal rate must be less than 10%. This means that of all the Confirmations of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) you have assigned that students have “used” to support an application for entry clearance or permission stay on the Student or Child Student routes, the total number of applications that UKVI refused must be less than 10% (subject to the number of CAS issued).

Our UK education corporate services team can ensure that all the documents needed for student visa applications are compliant before a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) is issued, ensuring that only applications that can be legitimately submitted are put forward – preserving your refusal rate and protecting your sponsorship licence.

Your enrolment rate must be at least 90%. This means that of all the CAS you have assigned to students who have been granted entry clearance or permission to stay (in order to study at your school), at least 90% must have enrolled on their course within the enrolment period.

Your course completion rate must be at least 85%. This means that at least 85% of students you have sponsored under the Student or Child Student routes who enrol with them must complete their course.

If none of your students were due to complete their course in the 12-month period immediately before the date of application, then UKVI will not assess them against this requirement. If you meet the other requirements, you will pass.

Maintaining your Student sponsor licence

In order to maintain your Student sponsor licence, you must:

  • apply for and pass your Basic Compliance Assessment every 12 months
  • pass any UKVI inspection that might occur
  • apply to renew your CAS allocation annually

You will also need to pass any monitoring visits from the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Ofsted or the Inspectorate of Wales and Scotland.

We can help you apply for and maintain your Student sponsor licence. Contact one of our knowledgeable immigration consultants on or +44 (0) 20 7759 5316 to find out how we can help your school stay on the right side immigration law.

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