The end of Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor status

The end of Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor status

The Home Office has published yet another set of Sponsor Guidance for Tier 4 sponsors to be used from 6 April 2015 and a number of key changes are included.


Likely to be of greatest significance to the majority of sponsors are the measures that will bring about an end to Highly Trusted Sponsor status. All current sponsors must ensure that by 1 October 2015 none of their marketing or other material refers to the term ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’.

As from 6 April 2015, educational establishments that apply for a sponsor licence and are approved will be known as ‘Probationary Sponsors’ for the first 11 months. Providing they pass a new Basic Compliance Assessment, they will then be approved as a Tier 4 Sponsor.

Sponsors that already hold a Tier 4 sponsor licence will simply be known as a Tier 4 Sponsor. They will need to pass the Basic Compliance Assessment every 12 months (regardless of how long it has taken UKVI to  make a decision on a previous assessment) in order to retain Tier 4 Sponsor status.

In order to pass the Basic Compliance Assessment, the sponsor must have:

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

Those that fail the assessment are likely to see their licence revoked unless they fall within the discretionary assessment criteria (i.e they have issued less than 50 CAS in the assessment period or are classed as an independent school).

In English law it is unlawful for the Secretary of State to fetter her overriding discretion. Therefore sponsors that face revocation action for failing the Basic Compliance Assessment or for any other reason should always consider submitting detailed representations setting out the reasons why discretion should be exercised.

New powers mean that if a licence is revoked, UKVI can then refuse to allow the sponsor back onto the register for up to 24 months. This means that if a licence is revoked, the institution may find that it is unable to sponsor international students at all for up to 24 months and will then be granted Probationary Sponsor status for the next 11 months.

Other changes include:

  • new powers for educational oversight providers including the ability to fail a private provider that is deemed not to be credible
  • potential sanctions where key personnel have been linked to another sponsor that has previously had its licence revoked or has surrendered its licence
  • a requirement for sponsors to notify UKVI if they become aware that students have been granted incorrect conditions of stay
  • more information as to when UKVI may take action against a sponsor in relation to alleged compliance breaches and the process UKVI will follow.

The new guidance introduces changes that are likely to have a significant impact on Tier 4 Sponsors and it is therefore essential that sponsors review the guidance in detail.