Non-European nationals wishing to enter the UK to undertake a course of study should apply for visa permission under the Tier 4 category of the points-based system. Tier 4 is divided into two classifications:
- Tier 4 (General) is available for courses of study at or above National Qualification Framework level 3 and is broadly applicable to adult students, although the minimum age for this category is 16; and
- Tier 4 (Child) is specifically for children between 4 and 17 years wishing to undertake their schooling in the UK. Children between 4 and 15 years old can only attend independent, fee-paying schools. Those aged 16 and 17 may attend a publicly funded Further Education Colleges, however, only if that college is able to charge for International Students.
The institution offering the course of study will generally dictate which category of Tier 4 an applicant should apply under.
RLegal will guide you through the evidential requirements and assist you from start to finish with your application. We have over 20 years experience of lodging successful applications in this and its predecessor categories. We will take the worry out of the process and give you peace of mind.
Alternatively click on the links below for frequently asked questions.
Before applying for a Tier 4 visa, the applicant must first be accepted on a course of study by a licensed Tier 4 sponsor. The Home Office provides an up-to-date list of registered Tier 4 sponsors on its website. When looking for an institution at which to study you should ensure that it appears on the official register of Tier 4 licence holders.
Once a sponsor is satisfied that the student has met the necessary criteria for attendance on a particular course of study, it will issue the applicant a ‘Certificate of Acceptance of Studies’ (normally referred to as a CAS). The CAS is an electronic document that contains details about the course as well the applicant’s personal details. It also provides important information that will be required for the visa application and defines some of the supporting documents that will need to be sent with the application. A CAS must be issued before a Tier 4 application is submitted and can only be used once.
If, for example, there is a problem and a Tier 4 application is refused, then the Tier 4 sponsor will need to issue a new CAS before a fresh application can be made. Once a CAS has been issued it remains valid for 6 months. The CAS will specify the start date of the course and therefore the earliest date that a Tier 4 visa can be applied for. Applicants cannot submit a Tier 4 application more than three months before the start date of their course of study.
Applicants for a Tier 4 visa must pay an 'NHS surcharge' of £150 per year in advance for each whole or part year of the visa.
In order to obtain a CAS the applicant may need to demonstrate a certain level of English language ability. The level of competence in English required will depend on the course of study that has been applied for.
The Tier 4 sponsor will make an assessment of the applicant’s English skills before issuing a CAS and advise on the specific level that needs to be attained. Before issuing a visa, the Home Office may request an interview with the applicant to make their own English language assessment.
The applicant will need to demonstrate that they will be able to support and accommodate themselves and any dependants while studying in the UK.
They will also need to show that they have the necessary funds to cover the cost of any unpaid course fees. The amount of money an applicant will need to demonstrate will depend on a number of different factors including the length of the course, the location of the institution, the amount of course fees paid in advance, whether or not the applicant has already been studying in the UK and so on.
Money should normally be held in a bank account in either the applicant’s name or in the name of a parent or legal guardian. Funds must be held in cash and must not fall below the minimum level required for a consecutive 28-day period. When submitting supporting evidence with the application, the closing balance of the most recent statement must fall within 31 days of the application date.
Applicant’s already in the UK may extend their Tier 4 visa permission from within the UK if the new course of study starts within 28 days of the expiry of their current Tier 4 visa.
If this is not the case, then the applicant would need to return to their home country and apply for a new visa to re-enter the UK.
Those applying to extend their Tier 4 permission will be deemed to have an ‘established presence’ if they have already been studying in the UK for more than 6 months or if they are applying for an extension of stay under the Doctorate Extension Scheme. Having an established presence in the UK allows the applicant to show a reduced amount in maintenance funds.
The applicant will need to demonstrate that their new course offers academic progression from their previous studies or that the new course is complimentary to the studies already undertaken in the UK. Complimentary studies are permitted even if they are deemed to be at the same academic level as the previous course of study. Generally this will rule out applicants wanting to study for consecutive bachelor degrees or applying for a bachelor degree following the completion of masters degree within the UK. The Tier 4 sponsor offering the course should assess academic progression before issuing a CAS.
There is a limit on the amount of time a person may remain in the UK with visa permission under the Tier 4 or the now defunct Student categories. For applicants over the age of 18 studying below degree level this limit is 3 years. If the course is at degree level or above the limit is either 5 or 6 years depending on the course of study and/or the length of time studying at undergraduate level. Applicants studying for a PhD are limited to a total of 8 years under the Tier 4 and Student categories. It does not matter if there has been a significant break between different grants of Tier 4 visa permission. The time limits imposed to the Home Office apply to total time spent in the UK with Tier 4 and Student permission and not just ‘consecutive’ periods.
Applicants must pay the 'NHS surcharge' of £150 per year in advance for each whole or part year of the visa.
- Comprehensive legal advice.
- Ensuring your application meets the legal requirements.
- Assistance with compiling the evidence required for this.
- Completion and submission of all forms.
- Booking a biometric appointment.
- Ongoing liaison with the authorities where possible.