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UK sponsorship licence for educators: why would you need it and how do you get it?

In order to accept foreign students, every UK lawful education provider needs a sponsorship licence. As is the case with businesses, the UK sponsorship system for applicants of study visas acts as a regulator for the inflow of foreign students, and the sponsors act as guarantors.

Despite all the similarities between obtaining a sponsorship licence to employ a foreign worker and to accept a foreign student, the sponsorship system in the area of education deserves a separate article. This article will be especially useful for those who dedicate themselves to the provision of education in the UK and who consider attracting foreign students an important part of their further development.

Two study visa routes suitable for a sponsorship licence

An education provider can apply for a UK sponsorship licence for the following two visa routes:

  1. Student visa, aimed at immigrants who are 17 or over and come to the UK for studies.
  2. Child Student visa, as the term shows, aimed at children aged between 4 and 17 who have come to the UK for studies. Under this route one can only study at an independent school.

Criteria for an educator applying for the UK sponsorship licence

As is the case with sponsorship licences for employers, a sponsor (an educator) needs to apply to the Home Office to get relevant permissions. The best way to begin is to get in touch with a competent law firm which will not only provide you with a consultation on any arising issue, but will also, if necessary, legally act on your behalf.

In order to obtain a sponsorship licence to sponsor students, an educator must comply with the following criteria:

  1. You must provide education services in the UK legally, in full accordance with all the rules and regulations. The quality of the education you provide must be up to the UK standards.
  2. You must fully comply with eligibility requirements for sponsoring educators. It’s important to know that the guidelines for educators available on the official website of the British government clearly emphasise that to accept foreign students is not a right, but a privilege for an education provider.
  3. You must be able to fulfill your obligations as a sponsor.

An education provider must not only comply with all the mentioned criteria before being granted a sponsorship licence but keep their standards up in order to maintain the licence.

How does the Home Office decide whether a sponsor is eligible?

In order to decide whether you can be a sponsor for foreign students, the Home Office checks several things:

  1. They consider history of the educator, background of the key executives and other staff members, appointed in your application to manage the sponsorship licence.
  2. They find out whether there is a previous breach of UK immigration laws or any case of misconduct on the part of the education provider or any of its staff members.
  3. In order to find out if the educator can act as a sponsor, they consider in detail how the educational process is organised, how the executives and the teachers communicate with students and how you control the attendance.
  4. Finally, the Home Office officials may visit your school or college before making the decision, and should they have any doubt with regards to your capability of being a sponsor for a Student visa and a Child Student visa, you will get a refusal.

How can I prepare for the inspection?

The documents which you put in together with the application are not the last thing for the Home Office officials to base their decision on.

  • In order to obtain a UK sponsorship licence, you must pass an Educational Oversight inspection by the relevant bodies. The inspection is either statutory or can be applied for, depending on the type of your establishment and the services you provide.
  • Besides passing Educational Oversight inspections, you must have all the relevant licences and permissions, pass fire-risk assessments and tax inspections.
  • Should you have several sites in the UK and you are not planning to teach foreign students at all of them, you must inform the Home Office of that and specify where you want to do so. Moreover, you must inform relevant bodies how many foreign students you propose to accept for studies in the first year of your prospective licence.

Key personnel

By law, an education provider that wants to be a sponsor, must appoint key personnel responsible for managing their sponsorship licence and issuing certificates of sponsorship for students, and provide their contact details to the Home Office. The key personnel must have no criminal or immigration offences before getting the licence or during its period of validity.

The separation of duties is the same as is the case with sponsorship for foreign workers. You need to appoint thefollowing personnel:

  • The authorising officer – the one who will be responsible for the use of the licence.
  • The key contact – the one who will communicate with the Home Office.
  • Level 1 user(s), managing the sponsorship licence in compliance with instructions by the executives, for example, issuing certificates of sponsorship for students who apply for a UK study visa.
  • Level 2 user(s), having access to the licence management system, but not granted as broad an authority as level 1 users.

All the mentioned personnel immediately deal with the UK sponsorship licence management and therefore must be included in the application. Besides, they must advise the Home Office on any alterations in the working process within the prescribed time limits and keep record of all the foreign students accepted for studies. At least one of the level 1 users and the authorising officer must be your employees. The rest of the personnel may be employed by the company offering legal support for your sponsorship licence. All the mentioned positions must be occupied by people who spend most of the time within the UK.

Obtaining a UK sponsorship licence for an educator

In approximately 4-weeks’ time you will be granted a sponsorship licence and will be able to sponsor for Student visa and Child Student visa, provided that:

  1. You have put in a legally correct application for a UK sponsorship licence and added all the relevant evidence, confirming that you provide educational services legally.
  2. You have appointed the key personnel.
  3. You have specified the number of foreign students you are planning to teach in the first year and your British sites where you are going to do so.
  4. You have passed all the necessary inspections by relevant bodies and by the Home Office.

Period of validity and withdrawal of a sponsorship licence

Your educational institution will be granted an identification number and included in the register of licensed sponsors. The period of validity of a licence is 4 years. In order not to lose the right to accept foreign students, you must extend your licence before it expires.

For the first time sponsorship is granted to an educator with a probation period. The licence can be withdrawn should the educator fail to fulfill the sponsor responsibilities.

In order to prevent things from going wrong, you can get the support of experienced immigration advisers beforehand. Highly qualified experts of Imperial & Legal have great expertise in the area of obtaining sponsorship licences and supporting immigration into the UK. Our advisers will provide overall support: we can advise you on any issue of obtaining a UK sponsorship licence, help you to make a correct application, make sure that all the supporting evidence is ready and your employees are able to manage the sponsorship licence.

FAQ about a UK sponsorship licence for educational institutions

Why do the British authorities license schools, colleges and universities to accept foreign students?

The system of sponsorship licences helps the UK authorities to accomplish several tasks at the same time:

  • To control the inflow of immigrants coming to the British Isles for studies;
  • To make sure that British educators provide modern high-quality education which the UK is world-famous for;
  • To provide good education facilities so that foreign students can study in a favourable and safe environment.

What is a basic compliance assessment for a sponsor and how does that affect a licence?

According to the current regulations, every educational institution which has a UK sponsorship licence, must pass a basic compliance assessment by the Home Office every year. You must apply for the procedure to the Home Office via the sponsorship licence management system and pay for it.

A sponsor is responsible for applying in a timely manner. Any attempt to hide any information during the assessment is considered to be a serious breach of sponsor responsibilities and will result in a withdrawal of the licence. Theassessment is based on three figures:

  1. The percentage of prospective students granted a certificate of sponsorship of the educator and having received a visa refusal. For you to pass the assessment, the figure must be 10% or less;
  2. The percentage of accepted foreign students allowed to enter the UK. Thefiguremustbeat least 90%;
  3. The percentage of foreign students granted a certificate of sponsorship who have managed to graduate. Successful sponsors show the amount of 85% of them or even more.

If you failed to pass the assessment and your educational institution has been excluded from the register of licensed sponsors, your adviser will have 20 days to appeal against the decision of the Home Office.

If a foreign student does not finish their studies in the UK and leaves the country, are they taken into account in the assessment?

No, those who have left the UK without finishing their studies are not taken into account. Besides, the Home Office does not count the following groups of students:

  • Those who have switched to another visa category;
  • Those on sabbatical leave who are currently outside the UK;
  • Those who have transferred to another educational institution.

If an educational institution has been closed or has lost the sponsorship licence, what can the students do?

As the law states, a person on any student visa route who got stuck in such an unpleasant situation has 60 days (or the time before their visa expires, whichever is earlier) to find another sponsor, switch to another visa category or leave the UK. If a student is to blame for the withdrawal of the licence, they must immediately leave the UK.

If students of a closed educational institution have found another education provider, they can keep their visa under 2 conditions:

  • The new educator has a sponsorship licence;
  • The new educator applies for a sponsorship licence within 28 days.

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