Adult Tier 4 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. Students who are 16 or 17 can apply for either visa if studying a course at or above level 3 of the National Qualifications Framework.
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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.
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).
What else do you need to know
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.
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 can our immigration lawyers help you?
Our immigration lawyers have considerable experience assisting international students to come to study, or extend their stay in the UK to complete or continue their studies.
Our lawyers are experts in all options available to students and will guide you through the complex UK Immigration rules and policies. We can help you with as much or as little advice and assistance as you need with tailored packages or individual services giving you flexibility to chose all the assistance you need when you need it. You’ll also have the benefit of access to our innovative client portal, giving everything you need at your fingertips.