TIER 4 GENERAL STUDENT VISA
The Tier 4 General Student visa category is for non-EEA nationals who are over the age of 16 and wish to study in the UK.
If you are between 4 and 17 years old, you should apply for a Tier 4 Child Student visa instead.
What are the main eligibility requirements for a Tier 4 General Student visa?
In order to qualify for a Tier 4 General Student visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
- You are over the age of 16;
- You have been offered an unconditional place on a course with an educational institution holding a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence;
- You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
- You have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course without relying on public funds.
What else do I need to know about the Tier 4 General Student visa?
Tier 4 General Students can study the following courses:
- A full-time course leading to at least a level 6 qualification on the National Qualifications Framework (equivalent to bachelor degree level);
- An overseas course of degree level study equivalent to a UK higher education course being run by an overseas higher education institution;
- A full-time course with at least 15 hours of daytime study leading to a level 3 qualification on the National Qualifications Framework (equivalent to AS/A Level);
- A recognised foundation programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist (if you have finished a recognised degree in medicine or dentistry, received your degree from a registered Tier 4 sponsor and spent your final year and at least 1 other year of studies leading to that degree in the UK).
Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
Once you have been offered an unconditional place on a course of study, your education provider will send you a CAS reference number. You must apply for your Tier 4 General Student visa within 6 months of receiving your CAS, and within 3 months of the start date of the course.
If you have previously studied in the UK, your new CAS must confirm that either:
- You will be studying for a new qualification at a higher academic level;
- You will be studying for a new qualification that is at the same level as previous studies but relates to, and adds to, your previous qualification;
- You will be resitting exams or repeating modules; or
- You are applying for the first time to a new institution in order to complete a course that you commenced elsewhere.
In order to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that you will be able to support yourself financially without recourse to public funds, you will need to show that you have enough cash funds to cover:
- Any course fees remaining due for the first year of your course, or the entire course if it is less than one year long (the exact amount required will be stated on your CAS); and
- Your living costs (If you will be studying in inner London, you will need £1,265 for each month of your course, up to a maximum of nine months. If you will be studying elsewhere in the UK, you will need £1,015 for each month of your course, up to a maximum of nine months).
If the length of your course includes part of a month, the time will be rounded up to the next full month for maintenance purposes.
Time Limit on Studies
Below degree level: 2 year cap
Any new Tier 4 General Student application must not lead to you spending more than 2 years studying a courses at below degree-level since the age of 18. The period is calculated for the whole period of your visa and not the actual period you were studying or the length of the course.
The two year limit can be spent studying a single course or several courses as a Tier 4 General migrant, and the cap applies whether the Tier 4 General migrant visa application is made inside or outside the UK.
The cap does not include time spent in the UK studying courses below degree level as a Student under the Immigration Rules that were in place before 31 March 2009, as a Tier 4 General Migrant when you were 16 or 17 years old, as a Tier 4 (Child) student when you were 17 years old or under, under any other category of the Immigration Rules.
Above degree level: 5 year cap
Tier 4 General Migrants may study courses at degree level or above for a maximum of 5 years. The period is calculated for the whole period of your visa and not the actual period you were studying or the length of the course.
There are some exceptions to the 5-year cap:
- If you are studying or applying for leave to study for a master’s degree at an HEI, following the successful completion of an undergraduate degree where the duration of that degree course was four or five academic years. If this applies to you, the limit will be set at 6 years in total;
- If you have already completed a course leading to the award of a PhD, postgraduate research qualification or Research Masters Degree (as listed in Annex 4 of the Home Office guidance) in the UK, the grant of leave you are seeking must not lead to you spending more than 8 years in the UK as a Tier 4 General Migrant, or as a Student;
- Leave granted under the Doctorate Extension Scheme are exempt from the time limit;
- Courses in architecture, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and science, or music at a conservatoire, are exempt from the limit;
- If you have completed a UK degree, and your current Tier 4 application is to study certain legal qualifications, the legal qualification is exempt from the limit. In England and Wales the relevant qualifications are a law conversion course, a Legal Practice Course and the Bar Professional Training Course. In Northern Ireland the relevant qualifications are a Masters in Legal Science (MLegSc), the Solicitors Course and the Bar Course. In Scotland the relevant qualifications are an accelerated graduate LLB and a Diploma in Professional Legal Practice.
Tier 4 Interviews and the Genuine Student Rule
UK Visas and Immigration interview most Tier 4 General Student visa applicants before granting them a visa to come to the UK. You can expect to be asked questions about your immigration history, your education history, your course, where you want to study, reasons for studying in the UK, your post study plans and your personal and financial circumstances. The Entry Clearance Officer must be satisfied that you are a genuine student, and that your English language ability is at the correct level, otherwise your application for a Tier 4 General Student visa may be refused.
Duration of Stay
You may apply for a Tier 4 General Student visa up to 3 months before the start of your course. If you are granted a Tier 4 General Student visa, you may arrive in the UK up to one week before the start of your course if the course will last for less than 6 months, or up to one month before the start of the course if the course will last for more than 6 months. The length of time that you may stay in the UK will vary according to the type of course that you will be studying.
Conditions of Stay
As a Tier 4 General Student visa holder you may study and work to the extent that your visa permits.
How our immigration barristers can help
Our immigration barristers regularly assist international students to move to, or extend their stay in, the UK in order to pursue their education.
Our barristers are experts in the immigration options for students and will guide you through the complex Home Office rules and policies.
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to students as part of a professional and friendly service.
We can also assist with
Applications for extension of stay as a Tier 4 General Student
You must show that you are progressing academically if you wish to study a further course in the UK. If you have previously had permission to stay as a Student or a Tier 4 General Student then your Tier 4 sponsor can only give you a CAS for a new course, if your new course represents academic progress from your previous studies.
You do not need to show academic progression if:
- You are a Tier 4 Child Student;
- You are making a Tier 4 General application from overseas;
- You are making a first application to complete an existing course commenced at a Tier 4 sponsor that had its licence revoked;
- You are applying to resit an examination or repeat a course module or you have previously re-sat examinations or repeated modules and require leave to remain to complete the course in respect of which those examinations were re-sat or modules repeated;
- You are applying to complete the PhD or other doctoral qualification for which you were last given Tier 4 or Student leave (including where you are completing the qualification at a new sponsor);
- You are applying to undertake a role as a student union sabbatical officer, or to complete the qualification for which you were last given Tier 4 or Student leave after a period as a student union sabbatical officer;
- You are applying under the doctorate extension scheme; or
- You are applying as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised Foundation Programme.
If your new course is at the same level as the previous course, it may exceptionally be considered to represent academic progression if the course is at degree level or above and your sponsor teaching the course is an HEI with Tier 4 Sponsor status and: a. the new course is related to the previous course for which you were given Tier 4 leave (meaning that it is either connected to the previous course, part of the same subject group or involves deeper specialisation); or b. your previous and new course combined, support your career aspirations.
Applications for settlement by Tier 4 General Students
The Tier 4 General Student category does not lead to settlement in the UK. The length of time that you may stay in the UK will vary according to the type of course that you will be studying. However, if you have spent 10 years continuously and lawfully in the UK then you may qualify for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of 10 years Long Residence.
Applications by family members of Tier 4 General Students
Tier 4 General Students can be joined or accompanied by a dependant spouse/civil partner, unmarried partner or child under 18 years old if they are either:
- Studying on a course that is at least NQF level 7 (Master’s degree level) and lasts 1 year or more; or
- A new government-sponsored student on a course that lasts 6 months or longer; or
- A Doctorate Extension Scheme student.
Family members must be financially supported during their stay in the UK, and have funds available to them in addition to the money that the main Tier 4 General Student visa holder has to support themselves.
The amount of money required will vary depending upon the length of the course, the location of the course in the UK and whether the course has finished or is ongoing.
Applications for Short-term Study visas
The Short-term Study visa category is for non-EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK in order to undertake a short course of study, such as an English language course or a training course.
In order to qualify for a Short-term Study visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
- You have been accepted onto a course of study at an acceptable place of study (if applying to learn English as a foreign language on a mixed course, only some of which involves English language tuition, this will not be accepted);
- You intend to leave at the end of your visit;
- You are not travelling to the UK for work;
- You have sufficient funds to support yourself for the duration of your intended stay in the UK, and can meet the costs of your return or onward journey;
If you are under 18 you must also:
- Have made arrangements for your travel and stay in the UK;
- Have permission from your parent or guardian to study in the UK;
Your place of study must:
- Hold a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence; or
- Hold valid accreditation from Accreditation Body for Language Services, Accreditation Service for International Colleges, Accreditation UK, Bridge Schools Inspectorate, British Accreditation Council, Education and Training Inspectorate (in Northern Ireland), Estyn (in Wales), HM Inspectorate of Education (in Scotland), Independent Schools Inspectorate, Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Schools Inspection Service.
Short-term Study visas are normally valid for 6 months. However, you can apply for an 11 month visa if you are at least 18 years old and have been accepted on a course to learn English as a foreign language.
You can also apply for a Short-term Study visa if you are over the age of 18, studying at an overseas higher education institution and part of your course is in the UK. Your institution must hold its own national accreditation, offer only part of its educational programme in the UK and offer programmes that are equivalent to a UK degree.
You can come to the UK for a short period of research if already enrolled on an overseas degree course. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old, your course must be equivalent to a UK degree and you must be carrying out the research at a UK recognised body, or a body that receives public funding as a higher education institution.
If your application for a Short-term Study visa is successful, you will be able to stay in the UK for either 6 months (for any short course, including English language courses, or short periods of research if you are aged 18 or over) or 11 months (if you are aged 18 or over and taking an English language course).
You will not be able to work (including on a work placement or work experience), carry out any business or study at a state school.
Any family members who wish to accompany you will have to make an application in their own right, for example for a Visit (Standard) visa.
Fresh applications, Administrative reviews and Judicial reviews for Tier 4 General Students
If your application for entry clearance or leave to remain as a Tier 4 General Student has been refused, our immigration barristers can advise on the merits of making a fresh application or challenging the decision.
If the decision-maker failed to apply the Immigration Rules or Home Office policy correctly, we can bring Administrative Review proceedings to challenge the decision.
If the decision to refuse your application was unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper, our immigration barristers can apply for Judicial Review and provide representation at Judicial Review hearings.
Post-study visas for Tier 4 General Students
Although the Tier 1 Post-Study Work visa category is now closed, there are still many options for graduates who want to stay in the UK. The main options are likely to be the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur category, the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent category or the Tier 2 Sponsored Work route. You may also have other options available to you based on your individual circumstances, including the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category, the Tier 1 Investor category and the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. If you are in a relationship with a British citizen or person with indefinite leave to remain then you may wish to consider the Spouse or Civil Partner category, the Unmarried Partner category or the Fianc(é)e or Proposed Civil Partner category. If you have spent 10 years continuously and lawfully in the UK then you may qualify for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of 10 years Long Residence.