The Tier 4 General visa is a UK Student visa that is issued to foreign students who are at least 16 years old and want to enroll in studies in the UK.
When getting this visa you can enter the UK one month before the start of studies that last for more than 6 months. In courses that last less than 6 months the entry can be done one week before the course begins.
Holders of Tier 4 General Student visa can enjoy benefits such as:
- Enroll in post-16 studies in the UK;
- Get a job as a sabbatical officer in the students’ association;
- Get a job as a part of studies (not more than 1/3 of the course time);
- Get a job in the Tier 2 General list of jobs;
- Get a voluntary job;
- Bring family members in the UK
However, this visa has its limitations for its holders. They are not allowed to take public funds of any kind, study at a maintained school or work in a job that a Tier 2 General visa holder would not be allowed to work in.
Who Needs a Tier 4 Visa?
The Tier 4 General visa is part of the British Points Based System which categorizes the different reasons one might be eligible to apply to enter and remain in the UK under a specific purpose. This visa is established for students who are at least 16 years old who will enroll in studies in the UK and is issued to persons who are not from a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland
Therefore, if you belong to any of the third countries, you are eligible to apply for this visa and you will be able to obtain it if you fulfill the other requirements as set by the UK Home Office.
How to Apply for Tier 4 General Student?
You will have to complete your application process for a UK student visaa from outside the UK, more specifically from your home country. You will need to submit your application online through the official website of the UK government, where you will have to give some basic information, on you and your purpose of traveling to the UK, as well as to upload scanned versions of your original documents.
If this is your first time traveling to the UK, you will need to schedule an appointment at the nearest application center, UK embassy or consulate in your home country, where you will need to submit biometrics and a photograph of yours.
The cases when the application can be done from within the UK are when the person is already in the UK with a valid visa and wants to either:
- Switch into the Tier 4 student visa. This application is done when the candidate is within the UK with another temporary visa such as:
- Extend the Tier 4 Visa. This application is done when the candidate is within the UK with a Tier 4 General Student and wants to stay beyond the existing visa period. The application to extend the stay in the UK should be done right before the end of the existing visa period.
Tier 4 Student Visa Requirements
The applicant must fulfill the following conditions to be allowed to apply for a Tier 4 visa
- Be older than 16 years old;
- Earn a total of 40 points.
- 30 Points minimum for having a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a Tier 4 Sponsor;
- 10 points for maintenance maintenance.
- Demonstrate English Language knowledge in an interview (as shown in CAS). The sponsor must not give the CAS before ensuring that the candidate has the needed English Language understanding
- For studies held in English language at the NQF level below 6– knowledge of English should be at least B1;
- For studies held in English language at the NQF level 6 and higher – knowledge of English should be at least B2
- Secure a place in the course in an institution listed as a licensed sponsor of Tier 4 candidates;
To apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa you must provide the following documents:
- Tuberculosis test results if the candidate is from a country that has to take the test;
- Criminal record certificate
- Parents’ or legal guardian letters (if under 18)
- Proof of financial sufficiency for your entire period of stay in the UK – enough money to cover study costs, as well as living and accommodation costs.
- Unconditional written consent of the sponsor to the visa application
- Register with the police
How Long Can You Stay in the UK?
This visa is usually valid for the period of the course. However there are cases when there is an exception:
- If studies last for 1 year, the visa is valid for 4 extra months after the end of studies.
- If the course lasts for 6 months.
- If the course is a postgraduate doctor or dentist course the visa is valid for 1 extra month after the end of studies.
- If the course is less than 6 months long and is a preparatory course visa is valid for 1 extra month after the end of the course.
- If the course lasts for less than 6 months and is not a preparatory course the visa is valid for an additional seven 7 days after the course.
Entry Clearance (EC) in this category is given:
- For the candidates who applied to switch into another visa and are waiting for the decision on their visa application while on a valid Tier 4 General
- Job in Tier 2, in a position agreed in Tier 4 CAS. If the candidate who has a valid Tier 4 General student and has applied for a Tier 2 Visa, and is in waiting for the decision on such visa application, and if he:
- Has already finished studying at the UK degree level – higher;
- Was a sponsored student;
- Has an extended visa;
- Self-employment. If the candidate who has a valid Tier 4 General student and has applied for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa and is waiting for the decision on their visa application, and if:
- Has already finished a UK recognized Bachelor, Master, or PhD studies;
- They were a sponsored student;
- They have the Endorsement Letter from an authorized HEI;
- They an extended visa
- You can study:
- At a Tier 4 sponsor’s institution
- In accordance with the CAS, in a course or courses which include preparatory sessions
- In an Academy or School managed by a local authority – only in the following case:
- If at the time when the candidate has started studying, that institution was an independent school and while they were studying with a valid visa, the same institution became an Academy or School managed by a local authority. The candidate can finish the ongoing studies, but cannot take a new course there.
- You cannot study:
- At a partner institution of a Tier 4 sponsor of the candidate;
- At an institution listed as a Tier 4 sponsor while the candidate is waiting for a decision on the visa extension application;
- In an additional study
- If the course for which CAS was given was not finished;
Tier 4 Visa Extension
If the candidate has already started studying in the UK and the existing visa expired before finishing their studies, the additional period of stay they will get with the new Tier 4 General Student visa is defined by the time they stayed in the UK with previous visa defines.
There can be an application to continue studies either from outside the UK (EC or LE) or from within the UK (LR).
Those who can apply for a LR in Tier 4 General Student are those who are already in the UK and want to switch into this visa from another one or extend the existing Tier 4 General Student visa. The application time should not be submitted more than 3 months after getting the Certificate of Sponsorship and not earlier than 3 months before the work contract starts.
Leave to Remain (LR) in Tier 4 General Student visa is issued 1 month before beginning of studies for studies that last for 1 year, and 6 months for studies that take less than 1 year and whose preparatory courses are less than 6 months long. For studies that last for less than 6 months, but are not preparatory courses the visa is issued 7 days before beginning of studies. And for Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist studies you can get the visa 1 month before beginning of studies or before the planned date of travel.
Generally, candidates will not be given a visa if they already have spent their allowed study time with previous Tier 4 General Student. Exceptions from such rule make cases when candidates want to study in a new programme, or want to finish their uncompleted studies within 11 months of the following cases:
- Applying for an EC to study in a 2 year study programme below the UK Bachelor degree, and never before had a Tier 4 (General) Student visa – the visa will be given for 2 years and 4 additional months
- Applying to study in programme in an HEI at the UK Bachelor degree or higher and if the existing 5 year limit of stay in the UK is not enough for finishing studies. I.e. the following cases:
- Applying for an EC to study a 5 year pharmacy degree, who never had a Tier 4 General Student – the visa will be given for 5 years and 2 months;
- Applying for a LR to study for 1 more year for a Master’s degree, if already finished a 3 year studies at Bachelor’s degree and 1 year of a Master’s Degree – the visa will be given for 5 years and 5 months;
- Applying for a LE to study for 1 more year for a Master’s degree, if already finished a 1 year of a Bachelor’s degree, left studies, returned and finished 2 other left years of the Bachelor’s degree – the visa will be given for 5 years and 7 months
- Applying to participate in undergraduate studies for 4 years in an HEI at the UK degree level -higher, to continue with additional studies at at the UK degree level – higher and if the 6 year limit of stay in the UK is not enough for finishing such studies. I.e. the following case:
- Applying for a LR to study for 1 more year for a Master’s degree, if already finished a 4 year Bachelor degree and 1 year of Master’s degree – the visa will be issued for 6 years and 4 months
For how long can I extend my Tier 4 Visa?
- For the period of studies
- 5 extra months after the end of studies – for studies lasting for 1 year or more;
- 3 extra months – lasting for 6 months;
- 2 extra months – for preparatory course lasting less than 6 months;
- 2 extra months – for postgraduate studies for doctor or dentist
- 2 extra weeks – for a course that is not a preparatory course;
Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
CAS is a virtual document or a database record, with a unique referring number, that contains details of the candidate, the course, and other information. The responsibility is on the sponsor to offer the CAS reference number to the candidate.
CAS has these main elements:
- Passport information and other personal information about the candidate;
- 6 months validity;
- Visa application with CAS can be done maximum 3 months before studies start;
- Must not be cancelled by the sponsor once issued;
- Can be used only for one visa application;
- The authority issuing CAS must be an educational institution licensed as a Tier 4 sponsor.
Study categories in Tier 4 General Student visa
A Tier 4 General visa holder is allowed to participate in the following categories of studies:
- For a degree at Level 6 – higher of the RQF or equal (full-time);
- In a Foreign HEI for a UK recognized degree as equivalent to a UK degree;
- For a qualification below the UK Bachelor Degree, at minimum Level 3 of the RQF or equal (not including preparatory courses) (full-time, minimum 15 hrs./week held during daytime, Monday-Friday);
- For a Foundation Programme as a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist;
A Tier 4 General visa holder with a Tier 4 sponsor can take part in these levels of studies:
- Level 3 of the RQF in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;
- Level 6 – higher of the SCQF accredited by the SQA;
- Studies for a foreign HE degree that is approved by the NARIC as equal to the UK Degree;
- Level B2 – higher of the CEFR in the subject of English language;
- Below degree level – if in a work placement
A Tier 4 General visa holder with a Probationary sponsor can take part in these levels of studies:
- Level 4 – higher of the RQF in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;
- Level 3 – higher of the RQF in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;
- Level 3 – higher of the RQF in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (aged below the 18);
- Level 6 – higher of the SCQF accredited by the SQA;
- Level 6 of the SCQF accredited by the SQA (aged below the 18);
- Short-term studies for a foreign HE degree that is approved by the NARIC as equal to the UK Degree;
- Level B2 – higher of the CEFR in the subject of English language
Maintenance Funds in Tier 4 General Student
A candidate applying for a Tier 4 General Student visa should submit the following evidence as proof of financial subsistence:
- Pay study costs to the Tier 4 sponsor (as quantified in the CAS)
- Study costs of the first year of studies – for studies shorter than 1 year;
- Study costs of the existing academic year and the next one – if applying to extend the visa from within the UK;
- All of the Tier 4 sponsor costs – for studies abroad the UK shorter than 1 year;
- All of the Tier 4 sponsor costs – if applying to extend the visa from within the UK for continuing part-time studies;
- Study costs of the next year – if applying to extend the visa from within the UK for continuing studies in the beginning of the following year. When the candidate is a holder of a scholarship or other ways of support, they will not need to pay any money to the sponsor for studies.Any money paid to the sponsor before the visa application will be reduced from the total of the required payment, if such payment can be evidenced properly.
- To pay living and accommodation costs
- £1,265 (if studying in London) or £1,015 (if studying out of the London) for each month if studies last for a maximum of 2 months – if applying for a LR in a Postgraduate Doctor or Dentist programme or as a Student’s Association Sabbatical Officer;
- £2,530 (if studying in London) or £2,030 (if studying out of the London) for two months of studies – if applying for a LR under the DES;
- £1,265 (if studying in London) or £1,015 (if studying out of the London) for each month if studies last for maximum 9 months – if applying for a study programme that lasts less than 1 year. A dependent family member of a Tier 4 General Student should have the following maintenance funds when applying to join the main applicant:
- £845 per month if studies are held in London;
- £680 per month if studies are out of the London
When a Tier 4 General Student visa candidate is receiving a financial sponsorship, they do not need to proof maintenance If the sponsorship does not cover all the costs you can provide only a part of it.
Tier 4 General Student visa candidates who are in use or about to use such support they should offer also the Unconditional Written Consent of the Sponsor to the visa Application anytime they apply for a UK visa, either for an extension from inside the UK or to enter the UK from out of it.
Demonstration of the English language proficiency in an interview
The sponsor must not give the CAS before ensuring that the candidate has the needed English Language understanding, as following:
- For a course under the Level 6 of the National Qualification Framework (NQF) and English language and preparatory courses as well as foundation degree courses – minimum Level B1of CEFR is needed;
- For a course of the Level 6 or higher – B2 Level and higher;
- A gifted student – is exempt from proving their English language knowledge
The sponsor at times has to evaluate candidate’s English knowledge by using a Secure English Language Test (SELT) that is offered in an approved English language test provider.
If the candidate passes the SELT, the sponsor puts the unique SELT reference number in candidate’s CAS, and the candidate uses the same number on their visa application to confirm that they have passed the test.
The candidate might have to confirm their knowledge of English also in an interview for a visa in the home country, or when in the UK (at the airport).
Candidates who must submit a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme Clearance Certificate
This certificate is issued by the Foreign and the Commonwealth Office, the Department of the Counter-Proliferation Department, and must be submitted when applying for the visa when the candidate wants to enroll in:
- Studies in an Undergraduate or Postgraduate Level for a Masters or a PhD degree by research in any of these fields: Subjects allied to Medicine, Biological Sciences, Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects, Physical Sciences, Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Engineering, Technologies, as well as these courses: JACs codes beginning: Mathematical and Computer Sciences, Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, and Others in Computer Science;
- Studies in an undergraduate or postgraduate level for a Taught Masters with courses as Materials Science, Physics (including Nuclear Physics), Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Materials Technology/Materials Science not otherwise specified, Chemical, Process and Energy Engineering;
- Studies or research in a Foreign HEI for more than 6 months in any of the following subjects, leading to a Foreign Postgraduate Qualification
Note that candidates who are applying under the DES do not need to offer the certificate, if they currently are studying with such a certificate.
Candidates who must submit the Recognized Undergraduate Degree in the UK for Medicine and Dentistry
Candidates who must submit the Recognized Undergraduate Degree in the UK for Medicine and Dentistry must:
- Apply to enroll in postgraduate level studies as a doctor or dentist in a recognized foundation programme;
- Finished a degree in medicine or dentistry at a Tier 4 sponsor institution, in a UK publicly financed HEI, a private HEI with high number of students;
- Be a holder of a Tier 4 General Student or a any other student visa in the last year of their studies, or in any period of 1 year beside the last year;
- First visa as a Postgraduate Doctor or dentist must have been issued at least 3 years before – if applying for an EC, LE or LR in the same sub-category;
- First visa as a Tier 4 General student must have been issued at least 3 years before – if applying for an EC, LE or LR in the same visa category
Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)
Students who have an EC or LR in Tier 4 General student and are about to finish studies which lead to a PhD Degree at a UK HEI, are allowed to apply for an extension of their visa for staying more in the UK to study under Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES).
To study under DES, the Tier 4 General Student can be extended for 1 extra year to finish the studies.
Under DES, a visa holder can job-seek, work in the field of studies, and can plan to open a business in the UK.