A recent message posted by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) message board - which all holders of Student and Worker sponsor licences will see each time they login to the SMS - 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 Authoring Officer or Key Contact does not have a National Insurance number, then the sponsor will be asked to provide reasons why and may be asked to provide further 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 schools may not have a Companies House reference number (those which are unincorporated charities, for example) but if you do then UKVI ask that you add it to your Sponsor Management System "at your earliest convenience".
UKVI say 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". It is common knowledge that UKVI already conduct routine checks of sponsors' Companies House records to monitor whether any reportable events have occurred that they have not yet been advised of, such as a change in ownership (which in some circumstances will require an application for a new licence). The reason for the requirement to provide National Insurance numbers is a little less clear but is perhaps to help UKVI check whether individuals named on the licence meet the requirements to hold those positions. We understand that future upgrades to the SMS will allow these checks to be conducted automatically using data shared with UKVI by Companies House and HM Revenue & Customs.
Holders of Student/Child Student sponsor licences now have access to a new service being offered by UKVI for no extra charge. The Study Sector Support Team offer the following services to sponsor licence holders:
Further information about the service - including a form to register for the online Account Management Portal (AMP) through which queries can be submitted - can be found here.
While this service does look particularly useful, from time-to-time schools will still have immigration or sponsorship queries that they would prefer not to raise with UKVI, or which may also require advice on safeguarding, your Parent Contract, or other aspects of the school's activities. We would of course be happy to assist you in those circumstances.
Schools which sponsor visa applications by their overseas pupils should also be aware of recent and forthcoming increases to the fees associated with Student and Child Student visa applications. On 4 October the application fee for a Student or Child Student visa application increased from £363 to £490. This brings the fee for overseas applications in line with the fee for applications submitted from within the UK. In addition, the priority processing fee for overseas visa applications, which aims to decide visa applications within one week instead or the usual three weeks, has increased from £250 to £500.
Additionally, regulations for increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) have been laid before parliament, so we now know that an IHS increase will take effect on or after 16 January 2024. For Student and Child 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. Schools which also sponsor workers (e.g. under the Skilled Worker or Charity Worker immigration routes) should be aware that the IHS for applicants for those visas will increase from £624 per year to £1,035.
VWV's experienced immigration team offer a range of services to provide independent schools with the confidential and impartial support they need, including: