UK Tier 4 Student Visa – General Information

Tier 4 Student Visa

The text below is an adaptation of the contents on the UKBA website and is correct as at 5 August 2012. Please visit the UKBA website for regular updates.

Tier 4 Student visa – Adult students

Tier 4 is part of the UK’s points-based system for immigration. It is for migrants who want to study in the UK.

Introduction

The Tier 4 (General) category is for adult students who want to come to or remain in the UK for their post-16 education.

If you are 16 or 17 years old and you want to study a course at or above National Qualification Framework level 3, you can apply under this category or under Tier 4 (Child) – you should discuss and agree this with your approved education provider (known as a ‘Tier 4 sponsor’). But if you want to study English as a foreign language, you must apply as a Tier 4 (General) student.

Part 6A of the UK Immigration Rules (paragraphs 245ZT to 245ZY) contains full details of the Tier 4 (General) category’s requirements.

 Do I need a student visa?

You can study in the UK without a student visa if:

  • you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland*;
  • you are a British overseas territories citizen, unless you are from one of the sovereign base areas in Cyprus;
  • you are a Commonwealth citizen with permission to enter or stay in the UK because at least one of your grandparents was born here; or
  • you have no conditions or time limit attached to your stay.

*If you are a national of Bulgaria or Romania, your ability to work during your studies may be restricted.

What points must I score?

As a Tier 4 (General) student, you must have 40 points in UKBA’s points assessment. You can score:

  • 30 points for having a valid confirmation of acceptance for studies, which you get for studying a course at an acceptable level with an approved education provider (also known as a ‘Tier 4 sponsor’), and for having acceptable English language skills; and
  • 10 points for having enough money (also known as maintenance or funds) to cover your course fees and living costs.

What course can I study?

You must study a course at an acceptable level, and there are additional requirements for certain types of course.

You may be able to do a work placement as part of your course, and a short preparatory course (known as a ‘pre-sessional course’) – if you need one – before you begin your main course.

As well as being at an acceptable level, your course must be provided by an education provider which is a licensed Tier 4 (General) sponsor. You can check whether your education provider is a licensed Tier 4 Sponsor (and thus able to issue a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies – CAS) on the UKBA sponsor register here (link will open in a new window).

What is an acceptable course of study?

You must be applying to:

  • study full-time in the UK on a course that meets the additional requirements below; or
  • undertake a recognised Foundation Programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in the UK (see ‘More information’ below); or
  • work as a student union sabbatical officer in the UK.

If you will be studying full-time on a course other than a Foundation Programme, the course must also:

  • lead to a qualification at or above level 6 on the revised National Qualifications Framework (NQF) or its equivalents; or
  • be a short-term ‘study abroad’ programme as part of your higher education course at an overseas institution (see ‘More information’ below); or
  • be an English language course at or above level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR); or
  • be an English language course at any level, if you are a government-sponsored student or if the course is a pre-sessional course which you are taking before a degree course – but only if your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) was assigned before 21 April 2011; or
  • involve at least 15 hours per week of organised daytime study. ‘Daytime’ is 08:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday.

(If you are studying English as a foreign language, this qualifies as ‘an English language course’.)

If the course is below revised NQF level 6 or equivalent and is not an English language course or a study abroad programme, it must:

  • be approved at or above level 3 on the NQF or Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF), or accredited at or above level 6 in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), if you will be studying with a Highly Trusted sponsor; or
  • be approved at or above level 4 on the NQF or QCF, or accredited at ar above level 7 in the SCQF, if you will be studying with a sponsor that has an A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor) rating; or
  • be a pre-sessional course to prepare you for your main course of study in the UK (see ‘More information’ below).

Level 3 of the NQF is equivalent to a UK ‘A level’. Level 6 of the revised NQF is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree. For more information about NQF levels, please visit: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/educationandlearning/qualificationsexplained/dg_10039017

Depending on your education provider and the level of your course, you may be able to do a work placement as part of the course.

Academic progression

If you have previously studied in the UK under Tier 4 (General) or under the student rules that were in force before 31 March 2009, your Tier 4 Sponsor cannot assign a CAS to you on or after 4 July 2011 unless:

  • your new course represents academic progress from your previous study; or
  • you are re-sitting examinations or repeating modules; or
  • you are making a first application to move to a new institution to complete a course that you started elsewhere.

For example, you can be assigned a CAS to study for a new qualification at a higher academic level than your previous UK course, or to study for a qualification that complements or enhances your previous studies at the same level.

English Language Requirement

If your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) was assigned to you before 21 April 2011, your education provider must ensure that you are competent in English at a minimum of level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) unless:

  • your course is at or above level 6 of the revised National Qualifications Framework (equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree); or
  • your course is a foundation degree, or an HND in Scotland; or
  • your course is a pre-sessional course that you will take before taking a degree course in the UK; or
  • you are a government-sponsored student who wants to study an English language course; or
  • you are a national of a majority English-speaking country (list as at 5 August 2012: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America)

You must still meet the English language requirement if you want to study an English language course (unless you are covered by one of the exemptions above).

If your CAS was assigned to you on or after 21 April 2011, your education provider must ensure that:

  • you are competent in English language at a minimum of CEFR level B2, if you will be enrolling on a course at NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9 or above (unless you are a gifted student studying at a higher education institution – see below); or
  • you are competent in English language at a minimum of CEFR level B1, if you will be enrolling on a course at NQF 3-5/QCF 3-5/SCQF 6-8; or
  • you are a national of a majority English-speaking country (see below).

If you do not meet the English language requirement, your education provider cannot assign a CAS to you.

For more information about CEFR, please follow the link here. More information about the NQF levels can be found here (links will open in a new window)

Interview with UKBA visa officers

If you are applying to Tier 4 from overseas, you may be required to attend an interview with UK Border Agency officers, either as part of your visa application or when you arrive in the UK. If you are required to attend an interview and you cannot show at that interview that your English language ability is at the required standard, UKBA may refuse your application or refuse to let you enter the UK. Not all applicants will be interviewed. An Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) will only invite you for interview if s/he has concerns about your application. Interviews are conducted in person (at the Embassy, never at the commercially run visa application centres) or by telephone.

Certificate of Acceptance (CAS)

Before you can apply for permission to enter or remain in the UK under Tier 4 (General), your education provider must assign a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) to you. This confirms that you have been given an unconditional offer of a place on a course of study with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor.

If you have a valid CAS, you can score 30 points in our points assessment. However, this will not guarantee that your application will be successful – you will also need to meet the other Tier 4 (General) requirements (see here – link will open in a new window).

A confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) is a ‘virtual document’ similar to a database record. Your education provider (also known as your ‘Tier 4 sponsor’) will assign a CAS to you when they give you an unconditional offer of a place on a course.

Each CAS has a unique reference number, and contains information about the course of study and the student’s personal details.

Your education provider will tell you your CAS reference number. They will also need to give you some of the information they used (such as the course details, the documents they used to assess your suitability, and the course fees) when they assigned the CAS to you. You will need this information when you apply to UKBA.

A CAS is valid if it:

  • contains the same details as are in your passport; and
  • was assigned no more than 6 months before the date when you apply to us; and
  • has not been withdrawn or cancelled by your education provider or by us.

If you do not use your CAS to apply during the 6 months after it is assigned to you, it will expire and you will need to get a new CAS from your education provider. If you apply using a CAS that has expired, UKBA will refuse your application.

You cannot use a CAS more than once. If UKBA refuses your application, and you want to apply again, your education provider will need to assign another CAS to you.

We or your education provider can withdraw or cancel a CAS at any time. You cannot use a withdrawn or cancelled CAS in an application to us.

Financial Requirement

This section explains how to show that you can cover your course fees and your living costs when you apply for an adult student visa under Tier 4 (General) of the points-based system.

If you have enough money available (or already paid to your education provider), you will score 10 points in UKBA’s points assessment. Unless you score these points, you cannot apply under Tier 4 (General).

You will not have access to most state benefits (also known as ‘public funds’) during your stay in the UK, and the amount of work you can do is limited. (The UKBA Conditions of your stay page contains more information, please find this link here.) So you will need to have enough money to support yourself while you are here.

How much money do I need?

The money you will need depends on the length of your course and the location where you will study.

To score 10 points in our points assessment, you must show that you can pay your course fees for your first period of study (or for your next period of study, if you are applying to continue a course) and your living costs for up to nine months.

Money to cover your course fees

If you are applying to start a new course, you must show that you have enough money to pay your course fees for the first year of your course (or for the entire course, if it lasts less than a year).

If you have already started your course and you are applying to extend your stay so that you can continue that course, you must show that you have enough money to pay your course fees:

  • to the end of the current academic year; or
  • for the next academic year, if you will continue your course at the start of the next academic year.

If you are applying to do a ‘study abroad’ programme in the UK as part of an overseas course, you must show that you have enough money to pay any fees you need to pay to the Tier 4 sponsor for the first year of the programme (or for the entire programme, if it is less than a year long).

Your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) tells UKBA the amount of money you need to show to pay your course fees. If you do not know what this amount is, you must ask your Tier 4 sponsor.

Money to cover your living expenses

he amount of money you must show to cover your living costs will depend on:

  • where you will be studying in the UK; and
  • whether you have recently been studying in the UK – if you are a current or recent student, we may consider that you have an ‘established presence‘ as a student in the UK .
Where are you studying?

UKBA calculates your living costs as:

  • £1,000 a month if you are spending more than half of your study time in inner London; or
  • £800 a month if you are spending more than half of your study time outside inner London .

UKBA defines ‘inner London’ as any of the following London boroughs:

  • Camden, City of London, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster.

If you want to check whether your main site of study is in inner London, you can enter your Tier 4 sponsor’s postcode at the About my Vote website (please find link here). If you do not know the address of of your main site of study, you must ask your Tier 4 sponsor.

Do you have an ‘established presence’?

Any student (including a postgraduate doctor or a student union sabbatical officer) has an established presence studying in the UK if they:

  • completed a single course of study lasting at least 6 months during their most recent permission to stay in the UK; or
  • are applying to continue studying on a single course in the UK, of which they have completed at least 6 months.

Additionally, their current or most recent permission to stay must have been:

  • under Tier 4; or
  • as a student under the former Immigration Rules that were in force until 30 March 2009; or
  • as a postgraduate doctor or dentist.

You cannot amalgamate 2 or more courses to make up the 6 months’ study.

Your current location (inside or outside the UK) does not affect whether you have an established presence here as a student .

How much money do you need?

If you have an established presence, you must show that you have enough money to cover your living costs (see above) for:

  • 2 months; or
  • the length of your course, if this is less than 2 months.

If you do not have an established presence, you must show that you have enough money to cover your living costs (see above) for:

  • 9 months; or
  • the length of your course, if this is less than 9 months.

If the length of your course includes a part of a month, UKBA will round the time up to the next month. For example, if a course lasts 7 months and 2 weeks, you must show (unless you have an established presence) that you can pay your living costs for  8 months.

Overview of what money you will need

Length of course Where you will study Maintenance (funds) needed
9 months or less Inner London Course feesand£1,000 to cover living costs for each calendar month of the course
9 months or less Outer London or anywhere elsein the United Kingdom Course feesand£800 to cover living costs for each calendar month of the course
More than 9 months Inner London First year of feesand£9,000 to cover living costs for 9 months in the United Kingdom
More than 9 months Outer London or anywhere else in the United Kingdom First year of feesand£7,200 to cover living costs for 9 months in the United Kingdom

If you have already paid some of your fees or accommodation before applying for your visa, this amount will be taken away from the total amount of money you need to show. For accommodation, this only applies if you are staying in university or college arranged accommodation.

Please note that the amounts quoted above are for the main applicant. If you wish to bring any dependants, you will require more funds. You will find more information on the UKBA website.

Other requirements

Even if you meet the criteria outlined above, UKBA may refuse your application on other grounds. For the “general grounds of refusal” you can visit the UKBA website. In summary, however, a refusal on general grounds is usually the result of using fake documents when making your application, or an adverse immigration history.

The text above is an adaptation of the contents on the UKBA website and is correct as at 5 August 2012. Remember, immigration law is complex and subject to continuous change. The information provided here may be out of date, or just based on personal experience/knowledge. The use of these pages is therefore entirely at your own risk. Before applying for any type of visas, you should always seek information from the authorities direct via their official websites. You will find some useful website details on our Links page.

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