• Contact Us

Student Visa Sponsorship - an update for university admissions and marketing teams

on Thursday, 23 November 2023.

Over the last few months, there have been various changes relating to student visas which universities need to be aware of. In this article, we summarise those changes and set out the steps which universities need to take to remain compliant.

Reforms to the student route to reduce net migration

In May 2023, alarmed by higher-than-expected net migration figures, the then-Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, announced a series of reforms to the student route aimed at reducing overall migration:

  • the Immigration Rules governing most work-based immigration routes have been amended. They now prohibit student visa holders from switching into those routes before completing their studies
  • for courses which start on or after 1 January 2024, family members will only be able to apply as dependants of student visa holders where the course in question is a PhD, other doctoral qualification, or a research-based higher degree
  • the maintenance requirements for students and dependants will be reviewed
  • steps will be taken to combat unscrupulous education agents who facilitate inappropriate immigration applications


In addition to changes to the Immigration Rules to give effect to the first two of the above measures, updates to the Student Sponsor Guidance have been made to:

  • suggest that sponsors report to UKVI where a student's course end dates have changed. This must be done even when the course ends within two weeks of the originally stated course end date
  • confirm that it will be a breach of the Sponsor Guidance if a sponsor fails "to provide a list of all courses currently offered … designated as research programmes"

Universities should familiarise themselves with the details of these changes and ensure that they update their admissions processes and marketing materials accordingly


Sponsors required to add additional details to the Sponsorship Management System

A message posted by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) message board requires all sponsors to make two updates to the system. The first is to ensure that the National Insurance numbers of the Authorising Officer and Key Contact named on their licence are added to the system. Where those details are not already on the SMS then the sponsor is required to add them. If an Authorising Officer or Key Contact does not have a National Insurance number, then they will ask the sponsor to provide reasons why and may ask for evidence that they have applied for one.

The second update to the SMS which sponsors have been asked to make is to add the Companies House reference number of the legal entity which holds the licence. Some universities may not have a Companies House reference number (those which are unincorporated, for example). However, if you do then UKVI ask you to add it to your Sponsor Management System.

UKVI says that the provision of these reference numbers will help them monitor changes more effectively and will also "aid the migration of sponsors to the transformed sponsorship system". UKVI already conducts routine checks of sponsors' Companies House records to monitor whether any reportable events have occurred that they have not been advised of, so the provision of the Companies House reference number may aid future automation of those checks. The reason for requesting National Insurance numbers is less clear but is perhaps to help UKVI check whether individuals named on the licence meet the requirements to hold those positions.

Those universities which hold separate licences for sponsorship of students and workers will need to ensure that they add the relevant reference numbers to each separate licence.


Home Office launches Study Sector Support service

UKVI are now offering a new free service to holders of student sponsor licences. The Study Sector Support Team offers the following services to sponsor licence holders:

  • immigration Health Surcharge, immigration history, Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies, and visa application and cancellation-related queries
  • telephone support for emergencies involving sponsored students
  • policy related queries
  • BRP and eVisa corrections

Further information about the service, including a form to register for the online Account Management Portal (AMP) through which you can submit queries, can be found here.

While this service can be useful, universities will occasionally have immigration or sponsorship queries that they would prefer not to raise with UKVI, or which involve other areas of law, such as employment or student welfare, and need to be looked at holistically. We would of course be happy to assist you in those circumstances.


Fee increases

Universities should also be aware of recent and forthcoming increases in the fees associated with student visa applications. On 4 October 2023, the application fee for student visa applications increased from £363 to £490. This brings the fee for overseas applications in line with the fee for applications submitted from within the UK. The fee for priority processing of overseas visa applications, which aims to decide visa applications within one week, has also increased: from £250 to £500.

Additionally, regulations for increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) have been laid before parliament, and an IHS increase will take effect on or after 16 January 2024. For student visa applicants (as well as applicants for Youth Mobility Scheme and dependent child visas) the IHS will increase from £470 per year to £776. Visa applications by workers (eg under the Skilled Worker or Global Talent immigration routes) will also be subject to significant IHS increases, with the surcharge for those applicants jumping from £624 to £1,035 per year.



As we approach the next General Election, and with the political rhetoric around immigration continuing to attract front-page headlines, it will not be at all surprising if further changes to the Immigration Rules are announced in the coming months. It is vital therefore that universities continue to stay abreast of any announcements and changes.

VWV's experienced team of specialist immigration lawyers is on hand to guide you through any developments and can also provide additional support, such as:

  • an immigration helpline - offered on either a 'pay as you go' or fixed monthly retainer basis
  • assistance with developing and reviewing immigration policies
  • audits of sponsorship systems, processes, and records
  • training - both bespoke and as part of our regular programme of training events for universities

For further information on these developments or any other immigration issues, please contact Tom Brett Young in our Immigration team on 07393 148352, or complete the form below.

Get in Touch

First name(*)
Please enter your first name.

Last name(*)
Invalid Input

Email address(*)
Please enter a valid email address

Please insert your telephone number.

How would you like us to contact you?

Invalid Input

How can we help you?(*)
Please limit text to alphanumeric and the following special characters: £.%,'"?!£$%^&*()_-=+:;@#`

See our privacy page to find out how we use and protect your data.

Invalid Input