The Tier 4 (General) category is for students aged 16 or over who wish to enter or remain in the UK to study.

If you are 16 or 17 years old, you and your approved education provider (‘Tier 4 sponsor’) can agree whether you should apply under this category or under Tier 4 (Child). See under the child student visas section for more details.

However, if you want to study English as a foreign language, you must apply as a Tier 4 (General) student.

In both cases, your parents or legal guardian, or just one parent if that parent has sole responsibility for you, must confirm that they consent to the arrangements for your travel to, and reception and care in, the UK.

Eligibility criteria

To be accepted under Tier 4 (General), you have to be able to show that:

  • you are 16 years old or more; and
  • 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 Sponsor’); and
  • you have enough money to cover your course fees and monthly living costs when you submit your application.
  • Can speak, read, write and understand English

In general, it appears only those of a certain financial status can successfully apply under the Tier 4 system and those from financially less well off backgrounds, will no longer be eligible to apply or indeed will face great difficulty in meeting the financial requirements to successfully apply for a Tier 4 visa, as an individual must show several thousands of pounds available to them to finance the cost of their course and for their maintenance once they are in the UK.

Required points

You will need a total of at least 40 points to be able to apply:

  • 30 points for a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS), which you 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.

When to apply

Your education provider will send you a reference number called ‘confirmation of acceptance for studies’ (CAS) once they’ve offered you a place on a course. You must apply for your visa no more than 6 months after you receive the CAS and report this number on your visa application.

However, you can apply for this visa the earliest 3 months before you start your course. You’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.

If you are applying from the UK for an extension of your visa, you must also apply before your current visa expires and you can stay in the UK until you get the decision.

Course at an ‘acceptable level’

To be acceptable for this student visa, your course should be:

  • a full-time courts leading to a qualification at or above level 6 on the Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) – equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree – or its equivalents; or
  • be a short-term ‘study abroad’ programme as part of your qualification at an overseas higher education provider, if UK NARIC has confirmed that the qualification is at or above UK degree level; or
  • an English language course at or above CEFR level B2; or
  • a full-time course, with at least 15 hours per week of organised daytime study, leading to a qualification which is at least level 3 on RQF. ‘Daytime’ is 08:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday; or
  • a recognised Foundation Programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist, if you have finished a recognized UK degree in medicine or dentistry from a Tier 4 sponsor and you have spent your final year and at least 1 other year of studies leading to that degree in the UK.

Your course or programme must be provided by an approved education provider (‘Tier 4 (General) sponsor’).

Knowledge of English

You must prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply. This usually means passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) level B2 for degree level studies or above, and level B1 for below degree level studies.

You don’t need to prove your knowledge of English if you’ve completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree in:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • UK
  • USA

You also don’t need to prove your knowledge of English if:

  • you’re a national of Canada or any of the countries in the list above;
  • you have studied in the UK before as a Tier 4 (Child) student;
  • you’re applying to come to the UK for a study abroad programme as part of a university degree course in the USA.

Pre-sessional courses

If you have an unconditional offer of a place on your main course of study, you 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 you take to prepare you for your main course of study) along with your main course of study if:

  • your CAS issued by the education provider covers both your main course and a pre-sessional course of maximum 3 months; and
  • the pre-sessional course ends no more than one month before the main course starts.

Your education provider will need to assign you a single confirmation of acceptance for studies that covers both the pre-sessional course and the main course.

If you only have a conditional offer of a place on your main course of study, or if your pre-sessional course provider is separate from your main course provider, you will need to apply for permission to do the pre-sessional course first.

If you successfully complete the pre-sessional course, you can apply from inside the UK to extend your stay under Tier 4 and do your main course.

Approved education provider – Tier 4 (General) sponsor

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 (General) sponsor licence) and included in the Tier 4 register of sponsors.

The register contains the education provider’s name and location.

When a Tier 4 sponsor gives an international student an unconditional offer of a place on a course, it assigns a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) to you. This is an electronic document with unique reference number containing your personal details and information about your course, including the start and end dates of your course.

Only Tier 4 sponsors can assign CASs to international students. Without one, your student visa application will be refused. Make sure the provider of your chosen course is a licensed Tier 4 sponsor. Look for them on the register of Tier 4 sponsors, regularly updated on the Gov.UK website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-licensed-sponsors-students

If your education provider’s Tier 4 sponsor licence is suspended or withdrawn before you apply, your CAS will become invalid and you will not be able to use it in an application.

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, your application will be refused.

Tier 4 sponsors’ reporting duties

If a Tier 4 visa was issued to you on the basis of their confirmation of acceptance for studies, a Tier 4 sponsor has the duty to keep a copy of your personal records and report to the UK Visa and Immigration if:

  • you fail to enrol on your course within the enrolment period;
  • you miss 10 expected contacts without your education provider’s permission;
  • they stop being your immigration sponsor for any other reason (for example, if you move into an immigration category that does not need a Tier 4 sponsor);
  • there are any significant changes in your circumstances (for example, if your course of study becomes shorter); or
  • they have any suspicions that you are breaking the conditions of your permission to stay.

You must give your education provider all the information they need to meet these duties. If you do not, you may be investigated and action may be taken against your education provider (which may affect you).

Maintenance

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 cover your course fees is different if:

  • you are applying to start a new course: you must be able to cover the course fees for the first year of your course, or for the entire duration of the course if shorter;
  • you are applying for an extension to continue to study a course that you have already started: you must be able to cover the course fees until the end of the current academic year, or for the next academic year if the course stars in the next academic year.

If you can show that you have already paid all or some of your course fees to your Tier 4 sponsor before making your application, this amount can be taken away from the total amount of money you will need to show.

The amount of money that you will need to show to cover your monthly living costs depends on:

  • the length of your course: you must show that you have sufficient money to cover your living costs for each month of your course, up to a maximum of 9 months. If the length of your course includes part of a month, you must round the time up in excess, that is to the next month.
  • where you will be studying: £1,265 per month if you are studying in London for more than 50% of your study time; £1,015 per month if you are anywhere else in the UK for the majority of your study.

You can prove you have the money if you have cash in an account held by you (this includes joint accounts with your name) or by your parent or legal guardian; or official financial or government sponsorship. If the money is in an account held by your parent or legal guardian, you must prove that you are related to your parent or legal guardian and that you have their permission to use this money. If your financial sponsor is only covering some of your course fees or living costs, you must show that you have the rest of the money needed.

You must be able to prove that the money you need to apply has been in your account for 28 days before you submit your application.

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, both for the main applicant and for each dependant;
  • £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 adult student visa

Your student visa will allow you to stay in the UK for the whole duration of your course, plus additional time, which varies according to the length of your main course of study:

  • 12+ months: additional 4 months;
  • 6-12 months: additional 2 months
  • less than 6 months: additional 7 days

Pre-sessional courses to prepare you for study allow for:

  • 1 additional month, if their length is less than 6 months;
  • 2 additional months, if their length is between 6-12 months;
  • 4 additional months, if their length is 12 months or more.

Postgraduate doctors and dentists on a recognised Foundation programme are allowed to stay for the full length of the course (up to a maximum of 3 years) plus 1 month after the end of the course.

If you are a PhD student approaching the end of your course, you can apply for a further Tier 4 (General) Visa on the Doctorate Extension Scheme. This will allow you to remain in the UK for 12 months beyond your expected course end date.

Visa start date

If you are doing a course that lasts 6 six months or more, or it is a course to prepare you for study (known as a pre-sessional course), you can come to the UK up to 1 month before your course start date.

If you are doing a course that lasts less than 6 months and is not a course to prepare you for study, you can come to the UK up to 7 days before your course start date.

Your course start date is the date given by your approved education provider on your CAS.

Working while under Tier 4

Migrant students are allowed to work:

  • during term time:
  • 20 hours per week if you are studying foundation degree courses or courses at NQF level 6 (and equivalents) or above; or
  • 10 hours per week if you are studying below NQF level 6 (and equivalents) and are not studying a foundation degree course.
  • during vacations: full-time.

This work is in addition to any work placement you may be doing as part of your course.

You may not fill a full-time permanent vacancy, except on a recognised Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors or as a students’ union sabbatical officer.

Additionally, the following categories of employment are not allowed:

  • self-employment;
  • employment as a doctor in training (except on a recognised Foundation Programme);
  • employment as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach); and
  • employment as an entertainer.

Work placements

Under Tier 4 (General), 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 if you are studying at degree level or above, or if you are coming to the UK to do a ‘study abroad’ programme as part of a higher education course at an overseas higher education institution;
  • 33% of the length of the course if you are studying at below degree level;

unless there is a legal (statutory) requirement for the course to contain a specific period of work placement.

Dependants

If you will be studying in the UK for more than 6 months, you can bring your family members to the UK.

Family members (also known as dependants) are:

  • your husband, wife or civil partner; or
  • your unmarried or same-sex partner; or
  • your children aged under 18 years old.

They must be able to support themselves financially for the entire length of their stay without recourse to public funds.

The money that your family members will need to show depends on your own circumstances, in particular on the length of your stay and where you are studying:

  • if you are studying in London: £845 per month for the entire duration of your studies, up to a maximum of 9 months;
  • if you are studying outside London: £680 per month for the same period above.

Dependants accompanying a migrant under this category are not allowed to work.

Visa refusal

If your visa was refused, you have a right to an Administrative Review. You’ll be told in your application refusal letter if you can ask for the decision on your visa application to be reviewed.

The costs and time-limits to request the review of a refusal are:

  • if you are applying from outside the UK: it is free of charge and you must request it within 28 calendar days of the date the refusal notice was issued.
  • If you are applying from the UK: the fee is £80 and you must request it within 14 calendar days.

In your request you should report the reasons for refusal that are on your decision letter, and say why you think a mistake was made.

The Entry Clearance Manger will then reconsider the case and may decide to issue the visa if they believe you satisfy the immigration criteria and the Entry Clearance Officer was wrong in refusing it.

You can only ask for one administrative review per each refused application, unless the result of the first review found new reasons why you were refused. You should not send any additional documents and proof with your request for a review.

You can download the Administrative Review Form from the UK Visa and Immigration website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/application-for-administrative-review-of-visa-decision