Date updated: Thursday 30th November 2023
One of the guiding principles of the sponsorship regime is that sponsoring students is a privilege and not a right. To maintain the privilege of holding a sponsor licence (and to benefit from the migration which it enables) the Home Office require Student/Child Student sponsors to fulfil certain sponsorship duties.
As a licenced Student and Child Student sponsor, independent schools have an express duty under Paragraph 2.3 of Document 2 of the Home Office’s guidance for student sponsors to ‘comply with all aspects of the Immigration Rules and sponsor guidance, and support immigration control, including by taking steps to ensure that every student at (your) institution who is subject to immigration control has permission to study in the UK throughout the whole period of their study’. Paragraph 3.16 of Document 3 of the Home Office’s guidance for student sponsors also lists examples of serious breaches of sponsorship duties, which could result in compliance action being taken against a sponsor. This list includes ‘operating in a manner that poses a risk to immigration control, such as failing to take steps to ensure students who are subject to immigration control have leave to remain in the UK’.
In the absence of any comprehensive UKVI guidance on undertaking right-to-study checks, we have explored this duty further.
Who should Student/Child Student sponsors undertake right-to-study checks on?
It is clear from the above duty that the UKVI expect all Student/Child Student sponsors to ensure that students ‘subject to immigration control’ have permission to study in the UK. The only way to determine whether a current or prospective student is ‘subject to immigration control’, is to request evidence of their immigration status to ensure that this permits them to study in the UK. All processes should, however, be non-discriminatory and that means that the right-to-study regime should be applied to every student on entry as standard, including British nationals.
How should right-to-study information be recorded?
We recommend that right-to-study checks form part of a school’s pre-admission checks. Evidence of a child’s right to study in the UK – e.g. their British passport or eVisa – can then be added to their student file.
A central record should thereafter be kept and monitored regularly, which distinguishes between:
1. Sponsored students with Child Student and Student visas;
2. Non-sponsored students who are subject to immigration control, including those on Dependant visas and with time-limited permission; and
3. Students who can live and study in the UK indefinitely with no restrictions, including British nationals, Irish nationals and individuals who hold Indefinite Leave to Remain or Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
This record should clearly record all visa expiry dates for sponsored students and non-sponsored international students who hold time-limited visas in the UK. It is very important that the expiry dates are monitored regularly to ensure that the school can follow up with the child’s parents or legal guardian in good time to undertake a follow-up right-to-study check.
Should any other processes be in place to comply with this sponsor duty?
As above, by collecting evidence of status from all students, a Student/Child Student sponsor is readily and accurately able to demonstrate who is and who is not ‘subject to immigration control’. By tracking the visa expiry dates of students and obtaining updated right-to-study evidence when required, sponsors can also comply with the requirement to take steps to ensure that every child within their school has ‘permission to study in the UK throughout the whole period of their study’.
In addition to the above, we would recommend that Student/Child Student sponsors also implement a right-to-study policy, which outlines their duties as a sponsor licence holder. All parents can thereafter be provided with a copy of this at the pre-admission stage. Stone King has an example policy available to purchase here. This can be tailored to your organisation and outlines the documentation that parents/legal guardians/students will need to provide as part of the school’s right-to-study procedures.
Stone King supports many independent schools with ongoing compliance as a sponsor licence holder. If you require any advice on undertaking right-to-study checks, please do not hesitate to contact our Head of Immigration, Julie Moktadir, at JulieMoktadir@stoneking.co.uk.