The Tier 4 (Child) category is for children coming to the UK to be educated between 4 and 17 years of age at an independent school.
You can do a short preparatory course if you need one before starting your main course of study. If you are 16 or 17, you can do a work placement as part of your course.
You cannot switch into Tier 4 if you are in the UK as a visitor or short term study visitor – you will need to leave the UK at the end of the short course and apply from overseas for permission to study your main course here.)
You can switch into the Tier 4 (Child) student category if you have, or were last given, permission to stay as a Tier 4 (General) student.
16-17 year old students
If you are 16 or 17 years old and you want to study a course at or above National Qualifications Framework NQF level 3, you and your Tier 4 sponsor can agree whether you should apply under Tier 4 (Child) or Tier 4 (General). If you want to study at NQF level 2 or below, you must apply as a Tier 4 (Child) student.
You cannot be a Tier 4 (Child) student if you have any children who are living with you or for whom you are financially responsible.
As well as being at an acceptable level, your course must be provided by an education provider which has a Tier 4 (Child) sponsor licence.
For you to be accepted under Tier 4 (Child), you have to be able to show that:
- you have been offered a place on a full-time course at an acceptable level; and
- the course is offered by an approved education provider (‘Tier 4 Child Sponsor’); and
- you have enough money to cover your course fees and monthly living costs when you submit your application.
- you have the consent of your parent or legal guardian.
Children must be educated at independent fee-paying schools. Tier 4 (Child) students cannot study at publicly funded schools.
There must also be suitable care arrangements in place for their travel, reception and care.
A child will need a total of at least 40 points to be able to apply:
- 30 points for a confirmation of acceptance for studies, which they get for studying an acceptable course with an approved education provider (also known as sponsorship); and
- 10 points for maintenance funds, to cover course fees and living costs.
Course at an ‘acceptable level’ for child students
To be acceptable for this visa, your child must have an offer for a place on a full-time course which is:
- taught in line with the National Curriculum; or
- taught in line with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF); or
- accepted as being at the same academic level as the National Curriculum or the NQF by Ofsted in England, the Education and Training Inspectorate in Northern Ireland, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education in Scotland or Estyn in Wales; or
- taught in line with existing (prevailing) independent school education inspection standards;
- pre-sessional courses to prepare you for your main course of study.
You cannot do a foundation course that will prepare you for direct entry to a higher education institution.
If your child has an unconditional offer of a place on a main course of study, they can get a permission to stay that covers also the duration of a pre-sessional course (an intensive English language course, or any other course to prepare your child for the main course of study) along with their main course of study, if:
- the CAS issued by the independent school covers both the main course and a pre-sessional course at an independent school; and
- the duration of the pre-sessional course and the main course does not exceed maximum length of permission to stay that you can be given as a Tier 4 (Child) student.
The education provider will need to assign your child a single confirmation of acceptance for studies that covers both the pre-sessional course and the main course.
If your child only has a conditional offer of a place on the main course of study, or if the pre-sessional course provider is separate from the main course provider, you will need to apply to UK Visa and Immigration for permission to do the pre-sessional course first.
If your child successfully completes the pre-sessional course, you can apply from inside the UK to extend their stay under Tier 4 and do the main course.
Approved education provider
As well as being at an acceptable level, your course must be provided by an education provider licensed by the Home Office to teach international students in the UK (‘Tier 4 (Child) sponsor’) and included in the Tier 4 register of sponsors. For more details, see Tier 4 (General).
To successfully apply, you need to have enough money to pay for your course fees and for your monthly living costs.
The amount of money that you will need to show depends on:
- Whether you are applying to start a new course or to extend your stay so that you can continue that course
- Whether you will be boarding at a residential school or living elsewhere
If you are not being accommodated by your Tier 4 sponsor, you are a ‘non-boarder’. You will need to show that you have enough money to pay your course fees and your living costs.
If you are boarding, your ‘school fees’ will include course fees and boarding or lodging fees.
In both cases, you must show that you have enough money:
- If you are applying to start a new course: to pay your school fees
- for the first year of your course; or
- for the entire course, if it lasts less than a year.
- If you are applying to extend your stay: to pay your school fees
- to the end of the current academic year; or
- for the next academic year, if you will continue on your course at the start of the next academic year.
Your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) shows 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.
If you are a non-boarder, you must also have enough money to cover your living costs. The amount you will need depends on your care arrangements while you are in the UK:
- if you are staying with a UK resident carer:
- your intended carer must have agreed to look after and accommodate you in the UK for the length of your course; and
- your intended carer must have at least £570 per month to look after and accommodate you in the UK for each month of your course, up to a maximum of 9 months; and
- if you are coming to the UK with a parent or legal guardian (for under 12-year olds and 12-year old and over only if the parent or legal guardian is accompanying also another child aged under 12), who have applied to enter as Parent of a Tier 4 (Child) Student,
- £1560 for every month of your course up to 9 months for your living costs, if you are the only child student your parent or legal guardian is bringing to the UK; and
- £625 per month for every month of your course up to 9 months, for each additional child the parent or legal guardian is bringing to the UK as child students.
- if you are 16 or 17 years old and will be living independently in the UK: the same rules of Tier 4 (General) apply.
If the length of your course includes a part of a month, you must round the time up in excess, that is to the next month.
You can prove you have the money if you have cash in an account in your name (this includes joint accounts with your name) or in an account owned by your parents or legal guardian; or official financial or government sponsorship.
As a child student, if you use the money held in an account owned by your parents, you do not need to show any additional evidence of this relationship.
Application forms and fees
You must apply online to get this visa on the Visa4UK website: https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/home/welcome
The current application fees are:
- £335 if you are applying from outside the UK;
- £457 if you are applying from inside the UK.
You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.
Duration of child student visa
The period for how long you can stay in the UK as a child student depends on your age and length of the course:
- if you are under 16: you can stay in the UK for the entire length of the course (up to 6 years) and for 4 additional months;
- if you are 16 or 17: you can stay in the UK for the entire length of the course (up to 3 years) and for 4 additional months;
You can enter the UK:
- up to 1 week before your course starts if your course lasts 6 months or less
- up to 1 month before your course starts if your course lasts more than 6 months
Your course start date is the date given by your approved education provider on your CAS.
If your visa was refused, you have a right to an Administrative Review. See under Tier 4 (General) for additional details.
Working and work placement
If you are a child student who is at least 16 years old, you can do a work placement as part of your course of study, provided that the work placement is an assessed part of the course.
The work placement must be no more than 50% of the length of the course in the UK, unless there is a legal (statutory) requirement for the course to contain a specific period of work placement.
If you are a child student who is at least 16 years old, you can also work while you study up to 10 hours per week during term time and full-time during vacations.
Child students who are under 16 are not allowed to work in the UK, so they cannot do work placements as part of their course of study here nor work.