Tier 4 of the Points-Based System is the immigration category for students (students can also come to the UK on certain short courses as a short-term student). Except for Swiss or EEA nationals, foreign nationals need permission to study in the UK, although some forms of immigration leave permit study (e.g. Tier 1 Investor).

There are two types of Tier 4 leave: Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child). Those aged eighteen or over must apply in the Tier 4 (General) category. Children under the age of sixteen must apply in the Tier 4 (Child) category – see Tier 4 Child Student information page.

In order to study in the UK as a Tier 4 General Student, you will need to study at an educational institution with a Tier 4 sponsor licence and you will also need to meet certain requirements, depending on the level of the course you would be studying. The level of course must be at least level 3 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) – or level 6 QCF or level 6 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework. If the course is below RQF level 3, it would need to be a full-time course of a minimum of fifteen hours per week of organised daytime study. If it is an English language course, it must be at or above level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Note, as above, a level 3 NQF course can only be studied for with a ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’.

Before you can apply for Tier 4 leave to enter the UK or leave to remain in the UK, you must have a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) issued by your Tier 4 sponsor. The sponsor will award a CAS if they are satisfied you meet their course and Tier 4 requirements. If your Tier 4 application meets the requirements and you supply all the required specified supporting documents (you must ensure your supporting documents comply exactly with the specified requirements or your application might fall for refusal) you will be granted Tier 4 leave for the duration of the course. You would also be granted an extra period before the course starts, to allow you to come to the UK in advance, and an extra period at the end of the course to allow you to graduate and prepare for leaving the UK. The length of these extra periods depends on the length and level of your course.

The Tier 4 leave you are granted is dependent on you remaining with your Tier 4 sponsor. Once in the UK, if you wish to take a different course with a new sponsor you would need to make a new application for Tier 4 leave to remain.

Tier 4 Student Visa holders who are studying on a course of six months or more you can come to the UK up to a month before the start of your course. If less than six months, you will be able to come to the UK not more than seven days before the start of your course.

Tier 4 General Visa rules state that those studying at or above degree level (RQF level 6 is Bachelor’s degree level) must show an English language ability of level B2 CEFR. Those studying under RQF level 6 must have an English language ability of level B1 CEFR.

If you are studying at or above degree level at a ‘Higher Education Institution’ (HEI) the sponsor can choose its own method of assessing your English language ability. Otherwise, you will need to demonstrate it by one of the following: passing an approved English language test; being a national of a majority English speaking country; having the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree taught in English (as recognised by UK NARIC) or having successfully completed a course of at least six months as a Tier 4 Child student that ended within two years of the sponsor assigning the CAS.

Funds can be shown in the student’s or the parents’ accounts. A Tier 4 Visa holder will need to show the necessary level of maintenance funds for a consecutive 28-day period ending no more than 31 days before the date of application. As well as being required to show funds enough for the course fees (if not already paid to the sponsor), you are additionally required to show a level of maintenance funds depending on where you will be studying in the UK. If you are studying in London you will need to show a balance of £1265 for each month of your course up to a maximum of nine months. If you are studying outside London the amount is £1015 for each month. You will have to show an additional £845 per month for each dependant if in London and £680 per month if outside London.

In general, Tier 4 General Student Visa rules permit you to study for no more than eight years in the UK as a Tier 4 General student and no more than five years at or above degree level (there are certain limited exceptions. Note, there is no exception for ACCA courses).

If you are older than 18, you will be able to study for a maximum of two years below Bachelor’s degree level. This does not include any time spent studying as a Tier 4 Child student aged 17 or under or as a Tier 4 General student when 16 or 17 years old. It also does not include any time spent studying under another immigration category which permits study.

Any new course undertaken on completion of any course in the UK must, in general, represent ‘academic progress’. There are limited exemptions – for example, if applying from overseas. This means it must either be at a higher level than the previous course or it can be at the same level if the sponsor confirms it complements the previous course of study. It can, exceptionally, be at a lower level. If exempt from demonstrating academic progress your sponsor must explain why in the CAS.

The Tier 4 visa work rules state that students studying at or above degree level at a Recognised Body (an institution with degree awarding powers) or HEI are permitted to study no more than 20 hours a week during term time and full-time during holidays.

Those studying full-time below degree level at a Recognised Body or HEI can work up to 10 hours a week during term time and full-time during holidays.

Those studying at private colleges or at publicly funded further education colleges are not permitted to work. Part-time students at post-degree level at Recognised Bodies or HEIs are also not permitted to study.

Generally speaking, only those Tier 4 General Student Visa applicants studying at a Higher Education Institution on an NQF level 7 course (Masters degree level) or above which will last 12 months or more are permitted to bring dependants with them to the UK. Those studying a full-time course of more than 6 months and who have or have last had leave as a Tier 4 (General) student for a course of more than 6 months in the 3 months immediately preceding the date of the application can also bring their dependants, as well as government sponsored students on a course of more than six months and those on the Doctorate Extension Scheme.

Our Tier 4 immigration lawyers can assist with all stages of the process and fully prepare the application on behalf of the client. We will advise on the merits of your Tier 4 Student Visa application at the outset and make clear the legal and evidential requirements so that the application is set up on the best footing from the very start. We of course advise on all the supporting documents and evidence required and take the client through the immigration process from start to finish.

Our expert Tier 4 immigration solicitors can assist with templates for documents specified by the Tier 4 General Student Visa rules and deal with third parties where necessary and we aim to make the whole process as smooth as possible. If there are any issues in your immigration matter you will know before applying and we can help best overcome them. In short, we prevent mistakes and ensure any application meets the requirements of the Immigration Rules. We are here to help you safely navigate your way through the UK student visa process.